How Businesses Can Prepare for COVID-19

A pandemic can be defined as a global outbreak of a new serious illness. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization officially declared coronavirus disease 2019, also known as COVID-19, a pandemic. COVID-19 currently has numerous outbreak cases in Europe, Asia, and the United States, with numbers still rising as testing continues. This declaration, along with and the virus’ rapid proliferation, has sparked concern about how individuals and companies can effectively respond to this unique threat to health and safety.

What is a Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are generally responsible for colds. Late last year, however, a novel coronavirus named “SARS-CoV-2” caused the respiratory disease outbreak known as COVID-19. The virus is currently being spread via person-to-person contact. Symptoms may appear within 2 to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

What does this mean for businesses and employers?

Travel restrictions, testing, and quarantines due to COVID-19 have disrupted import/export ventures, public and private events, and many other activities and businesses. The disruptions caused by the pandemic can negatively affect virtually any business, underscoring a critical need to establish corporate plans of action based on sound approaches to health and safety.

Effective pandemic response plans address employee and public concerns, account for company’s specific needs and characteristics, and reduce risks to health and safety. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided recommended strategies for employers, including encouragement of sick employees to stay home and establishing more frequent and comprehensive cleaning of work environments.

Prevention

The best means of prevention is to avoid exposure. The virus is spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can then land on the mouth or nose of those nearby or even reach the lungs through inhalation. In addition to avoiding exposure, washing your hands frequently plays a vital role in minimizing contact with the virus. When washing your hands, it’s best to use soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and fully cover hand surfaces until they feel dry. For businesses, documenting these preventative measures as well as developing pandemic response plans can help minimize unnecessary exposure and risk.

Developing a Plan of Action

A pandemic response plan can strengthen current emergency response systems or can focus specifically on immediate emergency circumstances. Key elements of a pandemic response plan may include:

  • Identifying your key stakeholders: Informing key team members of their roles, including the importance of each role, is not only informative but vital in ensuring that employees and the public are safe. Developing a pandemic response plan that outlines key stakeholders can shorten the response time to an emergency as well as prepare for operational changes if a knowledge transfer becomes necessary.
  • Resource allocation: A pandemic response plan that accounts for budgetary elements such as payroll and delivery of goods and services can help to effectively navigate the changes and challenges associated with emergencies such as COVID-19.
  • Business continuity: A plan detailing the changes needed to maintain ongoing operations during an emergency is essential to minimizing disruptions while keeping employees and the public safe. A fully documented business continuity plan specific to the COVID-19 pandemic also can aid in development of plans for future emergencies.

Individual companies’ pandemic response plans will differ based on the company’s operations, business needs, and work processes. In all cases, establishment of a comprehensive response plan supports ongoing operations while also ensuring the safety and well-being of employees and the public.

Spark Thought is a strategic consulting firm that provides operations and management support services to a wide range of clients in multiple industries. We provide operation and management support services including knowledge management, regulatory compliance support, technical writing, web-based portals for collaboration, and instructional design.

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