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Apple reduces capacity at store events to deal with coronavirus outbreak

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
Budrul Chukrut/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Apple is grappling with more than just iPhone shortages as it takes precautions against spreading the novel coronavirus. Company chief Tim Cook has sent a memo outlining a series of new steps to reduce the chances of people spreading the virus, including changes at stores. Apple is trying to "maximize interpersonal space" at its shops, including by reducing the density and occupancy for events like classes and Genius Bar appointments. You may have a harder time learning about your new iPhone in the near future, to put it another way.

The company is also implementing a number of behind-the-scenes changes. Cook encouraged office employees in areas with the "greatest density of infections" (including Apple's home in the Santa Clara Valley area, Italy and South Korea) to work from home when possible for the week starting March 9th. He also promised that hourly workers would continue to receive their regular pay at those offices where their work might suddenly be less necessary, echoing policies at rivals like Amazon, Google and Microsoft.

It's not completely surprising that Apple would go this route. Its modern stores are designed to serve as community spaces. That's great in normal circumstances, but slightly terrifying when an easily transmitted virus is spreading. If it reduces the chance of contact, it reduces the possibility of contributing to the outbreak. At the same time, it's clear that Apple wants to avoid closing retail stores (beyond the temporary closures in China) when possible.