3/13/20 COVID-19 Brief from WorkSTEPS

coronavirus covid-19 covid 19 update news WHO CDC health news

Data and Insights to Inform Your Company's Pandemic Response


In my career as a medical director for numerous corporations, I am often asked for best practices and recommendations on how to respond to medical situations that impact the workplace. These range from small-scale questions about individual employees to more complicated consultative services regarding the medical component of business continuity planning. Until this January, the “mother” of business continuity interruptions was terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The challenges associated with that event were based in fear and the unknown. The current COVID-19 pandemic creates additional complexity for employers beyond what we experienced in 2001. In response to employers’ need for useful information to support decision making around medical related issues confronting them due to this pandemic, the medical staff at WorkSTEPS is mining the enormous amount of information we are all being bombarded with on a continuous basis, reviewing it and culling useful information to improve decision making. While there are numerous very well crafted COVID -19 related websites that are available, we have tried to fill a void by creating something that uniquely applies to issues around occupational health. WorkSTEPS has always tried to develop innovative solutions to unique challenges in the past, and we value your input and feedback for this COVID-19 newsletter. Please let us know what you find useful, and if you have any pertinent information you’d like to share with us, please respond as we encourage and appreciate an open dialogue. After all, we’re all in this together.

Dr. Ben Hoffman, MD, MPH
Chief Medical Officer, WorkSTEPS

Click here for more info on our Coronavirus Medical Hotline for Employers & Employees

By the Numbers

Area Reported Cases Deaths Links
Global (Situation Report 51) 130,237
(4,038 new)
(139 new)
Situation Report 51
US (3/12/2020 update) 1,388 38 CDC US Updates
States Scroll down at link for interactive map

Notable Headlines

US coronavirus cases surpass 1000: Full map
Germany predicts up to 70% could be infected with coronavirus
WHO declares the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic

Medical Updates

New Data on Incubation Period Supports 14 Day Quarantine

New retrospective research has confirmed the median incubation period to be 5.1 days (95% CI, 4.5 to 5.8 days), and 97.5% of those who develop symptoms will do so within 11.5 days (CI, 8.2 to 15.6 days) of infection. These estimates imply that, under conservative assumptions, 101 out of every 10 000 cases (99th percentile, 482) will develop symptoms after 14 days of active monitoring or quarantine. This median time from exposure to onset of symptoms suggests that the 14-day quarantine period used by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for individuals with likely exposure to the coronavirus is reasonable.

Pandemic Characteristics – Learning from 1918 Influenza Pandemic

  • Spike in disease appearance every 6-8mo over 1-2yrs
  • Second wave with increased lethality
  • Modern healthcare, containment policies, and mitigation policies will likely curb the number of deaths from Covid-19 compared to the 1918 influenza.

Deficiencies in US Health Care – Implications for US Businesses

Corporate response to coronavirus impacts must consider the sober assessment of the US health care system’s readiness to care for those in need. Stats/facts from a recent HBR blog on system readiness:
  • Insufficient number of primary healthcare providers leading to overuse / overtaxing of urgent and emergency care providers.
  • US currently has approx. 45,000 ventilators / ICU beds; estimates indicate as many as 2.9 million people will need ICU care over the course of the outbreak.
  • Smaller cities and rural areas will be greatly impacted as ICU services are disproportionately lower compared to larger cities.

Guidance for Prevention and Control in Schools

Recognizing that the protection of children and educational facilities is particularly important, and that precautions are necessary to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19 in school settings, UNICEF has issued a document to provide clear and actionable guidance for safe operations through the prevention, early detection and control of COVID-19 in schools and other educational facilities.

Prevention and Mitigation

WHO Recommends Basic Protective Measures

The World Health Organization website identifies basic measures for people to protect their health and the health of others. Site link can be shared with employees. Highlights:
  1. Perform hand hygiene frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub if your hands are not visibly dirty, or with soap and water if hands are dirty;
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth;
  3. Practice respiratory hygiene by coughing or sneezing into a bent elbow or tissue and then immediately dispose of the tissue;
  4. Wear a medical mask if you have respiratory symptoms and perform hand hygiene after disposing of the mask;
  5. Maintain social distance (a minimum of 1 m/3 ft) from individuals with respiratory symptoms.

US FDA Postponing Most Foreign Inspections

US FDA has announced that it is postponing most foreign inspections through April, effective immediately. Inspections outside the U.S. deemed mission-critical will still be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Business Management of the Outbreak – Lessons from China

China appears to be in the early stages of an economic rebound, according to an analysis of high-frequency data on proxies for the movement of people and goods, production, and confidence. Many Chinese companies have already moved beyond crisis response to recovery and post-recovery planning. Lessons to learn from the Chinese industry as published in this recent HBR Blog post.
  1. Look ahead and constantly reframe your efforts.
  2. Use an adaptive, bottom-up approach to complement top-down efforts. Set a top-down framework within which employees can innovate.
  3. Proactively create clarity and security for employees. Employees will need to adopt new ways of working, but they won’t be able to do so unless they have clear, consistent information and overall direction.
  4. Reallocate labor flexibly to different activities. Rather than furloughs or layoffs, some creative Chinese enterprises actively reallocated employees to new and valuable activities, like recovery planning, or even loaned them to other companies.
  5. Shift your sales channel mix. Person-to-person and brick-and-mortar retail were severely restricted in affected regions. Agile Chinese enterprises rapidly redeployed sales efforts to new channels both in B2C and B2B enterprises.
  6. Use social media to coordinate employees and partners. With remote working and a new set of complex coordination challenges, many Chinese companies took to social media platforms, such as WeChat, to coordinate employees and partners.
  7. Prepare for a faster recovery than you expect. Only six weeks after the initial outbreak, China appears to be in the early stages of recovery. Congestion delays currently stand at 73% of 2019 levels, up from 62% at the worst part of the epidemic, indicating that the movement of people and goods is resuming.
  8. Expect different recovery speeds for different sectors. This means companies need to calibrate their approach by business — and large companies need to calibrate their approach by division.
  9. Look for opportunity amid adversity. A major restaurant chain leveraged down-time to plan a new offering of semi-finished dishes, capturing the increased need and occasion for home cooking during the crisis.
  10. Adapt your recovery strategy by location. Regional public health policies, disease dynamics, and administrative guidance will create recovery dynamics that vary by location — likely not following the geographical structure of companies.
  11. Rapidly innovate around new needs. Beyond rebalancing your product portfolio, new customer needs also create opportunities for innovation.
  12. Spot new consumption habits being formed. Some shifts will likely persist beyond the crisis, and many sectors will reemerge to new market realities in China and elsewhere.
Top-tier companies create their occupational health programs with WorkSTEPS
Contact us

Receive strategies on dealing with COVID-19 Crisis and General Health of the workforce

Newsletter written by WorkSTEPS CMO Dr. Ben Hoffman and WorkSTEPS’ expert medical team.