As news of the rapidly spreading Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) sparks concern and even panic around the world, we’re already seeing major ripple effects through almost every sector of society. The stock market has gone on a roller coaster ride, grocery store shelves are emptying, and hand sanitizers and face masks have become major commodities—all in the space of a couple of weeks. Between a rapidly evolving world health situation and mixed messaging coming from Washington, you may be wondering (along with many other business owners) how Coronavirus may impact how you do business. Let’s explore this question to see how we can be better prepared.
Let’s Start with the Facts
Despite the panic caused by conflicting stories, the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have both been diligently compiling useful information about COVID-19, and they are perhaps among the best sources available to understand what this virus is, how it spreads, and how to protect ourselves. Here’s a summation of what we know so far about the virus itself:
- It spreads like the common cold (i.e., person-to-person through coughing/sneezing, or hand-to-face by touching previously contaminated surfaces).
- It is more contagious because it is newly introduced to humans, so we have not built a resistance to it.
- The majority of people who contract COVID-19 (80 percent) experience mild to moderate cold or flu-like symptoms. Many will probably not even be aware it was Coronavirus and won’t seek medical treatment.
- Approximately 20 percent of people experience severe or life-threatening symptoms and must be hospitalized—almost always as a result of pre-existing health conditions.
- The fatality rate is between 1 and 3 percent worldwide (the numbers are still fluid on this).
- The best ways to prevent its spread are quarantine, frequent handwashing and avoiding close contact with those who are ill.
Protecting Yourself, Your Family and Your Team
Before discussing how Coronavirus may affect your business specifically, your first priority should be the safety of your team, your family and yourself. The CDC recommends the following practices to reduce the risk of infection:
- Wash hands frequently with warm soap and water, scrubbing hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds. If no soap/water is available, a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol content is a good second option.
- Avoid touching your face as much as possible (and only with clean hands).
- Keep a minimum distance of 6 feet from anyone who appears to have symptoms to avoid breathing in airborne droplets from their coughs or sneezes. (Don’t assume it’s the cold.)
- If you have symptoms or have a legitimate reason to believe you have been exposed, self-quarantine for 14 days or until symptoms subside. Stay home from work.
- If a teammate shows cold or flu-like symptoms—send them home. Same if a client comes into the office exhibiting symptoms.
- Avoid hoarding face masks. Save the masks for people who are sick to avoid spreading the disease, and for healthcare workers who are being exposed regularly.
If you do develop symptoms that become severe (e.g., difficulty breathing, difficulty retaining food/water, high fever), call your doctor or the E.R. before coming in so they can prepare to receive and test you safely. Avoid contact with others as much as possible.
Most importantly—don’t buy into the panic. Coronavirus must be taken seriously, but it is not inevitable, nor is it a death sentence. Be smart, take the necessary precautions, and you can manage the risk far more efficiently.