Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

5 Actions Your Business Can Take Now to Prepare for 2019 Novel Coronavirus

Fear continues to persist about the potential for a severe 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) pandemic as the number of cases continues to rise globally, including within the United States (US). The US has confirmed the first local case of human-to-human transmission and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary has declared the 2019-nCoV outbreak a public health emergency. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the number of confirmed cases in the US has reached 12, as of Monday, February 10, 2020. Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global public health emergency due to the level the disease has spread outside of China. The nature of this coronavirus is not yet fully understood, but the below figure helps put what is known about its mortality rate and infectiousness into perspective through comparison with other infectious diseases.

Beyond the widespread health complications resulting from 2019-nCoV, the global economy has also been observably impacted. From Apple temporarily closing all stores and corporate offices in China to airlines cancelling flights servicing China, no industry is safe from the consequences of the spread of this infectious disease. Goldman Sachs, one of the world’s largest investment banking companies, has canceled their annual partners meeting. Tourism has taken a hit as cruise liners, such as Royal Caribbean, cancel cruises to China. Even small businesses are not exempt from the economic ramifications of 2019-nCoV. The duration of this outbreak will be a major determinant of overall economic impact.

In order to protect yourself and/or your business, consider the following actions:

1) Stay informed.

 Stay up to date on the quickly evolving 2019-nCoV situation. Monitor information posted by reputable sources such as the CDC and WHO for reliable facts on how to protect yourself, your family, and your business operations. Share relevant and factual updates with employees to prevent the propagation of rumors and myths.

 2) Revisit telework and sick policies.

 Consider updating, or implementing, telework policies to allow employees to work remotely should the disease continue to spread. Allowing remote work constitutes as social distancing, a community mitigation technique used to prevent further spread of disease by reducing close interaction between people who may be contagious. Social distancing can be especially effective when vaccines are not available, as is the case with all coronaviruses. It is also crucial to make sure that your company’s sick leave policies encourage and allow for employees to stay home when they are ill. Employees coming into work while sick can result in the spread of disease to others.

 3) Advise staff on best practices for personal hygiene.

 Non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as frequent handwashing and properly covering your mouth or nose while coughing and sneezing, are key to preventing the spread of harmful diseases, including 2019-nCoV and influenza. Take the time to educate your staff on how to best protect themselves through proper hygiene practices.

Source: World Health Organization –  Advice for the Public

4) Review travel plans.

 Limiting non-essential travel reduces the chance of interaction with possibly infected people. It only takes three days for a disease to spread around the world given global flight patterns. Travel to China is especially discouraged. The CDC has issued a level-3 travel warning that advises any non-essential travel to China be avoided, while the US Department of State (DOS) is discouraging all travel to China with a level-4 travel advisory.

 5) Make a plan.

Major closures or cancellations can accompany large-scale disease outbreaks. For instance, during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic schools across the US closed. Ensure that your business is prepared with a plan to support your employees and continue operations in case community mitigation actions of this magnitude are implemented again. An in-place and well thought-out plan will be crucial for the successful continuity of business operations should the 2019-nCoV situation worsen.

We at Hagerty Consulting, Inc. (Hagerty) will continue to monitor the 2019-nCoV situation and provide updates as necessary.