Across the world and now much closer to home in our own country, the coronavirus disease 2019 (abbreviated “COVID-19”) is affecting organizations in ways that require alert awareness to business practices and personal interactions. The virus is now currently being spread via personal contact as well as more recently through “community spread”, which means people are infected but not sure where they got it. Unlike many other communicable diseases that have spread in the past, at this time, there is no vaccine to protect against COVID-19 and no medications approved to treat it. While not yet creating an overwhelming impact on standard operating procedures for many U.S. companies, the business segment of our economy is monitoring updates daily to ensure they are reacting in a prudent and timely manner to all official recommendations.
Some of the impact on businesses today:
- Companies are restricting business travel to high-risk areas or encouraging employees to stay home from work that has recently visited any of the high-risk countries (China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea).
- Human Resource departments are developing or redistributing a Communicable Disease policy to their employees and vendors.
- Global commerce has experienced the largest effect: Companies that make and sell products are struggling to secure available supply lines as business disruptions reach far beyond China, where the virus originated.
- Shopping and travel plans have changed: More people are stocking up on essential items in bulk to avoid public contact, affecting supply chain norms, and many are eliminating elective travel, affecting the revenue of the airlines, accommodations industry, and entertainment industries. It has been reported that the virus has already had a bigger impact on the airline industry than 9/11.
- Due to China being a major source of both raw and finished goods to many retailers, eCommerce may suffer this spring due to supply chain delays and a lack of available products.
- Many businesses are already revising the second quarter and annual financial projection in anticipation of the worse to come.
On a community level, if the virus does spread to high alert levels, we can anticipate more closures in companies, schools, and public places. Emergency and law enforcement workers’ responsiveness may be affected, and public transportation may be limited. Public healthcare and healthcare systems will become overloaded.
Taking advice from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), we all must be proactive: know the symptoms of the disease and pay attention to your health if you have symptoms. Everyone can do their part to prevent the spread of the disease in significant ways.