Are You Prepared for a Pandemic?
There have been various stories on the news and throughout social media showing pictures of empty store shelves, airports and train stations with ‘masked’ travelers, and even fights between customers in stores over likely unnecessary supplies! While the panic over COVID-19 has been just as damaging to businesses, governments, and the public as the actual virus, the truth is, there are many ways to protect yourself and your family that goes above stockpiling disinfectants and face masks.
To better understand what a “pandemic” is, and how it is likely to affect you, here are some useful definitions. According to the CDC:
Virus - A tiny organism that multiplies within cells and causes disease such as chickenpox, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis and hepatitis. Viruses are not affected by antibiotics, the drugs used to kill bacteria.
Outbreak - Sudden appearance of a disease in a specific geographic area (e.g. neighborhood or community) or population (e.g., adolescents).
Epidemic - The occurrence of disease within a specific geographical area or population that is in excess of what is normally expected.
Pandemic - An epidemic occurring over a very large geographic area.
Exposure - Swallowing, breathing, or touching a substance through the skin or eyes. Exposure duration may be immediate, short term (14 days or less), intermediate, or long term (more than 1 year).
Incubation period - The time from contact with infectious agents (bacteria or viruses) to onset of disease.
Quarantine - The isolation of a person or animal who has a disease (or is suspected of having a disease) in order to prevent further spread of the disease.
As of March 11th, 2020, the World Health Organization has declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. What this means for the average person is that we should all be taking basic precautions and limiting international travel, wherever possible. As the virus is transmitted through “small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales,” we have the ability to prevent further spread of the virus through simple preventative measures.
Here at VPC, we are taking the responsibility for our role in preventing potential exposure or transmission of COVID-19, very seriously. Our staff travels regularly throughout the mid-Atlantic for business, and as such we have an obligation to ensure our clients, partners, and the public are not put at unnecessary risk. VPC has instituted a “work from home” policy for the next two weeks, and has been, and will continue to, conduct all our meetings via online video conferencing (WebEx, Teams, Skype, etc.). While staff is working from home, the VPC offices have undergone a thorough cleaning and disinfecting process. Our staff members have been allowed to work flex hours to make up for lost time in caring for sick family members, doctors’ visits, altered schedules for their children, etc. Some staff have voluntarily cancelled travel plans to places outside Maryland, and certainly outside the US, as well as to attend any unnecessary local or social events, and large gatherings.
For your Business
Below are some additional precautions we recommend you take to protect your organization or business:
Limit interstate and international travel wherever possible
Avoid shaking hands with customers or clients
Regularly disinfect items touched by numerous people throughout the day (light switches, doorknobs, tv or other electronics remote controls)
Provide antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer in bathroom and kitchen areas
Develop and enact a “work from home policy” if your business can function with such an arrangement
Update sick leave policies to ensure staff members are not penalized for precautionary self-quarantine (staff members returning from vacation, caring for sick family members, or staff who are part of a susceptible population)
Provide literature or materials to staff to help them reduce risk at home (ensure all recommendations come from reliable sources such as the World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control, your State and local Health departments, and local emergency management agencies).
For your Home
In addition to the risk reduction measures mentioned above, such as limiting travel and disinfecting community items/property, additional home and personal measures could include:
Washing hands frequently with antibacterial soap
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
Stay home from work, and keep children home from school, if you or they feel unwell or exhibit symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, or body aches.
If you or someone in your household has difficulty breathing associated with these symptoms, seek medical attention. Call your doctor in advance and let them know you are experiencing symptoms of Covid-19. They will direct you to the appropriate testing facility. Calling ahead will help reduce the risk of transmission to others, should test results come back positive.
If someone in your home is unwell or experiencing these symptoms, limit their use of shared spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms, and living areas and advise them to self-quarantine.
If someone in your home is part of a vulnerable population (seniors, those with pre-existing medical conditions, or people who smoke or use tobacco products, etc.) encourage them not to go out in public if possible, and to wash their hands frequently after touching shared or community items.
If you must go out, try to maintain at least three feet distance between yourself and friends, family, or the public, in places such as restaurants, grocery stores, or gas stations.
The ability to travel anywhere in the world in only a few hours is great for businesses, vacationers, and even families that are spread across continents. However, it is incumbent upon us to assume responsibility for limiting the potential spread of this unprecedented virus, by restricting attendance at large gatherings, and domestic and international travel where feasible. While a virus or pandemic may be a natural occurrence, the spread of the virus is certainly in our hands (pun intended).
VPC has been developing preparedness and risk mitigation plans for natural, man-made, and technological hazards for over 14 years. We are poised to develop pandemic plans for universities, local governments, and businesses across the country. We are in the process of developing a Pandemic Plan for a city in the Mid-Atlantic in the coming weeks. VPC's plans include international best practices, and are tailored to focus on preparedness for, mitigation against, response to, and recovery from an outbreak or pandemic event in your area.
For more information on developing a pandemic plan for your business, organization, or jurisdiction, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us direct at 888-872-9626.
For more information on COVID-19, or other pandemic updates, follow the links below:
District of Columbia - https://coronavirus.dc.gov/page/what-covid-19