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Since the discovery of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) was first reported back in December 2019, the world has panicked about how the virus will impact individuals, communities, and the global economy. With reports of the virus now confirmed in multiple U.S. cities including several in California, it is clear the spread of the virus does pose a very real threat to citizens of the U.S.
As public authorities plan to take decisive action in response to the emerging health threat, businesses must reconsider strategies to manage and mitigate the impact this virus will undoubtedly have on employees, customers, and operations.
In today’s article, we’ll take an in-depth look at coronavirus (COVID-19) and share insights to help businesses manage and mitigate the risk associated with this new virus.
Coronaviruses (CoV) are part of a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
These coronaviruses are common in humans, as well as many species of animals. Its symptoms are very close to common seasonal viruses like the flu, which can make it difficult to detect when a new strain arrives.
A new highly contagious and potentially deadly strain of the Coronavirus, which had not been identified in humans previously, was reported in Wuhan, China, on December 31, 2019. This new Coronavirus was named the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.
Since its discovery in December 2019, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica, and has infected more than 100,000, which led to the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization to declare the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.
The World Health Organization has updated the name of the virus from 2019 Novel Coronavirus to SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes to COVID-19.
The new Coronavirus is thought to be spread through respiratory droplets, which can travel up to six feet from an infectious person who sneezes or coughs, or by touching surfaces that were touched by an infectious person, and then touching your nose, eyes, or mouth.
While definitive data on how long the new coronavirus can survive on surfaces isn’t yet available, based on data from other coronavirus, such as SARS, it may live for up to two days at room temperatures.
New reports from a study of stool samples of those diagnosed with COVID-19 show that the infection may also spread through feces, increasing the chance of infection from contaminated surfaces with stool residue.
Typically, the signs or symptoms of a COVID-19 infection appear two to fourteen days after exposure. Common signs of infection include:
In more severe cases, a COVID-19 infection can cause:
The main difference between COVID-19 and cold or flu symptoms is that symptoms start peaking 2 to 3 days after exposure, and the list for common seasonal illnesses is longer and includes:
Unfortunately, no drugs, vaccines or standard treatments have proven effective against the new strain of coronavirus, but experimental treatments are being explored on almost every continent.
If you have a fever, and are experiencing a cough or shortness of breath, you should seek medical attention immediately. The CDC advises you to call your doctor’s office or medical facility before seeking medical attention.
Many companies have business continuity plans in place, but they might not prove as effective when facing the unique challenges of a coronavirus outbreak. We recommend reviewing your existing plans and making the appropriate adjustments and updates needed to face the unique challenges that may arise from a viral outbreak.
A full plan to cover all potential operational and staffing issues should include the following:
In severe cases of an outbreak, your business might have to arrange for temporary closures. This requires its own plan. First, you will have to determine at what point a closure would be required. This could be based on a number of factors from increased, unmanageable absenteeism to your suppliers not being able to deliver the necessities for you to function. Assign a staff member to be responsible for communicating the shutdown to employees and clients and what that communication would entail. This should be based on the most convenient and effective mode of communication to ensure everyone gets the message in a timely manner.
Once your plan is in place, it is important to share it with your employees. Your outline should include the details for new (or existing) human resource policies, your plan for more flexible leave and time-off policies, and what pay and benefits will be available to sick staff members. This information is vital to help employees understand the importance of calling in sick.
Employees should also be aware of the supplies you are providing and where they can find them to help reduce the spread of illness such as tissues, hand sanitizer and sanitary wipes to use when sharing desks and equipment. Inform staff you have arranged for additional cleanings of the office and common areas, so they understand you are doing everything possible to keep them healthy.
Remember this could impact the mental health of some employees and also lead to social consequences that are difficult to manage. This can include the stigma of certain races, as well as those who might be suspected of having the virus. Support for individuals faced with these additional social or mental challenges will also be required.
It is also important for your employees to have a designated Primary Care Physician (PCP) to consult should they have symptoms. For those without a PCP, they should know their options for seeking care if they get sick.
If your business is in contact with customers and clients, you should provide support to them as concerns continue to rise over COVID-19. Some areas to focus your efforts would include:
The message you choose could be general based on current information on the virus, or more specific to explain what you are doing to protect them and your staff against exposure, such as increasing the rigor of cleaning and sanitizing procedures of your office.
You will also have to consider how you will communicate more serious messages such as interruption of services or deliveries or the need to shut down your location, or specific locations if you have various branches.
Determine who will be responsible for sharing information with customers and clients. In some cases, it makes sense for agents and sales representatives who deal directly with clients to deliver the information, while in others you might decide your public relations, communications or marketing teams should come up with the best approach. Either way, it should be handled with consistency, care, and as positively as possible to avoid causing panic and to avoid miscommunication.
As with your employees, you want to ensure the most effective communication method is used. This can vary depending on your industry, your clients and the methods you have at your disposal. It might prove more effective to use several methods, so the right people are reached including emails, phone calls, or social media posts. Social media posts should be handled with special care, as it will reach a broader audience.
The coronavirus COVID-19 presents a unique situation that can quickly become a threat to your business operations, making now the time to assess your insurance to help mitigate risks related to both employee illness and unexpected closures and business interruptions.
Schedule an appointment with our insurance agents to discuss your current coverage and explore other policies you should consider to help reduce the risk.
Some areas to discuss would include:
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Leap | Carpenter | Kemps Insurance Agency provides Commercial Business Insurance, Employee Benefits, Life and Health Insurance, and Personal Insurance to all of California, including Merced, Atwater, Los Banos, Mariposa, Madera, Fresno, Modesto, Turlock, and Stockton.
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