Kabbage's platform helps approve loans to small businesses within minutes.

One prominent Atlanta tech executive is calling for a three-week global quarantine he believes could help the world get a handle on the novel coronavirus in relatively short order.

Co-founder and ‘Kabbagehead’ Rob Frohwein

In a blog post published as Italy enacted a nationwide lockdown and markets panicked on news of the COVID-19 disease’s spread to 100-plus countries, Kabbage CEO Rob Frohwein said the U.S. and other nations should adopt coordinated measures. 

Unless a country participates, it should be put on a travel blacklist until it has complied for three weeks. 

This is a radical idea but I’m afraid a prolonged, global pandemic will create so much more harm,” wrote the CEO and “Kabbagehead” at one of Atlanta’s few private unicorns, a fintech giant that received a $250 million investment from SoftBank in 2017. 

Mr. Frohwein cites the seeming success of China’s draconian measures limiting domestic travel and locking down practically an entire province: The country on Monday reported just two cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, outside of Wuhan, the city where it is said to have originated. President Xi Jinping visited the city, signaling that the government believes the worst of the crisis has passed. 

While acknowledging a quarantine “would mean sacrificing the way of life to which we’ve become accustomed” for 21 days, Mr. Frohwein bet that closing down schools and public-facing businesses and canceling public events would be worth the short-term economic pain. 

Everyone going home at once would level the playing field and eliminate uncertainty, saving lives in the process, he said. In the meantime, the government would come up with a plan to aid “impacted businesses.” President Trump said Monday “major” efforts potentially including payroll tax cuts and relief for hourly workers would be unveiled after deliberations with Congress Tuesday. 

Mr. Frohwein seemed to advocate an approach that would front-load the pain. 

“If we all are impacted together, then we will recover together,” he said. 

Kabbage’s platform approves loans of up to a quarter-million dollars to small businesses within minutes. The company has four offices in the U.S. and one in Bangalore, India.

“My hope is that a plan like this one saves millions of lives and saves millions of businesses – many of them small businesses that cannot afford three months, a year or even potentially longer exposure to this threat. Small businesses are most at risk during long periods of disruption. We need to avoid this as small businesses account for more than half of the non-farm GDP in the United States and two-thirds of all new jobs,” Mr. Frohwein writes. 

Of course, many hourly and service workers are also vulnerable to the very type of shutdown envisaged, and #3weeks proposal implies that countries have faith to engage in a sort of unilateral economic disarmament, trusting that others will join in for the collective good.

Mr. Frohwein, for his part, believes that this sort of collaboration on health is a way to kickstart global cooperation on other fronts. 

Health officials and economists disagree about the potential effects of enacting extreme containment measures, while ethicists puzzle over both their practicality and morality. Many experts are beginning to advocate “social distancing” measures that limit in-person contact. Most have refrained from making blanket statements about who should stay home and when, though those with existing health concerns are encouraged to be more vigilant. 

Kabbage itself is enacting measures at the company to reduce the risk of spread, from postponing all business travel and conference participation to going completely virtual for large-group  meetings and having all staff work from home this week. 

Georgia so far has five confirmed cases of the diseases and five “presumed positive” tests. One presumed positive turned out to be a false alarm, as a South Korean passenger arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson with symptoms ended up testing negative for the virus, Gov. Brian Kemp’s office announced. 

Read Mr. Frohwein’s full post on LinkedIn here.  

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...

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