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A Word From Heddels in the Wake of Corona

If you’re like me, this is probably the thousandth message you’ve received related to coronavirus in the last week, but still, thought we’d take a moment to check in. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (if so, stay there), the world is in the grips of a global pandemic from the covid-19 virus. Countries are closing their borders, hospitals are bracing for impact, and for some reason people are hoarding toilet paper.

Related to us though—we’re not going anywhere! Heddels has been remote since the very beginning in March of 2011 (happy ninth birthday us!), so while many folks are just now settling into working from home, it’s another day as usual for most of us (the remote work part, being in the midst of an outbreak is just as weird for us as it is for you). So long as the internet’s running and the power’s up, our daily content should continue as it has for the last nine years.

Hopefully we can provide some sense of normalcy and distraction in the face of everything else in the news right now. Wanted to put that out there before some of you are like, “why are these insensitive asses still writing about denim creases in a time like this??”

We may, however, experience delays or interruptions in fulfilling orders from the Heddels Shop. We’ll let you know if and when those develop.

Also, you’ve probably heard this a thousand times too, but we have a platform here and you’re going to hear it again—we all have a personal responsibility to slow the spread of this virus. I’m by no means a scientist, but I am a pants-journalist, a former historian, and have done a considerable (borderline unhealthy) amount of reading on this virus.

Here’s my understanding of what’s going on.


Stay home for the next couple weeks.

Don’t go to bars.
Don’t go to restaurants.
Don’t go to the gym.
Don’t go to school.
Don’t go to work.

Interact with as few people as you possibly can. Get enough food and supplies to stay in and enjoy some time to yourself.

Do this and you will save a lot of lives.


Covid-19 (aka the coronavirus) is a new virus that emerged in the Hubei province in China late last year. Covid presents sort of like the flu—fever, runny nose, cough, respiratory problems—but there are a few factors that make it much, much more dangerous:


The way scientists measure the transmission rate of a communicable disease is something called R0 (aka r-naught), which is the number of people an infected person is likely to infect.

The standard seasonal flu has a value of 1. Each person with the flu will probably infect one other person. That’s linear growth, not great but manageable.

Covid has a value of 2, which means every case creates 2 more. 1 makes 2, 2 make 4, 4 make 8, etc. This is exponential growth. That’s very bad.

If left unchecked, 10 cases can become 10,000,000 in a matter of months.

Delayed Onset of Symptoms

All viruses have something called an “incubation period”, meaning how long after you’ve been exposed to start showing symptoms. And once you start showing symptoms you can isolate yourself and limit the spread.

For the standard flu, it’s about 2 days.

For covid, it’s an average of 5 days. 5 days for infected people to spread the virus before they even know they have it.

Many people never show symptoms but can still pass on the virus. Extensive testing in South Korea showed that about 30% of people with covid were age 20-29 but most of them were asymptomatic.

You could feel fine and still be infecting other people.

Increased Mortality

The standard flu has a hospitalization rate of 1.8% and a death rate of 0.1%, meaning that a little less than 2 in 100 people who get it will need medical intervention and 1 in 1000 people who get it will die from it.

It’s early but covid’s hospitalization rate is closer to 20% and the death rate is anywhere from 0.5-4%. 1 in 5 need medical intervention and ~2 in 100 will die. Making it 5-40x deadlier than the flu and 10x more strenuous on our medical system.

And it’s even higher in older people, smokers, and those with compromised immune systems.

Where Are We Now?

All of these factors combine to make covid-19 the most dangerous pandemic since the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, which killed an estimated 3-5% of the world’s population.

Modern medicine has come a long way since then and many of the early exposed countries have done a really good job at containing covid on arrival. China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea seem to have it pretty much under control with extensive testing, quarantining, and lockdowns before the virus could spread throughout the country.

But all those places experienced massive outbreaks of H1N1 (swine flu) and SARS in the last 20 years and were prepared for covid when it happened again. Europe and North America didn’t and wasn’t.

The virus is already in most major cities in the US but still in low enough numbers that we haven’t felt its full impact yet. The west did not contain it as early as East Asia did. If the spread goes unchecked, we’re on track to have 100 million infected in the US this summer.

Extrapolate that from the hospitalization and mortality rates and that’s 20 million hospital beds and up to 4 million dead—more than all Americans that died in every war in the last 100 years combined.

It would probably be even worse because once the hospitals are overflowing with covid patients, treatable illnesses like appendicitis or heart attack could become fatal.


The virus can only spread if infected people are able to spread it to healthy ones. If you stay home (that social distancing thing you’re seeing everywhere) you won’t get infected, you won’t spread the virus, and this thing will die off.

The earlier we take action, the more lives will be saved.

So again:

Don’t go to bars.
Don’t go to restaurants.
Don’t go to the gym.
Don’t go to school.
Don’t go to work.

Interact with as few people as you possibly can.

Get the supplies you need for the next few weeks, help your vulnerable neighbors do the same, and hunker down and this will all be over much faster with fewer people getting hurt. Also wash your hands and don’t touch your face—the best way to stop the spread is to act like you already have it!

Cities and states in the US will probably be going into lockdown in the next few days (restrictions on mass gatherings, closures of non-essential businesses, limited travel).

Don’t panic—this is a good thing. It means we’re putting out the fuse before that 100 million infected bomb goes off and could be what saves the lives of your grandparents, parents, or even yourself. We’re all in this together, and together we can flatten the infection curve and keep our hospitals and medical systems running smoothly.

Also want to recognize Self Edge, 3sixteen, and Berkeley Supply (and probably a few others I haven’t seen) for voluntarily choosing to close their retail locations in the interest of public health, a very difficult but crucially responsible decision right now.

Good luck, stay safe, and stay away from other people! We’ll be posting through it in the meantime.

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