COVID-19

Czarnowski Collective pivoted from building auto shows to designing COVID-19 field hospitals

Hospital bed booths are set up at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center which is being turned into a hospital to help fight coronavirus cases on March 27, 2020 in New York City. Gov.

Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

As the world grappled with the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the auto industry shut down. It wasn't just factories, suppliers, and dealerships that closed up shop. One by one, some of the largest automotive events in the world were cancelled.

First to fall was the Geneva International Motor Show. The New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) would be pushed back then cancelled. Monterey Car Week is off the calendar. The North American International Auto Show won't be back until 2021.

These cancellations left gaps in employment for many workers who fill their year representing automakers at events and tradespeople who put together the set ups for the shows and arrange their day-to-day operations.

North American International Auto Show The North American International Auto Show was cancelled when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contracted the space to use as a field hospital. Photo courtesy of North American International Auto Show

Czarnowski Collective assists with the setup and operations of most of those shows, and others. Like small business owners across the globe, the company's existence was facing extinction.

"The whole industry has been impacted," said Nick Simonette, Czarnowski's vice president of business transformation. "But we have a strong team and network in place to handle any current or future opportunity. With that said, we downsized by roughly 60 percent of our overall employee base."

Facing an unprecedented business environment, Czarnowski pivoted. In addition to moving to help produce filmed events that were originally meant for in-person consumption, the company worked to win the contract to build out the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City, where NYIAS was originally meant to be held in early April, as a field hospital to treat COVID-19 positive patients.

The Javits Center is home to 760,000 square feet of exhibition space. The government tasked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) with readying the facilities needed as quickly as possible.

2018 New York International Auto Show The New York International Auto Show is hosted at the Jacob K. Javits Center. Photo by Getty Images

"The US Government had disaster-relief efforts for things like fire, flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, but was in need of help for issues related to human health and contagion mitigation," Simonette shared.

The pivot wasn't easy. "The biggest challenge was identifying and speaking with the appropriate person(s) to get the work done," said Simonette. "There were so many voices weighing in, and there was a lot of confusion."

The situation facing the world, and especially New York City, was dire. Time was of the essence, and while Czarnowski did not know the world of healthcare, they did know how to design, create, execute, and tear down large-scale exhibitions inside convention centers.

On March 16, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo requested that the USACE build at least four field hospitals in the city to treat patients effected by COVID-19. He also asked that the Navy deploy its USNS Comfort hospital ship to the city.

That week, inspection teams consisting of personnel from the New York State Office of General Services, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, the New York State Department of Health, and the New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs joined with USACE to survey more than a dozen locations for the field hospitals.

By March 21, the State of New York had recommended four sites: the Javits Center, and locations at SUNY Stony Brook, SUNY Old Westbury, and the Westchester Convention Center.

"For the COVID-19 treatment facilities, we immersed ourselves in a new medical vernacular," described Simonette. "Depending on the stage of care needed, there's acute care -- which requires negative-pressure considerations (for infectious diseases) -- and non-acute care areas, which have an open-air exchange (for non-infectious diseases). The structures allow for social-distance requirements and a myriad of safety procedures."

2020 COVID 19 Governor Anndrew Cuomo New York Governor Andrew Cuomo holds a press briefing on Coronavirus, explains working on increasing hospital capacity, building new beds, and increasing medical supplies.Photo by Darren McGee- Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Despite all the prep work, the company was unsuccessful with their initial bid. "We lost," said Simonette. "Javits instead awarded [the contract to] T3 Expo and used its rental panel walls for the host of the 3,000 rooms." T3 Expo has long been an approved contractor at the Javits Center and has supported events there in the past for clients including ANIME NYC, The Toy Association, Salesforce, and Amazon.

However, there was a place for Czarnowski in the process. The company's Enhanced Temporary Patient Rooms (ETPRs) were well-suited for handling acute (and non-acute) needs. " Javits recognized this and purchased a complement of 40 rooms to serve as its "COVID" rooms," Simonette said.

It was a small win, but it made a big impact.

New York wasn't the only state opening field hospitals. Louisiana, California, Tennessee, Michigan, Georgia, and Illinois followed suit. In all, over 30 were planned. According to Simonette, "Czarnowski's win [at Javits] paved the way for the selling of thousands of our ETPRs into other field hospitals as USACE decided that our solution was a better hedge against the potential of hospital overcrowding."

As planning evolved, field hospitals in Stony Brook, New York; Memphis, Tennessee; Atlanta, Georgia; and Santa Clarita, California became ETPR-only hospitals.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to National Guard members and the media at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center which is being turned into a hospital to help fight coronavirus cases on March 27, 2020. Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

"Designers, builders, and installers all had to work with an understanding of what the USACE was looking for as an end product," described Simonette. "We've been glad to introduce them to materials such as rigid PVC wall skins that are lightweight, cost-effective, and easily sanitized, which they hadn't considered before, that we know well and work with regularly."

While unemployment claims soared, the new work meant that Czarnowski could bring much of its staff back to work.

"Our COVID-19 efforts have put about 80-100 of our staff back to work, and surely benefited others, who build and supply the materials needed for these builds," said Simonette.

As the spirit of togetherness and unselfishness swept the nation, it also infected the Czarnowski team. "Czarnowski Collective led the way in sharing information and intellectual property," said Simonette. "In the midst of a pandemic, it seemed unethical and irresponsible to hoard best practices for the buildouts to test and treat COVID-19 patients, so we approached our competitors, and formed the Live for Life coalition, to address this problem together.

"There are now more than 200 members, and together we're stronger -- we have increased production capacity, we're sharing critical information, and importantly we can anticipate and react faster to new and changing needs in care and testing. Having capacity at the ready is our biggest strength."

Javits Center setup COVID 19 Czarnowski Collective Czarnowski Collective didn't win the contract to set up the Javits Center, but they were given a portion to collaborate on.Photo courtesy of Czarnowski Collective

Despite all the workmen at the ready, there was still confusion and chaos surrounding the build-outs. "The biggest challenge was the stop-and-start nature of production, especially in the beginning, when there were multiple voices, and developments on an hourly basis contributing to the confusion," said Simonette. "In one instance, we had trucks en route to a city when the project was abruptly canceled."

Czarnowski's initial contract was for three months.

Out of the four requested, the Javits Center was the only field hospital that opened in New York after hospitalizations due to the disease fell far below predicted scenario levels. It closed on May 1 after treating more than 1,000 patients. On May 5, the operation was turned over to an integrated health care network called Northwell Health.

At the time it closed, after just a month of operation, New York State had seen over 300,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. An NPR analysis of federal spending records determined that the cost of the field hospitals is than $660 million, despite many remaining largely unused. Forty percent of that money, $270 million, was spent at just two facilities: the State University of New York at Stony Brook and SUNY Old Westbury.

"It's good to remember that the best-case scenario is having these COVID-19 build projects cancelled, once the virus comes under control," said Simonette.

Though Americans, and the rest of the world, are still not out of the woods when it comes to the virus, businesses like Czarnowski are continuing to find a way to operate by overcoming tough conditions and thriving when faced with new challenges.

"The shift in focus -- from catering to consumers, to catering to patients -- has been as much of a challenge as it's been a privilege. There are few more pressing issues in the world today, and we're grateful to have established ourselves within the scaffolding of addressing the COVID-19 crisis," said Simonette.

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Honda notified dealers of upcoming supply cuts.

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Honda, like all major automakers today, is truly a global operation. Though it produces plenty of vehicles here in the United States, many of the components it relies on for manufacturing come from elsewhere in the world. That means Honda, like the other auto giants, needs its global supply chain operating smoothly in order to prevent disruption. Unfortunately for Honda dealers and potential customers, disruption is what's about to happen. The automaker recently sent a letter to its dealers, forecasting reduced vehicle supply in the coming weeks.


2021 Honda Ridgeline No. 19 - Honda Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc


The dealer letter, posted to the Civic XI forum and fan site, was dated August 25 and confirmed by a dealer upset with the development, according to Automotive News. In the letter, Honda cites the ongoing pandemic and microchip shortages as major factors impacting its production efforts. Total shipments to dealers could be cut by up to 40 percent, but not all models will be affected to the same degree.

The letter noted that supplies of the Pilot and Passport SUVs will hold steady, and shared that production of the Civic hatchback is on schedule. However, the situation is fluid and could change at any time, so there's a chance that timelines could speed up or slack off as necessary.


2022 Honda Pilot Some models will see more cuts than others.Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc


Honda is just the latest in a long line of automakers struggling to keep pace with demand in the face of several converging global crises. In an effort to keep vehicles rolling out of factories, General Motors has implemented selective feature cuts in some of its new vehicles, such as the removal of engine start/stop tech from some trucks and SUVs. Earlier this month, Ford Motor Company told Mustang Mach-E buyers to expect delays of at least six weeks as it grapples with the chip shortage, and will temporarily reduce production capacity at a few of its plants.

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The 2022 Acura TLX has the technology enabled.

Photo courtesy of Acura

Toyota and Lexus announced that the WarnerMedia RIDE app would be coming to their models earlier this year. Now, Honda and Acura will be offering the same.

On certain Wi-Fi enabled Honda and Acura vehicles, AT&T unlimited in-car Wi-Fi users will have access to the WarnerMedia RIDE app. The app allows users to connect multiple devices in their vehicles to browse, stream and share premium content from the WarnerMedia library while on the road.

Honda and Acura vehicle owners have been able to use their on-board modem as a hot spot for connecting up to seven devices since 2017. Models compatible for the new tech include the Acura RDX (2019-present), Acura TLX (2021), and Acura MDX (2022) across all trim levels. Honda vehicles with the tech include Accord (2018-present, Touring), Odyssey (2018-present; Touring, Elite), Insight (2019-present, Touring)., Passport (2019-present; Touring, Elite)., and Pilot (2019-present; Touring, Elite, Black Edition).

The WarnerMedia RIDE App allows passengers to access 1,000+ hours of live and on-demand entertainment. The app includes hit TV shows and movies from top brands such as Cartoon Network, CNN, HBO Max, TBS, TNT and TruTV, spanning animation, entertainment, news, sports and more.

WarnerMedia RIDE app The WarnerMedia RIDE app allows users to choose their own avatar.Photo courtesy of Acura

Users can set up profiles and personalize their user exerpience with an avatar from the WarnerMedia library. Profiles also ensure age-appropriate content with options for adults to restrict access to their profiles with an access code.

"Wireless connectivity and connected car services continue to be key features for customers and our long-standing relationship with AT&T continues to be one way we deliver exciting new content to Honda and Acura owners," said Art St. Cyr, vice president of North American Auto Strategy for American Honda. "Honda will continue working to enhance the in-car experience, including the capabilities of the AT&T network and access to top content with WarnerMedia RIDE."

"We're always looking for new and innovative ways to elevate the connected car experience for our customers. With WarnerMedia RIDE, we are delivering a connected experience that's perfect for journeys," said Joe Mosele, vice president, Mobility & Internet of Things, AT&T. "Our collaboration is keeping Honda and Acura owners connected wherever they travel with hours of news and entertainment for the whole family."

WarnerMedia RIDE is available now in the App Store and on Google Play for all U.S. unlimited data plan subscribers. WarnerMedia RIDE is included at no additional cost for existing and new unlimited subscribers.

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