Businesses around the world are bracing for the impact of coronavirus. COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that made headlines in early 2020, has spread around the globe. In the United States, multiple cases and deaths have been reported. As cases increases, businesses must prepare for the possibility of an outbreak.
Business Interruption Issues
In China, large-scale quarantines have impacted many companies with operations in the country. According to CNBC, Disney and Tesla were among the businesses that temporarily suspended operations in China due to the coronavirus, while mandatory factory shutdowns impacted Walmart and other companies. Business Insider reports that many fast-food chains and retailers in and around Wuhan, the center of the outbreak, closed temporarily.
In Italy, an outbreak caused authorities to put 12 towns in lockdown, according to Business Insider. The full impact on the economy and tourism remains to be seen.
In the United States, a Seattle-area nursing home appears to be at the center of an outbreak. According to CNN, at least 50 residents and staff have reported symptoms. On the other side of the country, ABC7 NY reports that four New York schools have closed over coronavirus.
Businesses may be forced to close temporarily in response to a local outbreak. Businesses may also suffer from staffing shortages if workers have to stay home because they are sick or caring for someone who is. Customers may also decide to avoid certain venues to avoid getting stick or because they are already sick.
Catching coronavirus at work is unlikely to be a compensable workers’ compensation claim. According to Insurance Journal, an illness must be occupational and arise out of conditions peculiar to the work to be eligible for workers’ compensation coverage. However, some exceptional situations may exist.
Best Practices for Coronavirus Safety
Businesses can and should take steps to avoid contributing to the spread of COVD-19.
- Help workers stay home when they are sick. Make sure workers know they should stay home if they are sick, rather than trying “tough it out.” Develop plans to facilitate work-from-home options whenever possible and plan for staffing shortages. Send workers home if they appear sick.
- Keep worksites clean. Clean all worksites regularly, paying careful attention to high-touch areas known for having germs, such as shared keyboards, phones, doorknobs and elevator buttons. Provide soap and water or hand sanitizer. Remind workers to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze.
- Avoid unnecessary travel and mass gatherings. Videoconferencing options may be better when possible. Check with the CDC’s travel notices before sending employees on business trips. Create contingency plans in case events and trips need to be cancelled or postponed.
- If an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, conduct a risk assessment following CDC guidelines. Notify other employees of the possible exposure but be sure to maintain the sick employee’s confidentiality.
- See the CDC’s guidance for businesses and employers for more information.
Medicare has created a Medicare & Coronavirus webpage with information on the COVID-19 outbreak. The page includes precautions that Medicare beneficiaries should take, as well as Medicare coverage information. Here are a few key points:
- Medicare will cover lab tests for COVID-19 with no out-of-pocket costs.
- The COVID-19 vaccine will be covered when it becomes available. (There is no vaccine now.)
Patients who need medical advice but are worried about coronavirus exposure should consider using Medicare’s telehealth “virtual check-in” benefits.