Dear friends and family,
With the ever evolving and clear and present danger presented by the coronavirus, we wanted to take a minute and give you some facts, as well as talk to you about your IT options in regards to protecting the health of your employees and customers. Start speaking with your clients about this now or they may bull rush you last minute and then everyone will be angry. A proper response to this includes inputs from Legal, HR, IT, etc. This is not something that one person can be tasked with on Friday and implemented on a Monday with no errors.
Employer’s Considerations on Coronavirus:
First off, this is not the flu. The flu is a known quantity with developed anti-bodies. The average annual death rate is about 0.1%. By comparison COVID-19 has a death rate of 3.4% – or 34X that of the flu.[i] Granted the, 3.4% death rate is an average across all ages. The death rate, like many illnesses is biased towards older ages.
The problem with humans is that we think in a linear fashion. Currently, the infection rate appears to be doubling every 6 days. Still – not a big deal. Then you look at the chart below. This chart starts with an estimated 2,000 U.S. cases. Granted, the confirmed number of cases is about ¼ of that, but due to a lack of testing and asymptomatic carriers, 2,000 people seems like a conservative approach. Current studies have the number of cases doubling every six days. In short order, 2,000 cases in March can result in 1M+ cases by May.
Just recently, the US CDC Chief stated, “the US is beyond virus containment in some areas.” Suddenly, the following announcements don’t seem to be all that irrational:
· Italy has suspended all mortgage payments.[ii]
· Japan has moved to close all school to halt spread of the virus.[iii]
· California, New York, Washington State, Florida, Oregon, Utah, Maryland, and Kentucky have declared states of emergency. (I’m sure more will occur before I publish this and I’ve missed more than a few)[iv]
· New York State will deploy the National Guard to set up a containment zone for Coronavirus.[v]
As the head of immunization at the CDC stated, “I understand this whole situation may seem overwhelming, and that disruption to everyday life may be severe. But these are things that people need to start thinking about now,”[vi]
As business owners, we have a profound responsibility to our employees and their families. Below are some general concerns that I believe businesses should be wrapping their heads around. Until stated otherwise by higher authorities, we can’t just go around breaking the law because it is a good idea or the best option available last minute. We plan for every other contingency, it’s time to start planning for this one. The longer you wait, the more likely that others will be in line ahead of you. This isn’t panicking, this is being responsible.
· Does your business already have a disaster recovery or pandemic response plan?
· Does your business have a Remote Workers Policy?
· Have these plans or policies ever been tested en masse?
· How will your sick leave policy be affected by this outbreak?
· Can you force a sick employee to work from home? If so, how?
· If an employee requests to work from home – for example the local school shutdown and they’re babysitting a child – is that capability available? Can it scale and how far? And more specifically do you have the
· Are there any contractual limitation on remote work? What are they? Is there an escape clause?
· What legal considerations does your business have to provide a safe working environment? Does this require face masks and hand sanitizer? Are these even available?
· Tax season sees a jump in identity theft because the hackers are fully aware that SSNs are jumping around the internet. We’ve already seen cases of “Coronavirus Phishing” scams.[vii] Having employees work from potentially virus riddled home PC’s on sensitive information is a recipe for disaster.
· Who can work remotely? Who cannot and why not?
· Do they have the capability to work remotely? It is likely that if you are forced to have employees work remotely, you will need to provide the capability for them to do so. This could mean purchasing a laptop or other hardware. Normally, this isn’t a big deal. But, when 1,000 other local businesses all go to the electronics store in the same 24 hour period, how many laptops will be available? Oh, and those laptops are probably made in China.
· Is there a VPN capability in place to enable secure remote work?
· Is there a video teleconference capability in place if necessary?
General Notes on:
I have no idea how liability will play out in courts. It could potentially last years. I could see a plaintiff making the argument that an employer was aware that the virus could be spread before a host showed signs of illness. Thus, they should have reasonably assumed that everyone was at risk and immediately enabled remote work protocols. Businesses could face a potential avalanche of wrongful death and emotional distress/trauma claims.
What is a novel coronavirus?
A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.
A diagnosis with coronavirus 229E, NL63, OC43, or HKU1 is not the same as a COVID-19 diagnosis. Patients with COVID-19 will be evaluated and cared for differently than patients with common coronavirus diagnosis.
Why is the disease being called called Coronavirus 2019, COVID-19?
On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”.
There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused be a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans. The name of this disease was selected following the World Health Organization (WHO) best practiceexternal icon for naming of new human infectious diseases.
Why might someone blame or avoid individuals and groups (create stigma) because of COVID-19?
People in the U.S. may be worried or anxious about friends and relatives who are living in or visiting areas where COVID-19 is spreading. Some people are worried about the disease. Fear and anxiety can lead to social stigma, for example, towards Chinese or other Asian Americans or people who were in quarantine.
Stigma is discrimination against an identifiable group of people, a place, or a nation. Stigma is associated with a lack of knowledge about how COVID-19 spreads, a need to blame someone, fears about disease and death, and gossip that spreads rumors and myths.
Stigma hurts everyone by creating more fear or anger towards ordinary people instead of the disease that is causing the problem.
How can people help stop stigma related to COVID-19?
People can fight stigma and help, not hurt, others by providing social support. Counter stigma by learning and sharing facts. Communicating the facts that viruses do not target specific racial or ethnic groups and how COVID-19 actually spreads can help stop stigma.
How it Spreads
What is the source of the virus?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Some cause illness in people, and others, such as canine and feline coronaviruses, only infect animals. Rarely, animal coronaviruses that infect animals have emerged to infect people and can spread between people. This is suspected to have occurred for the virus that causes COVID-19. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are two other examples of coronaviruses that originated from animals and then spread to people. More information about the source and spread of COVID-19 is available on the Situation Summary: Source and Spread of the Virus.
How does the virus spread?
This virus was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. The first infections were linked to a live animal market, but the virus is now spreading from person-to-person. It’s important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. Some viruses are highly contagious (like measles), while other viruses are less so.
The virus that causes COVID-19 seems to be spreading easily and sustainably in the community (“community spread”) in some affected geographic areas. Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses.
Can someone who has had COVID-19 spread the illness to others?
The virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person. Someone who is actively sick with COVID-19 can spread the illness to others. That is why CDC recommends that these patients be isolated either in the hospital or at home (depending on how sick they are) until they are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others.
How long someone is actively sick can vary so the decision on when to release someone from isolation is made on a case-by-case basis in consultation with doctors, infection prevention and control experts, and public health officials and involves considering specifics of each situation including disease severity, illness signs and symptoms, and results of laboratory testing for that patient.
Current CDC guidance for when it is OK to release someone from isolation is made on a case by case basis and includes meeting all of the following requirements:
- The patient is free from fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
- The patient is no longer showing symptoms, including cough.
- The patient has tested negative on at least two consecutive respiratory specimens collected at least 24 hours apart.
Someone who has been released from isolation is not considered to pose a risk of infection to others.
Can someone who has been quarantined for COVID-19 spread the illness to others?
Quarantine means separating a person or group of people who have been exposed to a contagious disease but have not developed illness (symptoms) from others who have not been exposed, in order to prevent the possible spread of that disease. Quarantine is usually established for the incubation period of the communicable disease, which is the span of time during which people have developed illness after exposure. For COVID-19, the period of quarantine is 14 days from the last date of exposure, because 14 days is the longest incubation period seen for similar coronaviruses. Someone who has been released from COVID-19 quarantine is not considered a risk for spreading the virus to others because they have not developed illness during the incubation period.
Can the virus that causes COVID-19 be spread through food, including refrigerated or frozen food?
Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food. Before preparing or eating food it is important to always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds for general food safety. Throughout the day wash your hands after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, or going to the bathroom.
It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures.
Learn what is known about the spread of COVID-19.
Will warm weather stop the outbreak of COVID-19?
It is not yet known whether weather and temperature impact the spread of COVID-19. Some other viruses, like the common cold and flu, spread more during cold weather months but that does not mean it is impossible to become sick with these viruses during other months. At this time, it is not known whether the spread of COVID-19 will decrease when weather becomes warmer. There is much more to learn about the transmissibility, severity, and other features associated with COVID-19 and investigations are ongoing.
What is community spread?
Community spread means people have been infected with the virus in an area, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected.
How to Protect Yourself
Am I at risk for COVID-19 in the United States?
This is a rapidly evolving situation and the risk assessment may change daily. The latest updates are available on CDC’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website.
Has anyone in the United States gotten infected?
Yes. There have been cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. related to travel and through close contact. U.S. case counts are updated regularly Mondays through Fridays. See the current U.S. case count of COVID-19.
How can I help protect myself?
Visit the COVID-19 Prevention and Treatment page to learn about how to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses, like COVID-19.
What should I do if I had close contact with someone who has COVID-19?
There is information for people who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have, or being evaluated for, COVID-19 available online.
Who is at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19?
Early information out of China, where COVID-19 first started, shows that some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness including older adults, and people who have serious chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.
What should people at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19 do?
If you are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19, you should: stock up on supplies; take everyday precautions to keep space between yourself and others; when you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick; limit close contact and wash your hands often; and avoid crowds, cruise travel, and non-essential travel. If there is an outbreak in your community, stay home as much as possible. Watch for symptoms and emergency signs. Watch for symptoms and emergency signs. If you get sick, stay home and call your doctor. More information on how to prepare, what to do if you get sick, and how communities and caregivers can support those at higher risk is available on People at Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19.
Does CDC recommend the use of facemask to prevent COVID-19?
CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms. This is to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of facemasks also is crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
Am I at risk for COVID-19 from a package or products shipping from China?
There is still a lot that is unknown about the newly emerged COVID-19 and how it spreads. Two other coronaviruses have emerged previously to cause severe illness in people (MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV). The virus that causes COVID-19 is more genetically related to SARS-CoV than MERS-CoV, but both are betacoronaviruses with their origins in bats. While we don’t know for sure that this virus will behave the same way as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, we can use the information gained from both of these earlier coronaviruses to guide us. In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of COVID-19 in the United States associated with imported goods. Information will be provided on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) website as it becomes available.
Please remember to always check what you see against the CDC’s official COVID-19 website and help stop the spread of rumors!!!
Please stay safe, get yourself some hand sanitizer (Call me if you don’t have any I have several in my drawer lol), and remember, no more handshakes, we do the tik tok dance now!