Apple CEO Tim Cook in a letter published late Friday detailed the company's response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, saying it will close all retail outlets outside of Greater China until March 27.
The executive said Apple learned a great deal from combating the virus in China, where the company on Friday reopened its chain of 42 stores, and came away with a set of best practices that will assist it and others in formulating a global response.
"One of those lessons is that the most effective way to minimize risk of the virus's transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance," Cook writes. "As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we're taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers."
While China's stores remain open, albeit with reduced operating hours, Apple will close all other outlets around the world to mitigate transmission and spread of the virus. Prior to Cook's letter, the company on Friday announced store closures across Spain and one U.S. location in Pennsylvania.
Apple's online storefront, accessible via the web or the official Apple Store app, will be open during the two-week hiatus for brick-and-mortar stores. Customers looking for technical support and repairs are urged to visit support.apple.com, where they can be connected with local Authorized Service Providers or request a product to be mailed in for service.
During the temporary shutdown, all hourly workers are set to receive full pay, Cook said. Further, Apple has updated work policies to accommodate personal or family health circumstances resulting from COVID-19, including recovering from an illness, caring for sick family members, mandatory quarantining, or childcare challenges due to school closures.
As with past global emergencies, Apple is donating funds to the global COVID-19 response. According to Cook, the company's commitments reached $15 million worldwide, with funds going toward treatment and to "help lessen the economic and community impacts" of the virus. Apple is also matching employee donations on a two-to-one basis to support local, national and international COVID-19 response efforts.
Cook closed the letter by thanking those fighting on the front line, specifically first responders, doctors, nurses, researchers, public health experts and public servants.
"We do not yet know with certainty when the greatest risk will be behind us," Cook writes. "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."
Deirdre O'Brien, Apple's SVP of Retail and People, issued a short statement on Instagram to announce the coming store closures and thank retail employees.
"I am profoundly grateful to our exceptional team members all around the world who have shown such deep care for our customers and each other during this difficult time," O'Brien said.
Today's announcement should come as no surprise, as Apple's response to the coronavirus pandemic has been swift and wide-reaching. Apple Stores in China were initially closed in late January, followed by a complete retail and corporate shutdown in early February. The company this week shuttered all outlets in Italy on the back of a national quarantine, suspended all Today at Apple sessions in the U.S. and instituted strict global policies with hopes of minimizing the spread of the virus.
Most recently, Apple on Friday announced this year's Worldwide Developers Conference will be held completely online due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns.