Health Agencies: Prepare Now for Coronavirus

Employers should make plans now as virus disrupts businesses worldwide

February 25, 2020
people wear  masks to prevent spread of disease

​The coronavirus has spread to all continents except Antarctica, and the former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a pandemic is inevitable, according to a CNN news report.

A pandemic is defined as a disease that spreads easily from person to person in many parts of the world. The CDC has said the coronavirus has met two of the criteria for a pandemic and is moving closer to meeting the third criteria, which is worldwide spread.

On Feb. 25, officials from the CDC, the National Institutes of Health and other agencies warned the public to prepare for the "inevitable" spread of the coronavirus within the U.S., The Washington Post reported.

U.S. companies are being advised to stop employee travel to high-risk countries and to develop plans to address a possible U.S. expansion of the virus, which may require limiting employee travel within the U.S. and outlining work-from-home strategies.

Most cases of the virus have been in China, where it was first reported. But there are signs the virus is taking hold in other areas: A dozen towns have been sealed off in northern Italy, where 270 cases of coronavirus were confirmed as of Feb. 25, and the death toll there has reached seven.

The U.S. Department of State issued a "do not travel" advisory to China, and airlines around the world have canceled or scaled back flights.

Although a number of drugs are being developed and tested, there is no vaccine, resulting in quarantines wherever cases of the virus have been confirmed. In early February, China quarantined an estimated 45 million people—the largest quarantine in history—and there have been economic ramifications around the world. Travel companies have lost business and manufacturers are unable to obtain needed materials. There are fears of an economic slowdown as global financial markets have experienced some of the sharpest falls in years.

SHRM Online has collected the following articles on businesses' reaction to the coronavirus disruption around the world:

Coronavirus Has Now Hit Every Continent Except Antarctica After a Man in Brazil Tested Positive  

Brazil's ministry of health has confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus, after testing a 61-year-old male who had returned to São Paulo from Lombardy, Italy, on February 21. He had flown to Italy for work on February 9. Antarctica is now the only continent without a registered case. It has no official native population, and the majority of the 4,400 people residing on the continent are visiting scientists and researchers.
(Business Insider

Former CDC director: A Coronavirus Pandemic Is Inevitable. What Now?

This is unprecedented, the former CDC director writes in an opinion piece for CNN on Wednesday. Other than influenza, no other respiratory virus has been tracked from emergence to continuous global spread. Based on extensive planning for an influenza pandemic by many national and international experts, we must do eight things—some immediately and some in the coming months -- as we shift from the initiation phase of the pandemic to the acceleration stage.

As Coronavirus Spreads, Prepare Infectious-Disease Plans

While employers can take commonsense steps to prevent the spread of the virus, such as issuing travel restrictions, or more-controversial steps such as telling people to stay away from work during the 14-day incubation period if they are returning from regions with high infection rates, they might not be enough to prevent the spread of the disease. Employers in the U.S. should review their infectious-disease management plans. If they don't have these plans, now is the time to create them.
(SHRM Online

'An Economic Pandemic': Coronavirus Is Becoming a Bigger Threat to U.S., Economists Say

As the coronavirus spreads and raises the risk of recession, some analysts are further downgrading their forecasts for the U.S. economy. The outbreak is taking a growing toll on the U.S. economy, chiefly through reduced travel and tourism, said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics. Also, manufacturers will likely export less to Asia and Europe as demand there slackens. And lower imports from those regions are expected to lead to shortages of intermediate parts and retail products in the U.S., along with higher prices that curb consumer spending.
(USA Today)

Coronavirus Outbreak Deepens Its Toll on Global Business

The disruption of China's manufacturing network, and slowdown of its economy, have rippled through to airlines, automakers, tech companies and more. A loss of $29 billion in airline revenue. China auto sales down by 92 percent. Interruptions for Procter & Gamble's 387 suppliers in China. As the coronavirus outbreak rattles the global economy and disrupts supply chains, international companies across nearly every industry are confronting a stark reality: Business will not go on as usual.
(The New York Times

The Wide-Ranging Ways in Which the Coronavirus Is Hurting Global Business

In China, the country's economy is still largely in lockdown mode, stalling a global manufacturing powerhouse at the heart of nearly every industrial supply chain. As the crisis continues, businesses big and small are struggling with the disruption the pneumonia-like illness has caused, with effects reaching across the globe. Restaurants and stores have been forcibly shut, many with paper seals to prevent owners from covertly reopening. Factory production lines are at a standstill. Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, has twice extended its holiday break, keeping tens of millions at home in an effort to contain the virus.

Companies Cut China Travel Due to Coronavirus

Companies have reduced travel to China following the outbreak of the coronavirus; are working with employees who are stuck in Wuhan, the epicenter of the infection; and are responding to U.S. employees who want to hunker down during the epidemic.
(SHRM Online)

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Through Flu and Other Epidemics in the Workplace]

U.S. Manufacturers Scramble for Costly Alternatives as Coronavirus Cuts Chinese Supplies

The outbreak of coronavirus in China has forced U.S.-based suppliers to industrial giants such as Caterpillar Inc., Deere & Co. and Komatsu Ltd. to grapple with a surge in costs to avoid production disruptions.

'The Worst Is Yet to Come': Global Stocks Are Under Pressure as Fears Mount of a Coronavirus Pandemic

Global stocks tumbled on Wednesday morning as fears that the novel coronavirus would escalate into a pandemic rattled markets.

The virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and causes a flu-like disease called COVID-19, has infected more than 80,000 people, killed at least 2,700, and spread to about 40 countries.
(Markets Insider

Coronavirus: An Employer's Action Guide

Daily headlines about the growing coronavirus threat have many employers concerned that they are not doing all they should to protect employees without undue disruption to operations. Here are some answers that may inform your own response plan.
(The National Law Review)



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The Department of Health & Human Services has clarified the HIPAA Privacy Rule does not prohibit an employer from requesting an employee’s vaccination status as part of the terms and conditions of employment.



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