According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the United States has 164 cases of the coronavirus detected through U.S. public health surveillance systems as of March 7, 2020. An additional 49 individuals have been repatriated to the United States with confirmed cases. As news stories and articles about the coronavirus outbreak continue to dominate global and national media outlets, it is becoming increasingly important for individuals and employers to separate fact from fiction and understand the potential impacts to their lives and business.
What is the coronavirus?
The CDC website explains, “coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many species of animals.” The newest coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a respiratory disease first identified in Wahun City, China. It has since spread to over 50 international locations. Similar to the flu, those suffering from COVID-19 have reported symptoms such as fever, cough and shortness of breath and the virus may be present in individuals as long as 14 days prior to the symptoms.
How It Spreads
While research is limited, the virus is thought to spread from person-to-person or from contact with an infected surface or object. This happens when an individual is within close contact (about 6 feet) with someone infected by the virus or through respiratory droplets from the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. There is no current evidence that it spreads through the air.
The virus is thought to spread easily which explains why some people are infected without out knowing how or where they became infected. This may occur before individuals show symptoms. It’s not yet known exactly how long it takes symptoms to appear but based on similar viruses, they may occur 2-14 days after exposure.
What You Can Do – Individuals
Individuals and families can take the following steps to combat the virus:
- Stay up to date on the latest news from trusted news sources and health providers. Knowledge is power, especially when it concerns health decisions.
- Take preventative steps to avoid getting sick. These include washing hands regularly, maintaining a safe distance between you and others, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and seek medical care early.
- Ensure you have your medical information up to date. Getting in to see a physician can be difficult, especially if it’s been more than a year since your last visit. Many general or family practitioners consider a patient a new patient if they haven’t been seen in the last year and may not have openings for new patients.
- If you begin to feel sick and suspect you may have contracted the virus, call ahead to a healthcare professional. Follow the steps outlined by the CDC to prevent the disease from spreading.
- Utilize Client Community provided by Keller Stonebraker for access to other key health tips.
What You Can Do – Businesses
- Create a communication plan. Establishing a set of communication protocols is essential to protecting employees and preventing misinformation. Nothing is more frustrating or impactful to a business than to have misinformation driving business and employee decisions.
- Ensure your employee medical plans are up-to-date and that technology portals are functioning properly. Nothing is more frustrating than learning your employee care is limited because of a small administrative error.
- Encourage sick employees to stay home. While absenteeism can cause major disruptions, especially to small and medium size businesses, sick employees put the entire business at risk by spreading disease or making poor choices due to illness or medication.
- Evaluate telemedicine options. Providing access to medical care through video conferencing and other remote access options can help limit employee contact with others who are sick thereby limiting what they bring to work.
- Evaluate potential remote working options. While not everyone can work from home, having a back up plan in place for those that can may save valuable time and resources when you need them the most.
- Ensure your employee handbooks are up to date and address how your business will handle work closures and employee absence. You may want to reconsider your current leave policies.
- Regularly clean and disinfect work areas.
News and Information
The CDC website provides a number of resources to help you stay abreast of the disease including updated information on the situation, locations of confirmed cases, prevention and treatment, and other relevant information. They also provide a list of nonpharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) that help individuals, businesses and communities take protective measures.
Additionally, the World Health Organization (WHO) serves as a global health organization that educates the public, monitors global heath and coordinates health efforts worldwide. The organization provides education material, travel advice, situation reports and answers to frequently asked questions on the virus.
- The State of Maryland has posted a list of frequently asked questions as well as statistics and impacts to the state.
- The State of West Virginia website provides links to various resources as well as provides updates on the impact of the virus in West Virginia
- The Pennsylvania state government also provides basic information on the coronavirus on their website but does not include state statistics or impacts at this time.