Apple is temporary closing all of its retail stores “outside of Greater China” until March 27th, CEO Tim Cook announced in a letter posted on the company’s website late Friday night. “The most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,” Cook wrote. “We are committed to providing exceptional service to our customers.”
The nationwide closure is among the first from a major retailer in the United States. But this extends far outside the US, with every Apple location globally shutting down effective immediately — except for those in China.
Apple’s online store will remain operational during the downtime for physical retail locations, and customers seeking customer support can visit support.apple.com to find authorized repair shops that remain open or arrange mail-in service.
“The global spread of COVID-19 is affecting every one of us,” Cook wrote. “At Apple, we are people first, and we do what we do with the belief that technology can change lives and the hope that it can be a valuable tool in a moment like this.”
Employees affected by the stores closing up shop will still be paid. Here’s what Cook said on that and other adjustments Apple is making to accommodate workers impacted by the virus:
All of our hourly workers will continue to receive pay in alignment with business as usual operations. We have expanded our leave policies to accommodate personal or family health circumstances created by COVID-19 — including recovering from an illness, caring for a sick loved one, mandatory quarantining, or childcare challenges due to school closures.
Apple’s “committed donations” to COVID-19 have reached $15 million, according to Cook, and the company will be “matching our employee donations two-to-one to support COVID-19 response efforts locally, nationally and internationally.” Like other large companies with a worldwide presence, Apple is strongly encouraging employees to work from home if their job allows for it.
Apple recently reopened the China stores it closed soon after the initial spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. “Though the rate of infections has dramatically declined, we know COVID-19’s effects are still being strongly felt. I want to express my deep gratitude to our team in China for their determination and spirit,” Cook said in his note.
Earlier on Friday, Apple announced that WWDC 2020 will shift to an online-only experience — still with a keynote and developer sessions — when the conference happens this June. In that press release, Apple only mentioned the “current health situation” without addressing COVID-19 directly.
Cook struck a somber but hopeful tone to close his letter.
There is no mistaking the challenge of this moment. The entire Apple family is indebted to the heroic first responders, doctors, nurses, researchers, public health experts and public servants globally who have given every ounce of their spirit to help the world meet this moment. We do not yet know with certainty when the greatest risk will be behind us.
And yet I have been inspired by the humanity and determination I have seen from all corners of our global community. As President Lincoln said in a time of great adversity: “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”
That’s always how Apple has chosen to meet big challenges. And it’s how we’ll rise to meet this one, too.