BBJ: What Dr. Leana Wen says businesses should do right now about coronavirus

By Morgan Eichensehr
March 12, 2020

Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore’s former health commissioner, is pretty sure the impacts of the spreading coronavirus will get much worse for Maryland and the rest of the country in the coming weeks.

Wen offered updates and advice on the global pandemic to a handful of local business leaders seeking guidance on making decisions around coronavirus threats and fears in their own organizations, during a meeting at the Greater Baltimore Committee on March 12. She knows people may be feeling overwhelmed by the constant stream of news and advisories regarding the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, but said the influx is not likely to slow anytime soon.

Dawn O’Neill, vice president of population health at St. Agnes Hospital, joined Wen in speaking with GBC members Thursday. She said everyone has a role to play in trying to curb the rapid spread of COVID-19, from exercising more diligent hand washing techniques, to staying away from offices and public places altogether.

Wen said the focus of every political and business leader in the coming weeks should be on slowing the spread of the virus.

Here are some things Wen and O’Neill said companies can and should be doing right now:

  • Cancel unnecessary events and travel — Wen said organizations should cancel any events they are planning to host in the coming weeks where large groups of people would be present.
  • Have a teleworking plan in place and practice it — If your company is able to facilitate teleworking among employees, it should be, O’Neill said. She noted that its encouraging to see many organizations are currently figuring out how to transition operations entirely online, and advised businesses to practice using their teleworking tech, to ensure there is limited disruption when it becomes necessary for everyone to work remotely.
  • Develop a crisis plan — O’Neill said every organization should be asking themselves now: “How will we operate without half our staff?” There are broad and varying predictions circulating about how many U.S. citizens could ultimately become infected by coronavirus, but O’Neill said it is pretty certain that substantially more people will become infected across the country in the coming weeks. O’Neill said it is prudent for companies to ensure they have crisis response plans ready that account for the essential functions of their businesses, and set up protocols to make sure those functions can be handle even if a majority of a firm’s staff becomes affected.
  • Keep people informed — Companies and organizations should set up communication protocols to keep their employees and stakeholders informed about any necessary policy and procedure changes as things progress, O’Neill said. Human Services and state health department for information about the ongoing spread of the virus locally and nationally.
  • Expect more changes — Wen and O’Neill agreed that at this point, conditions around coronavirus in the U.S. are changing by the hour. Organizations should expect some continued discomfort and uncertainty as states work to quell the spread of this highly infectious disease.

“The next few weeks will be really challenging. Lots of big, difficult decisions will need to be made,” Wen said, acknowledging that mulling potentially costly decisions around canceling travel or events and scaling back business operations is understandably difficult for any organization. “But we all need to do our part, because there is a cost to inaction as well.”

To read the full story, visit Baltimore Business Journal’s website.

Source: Baltimore Business Journal

Also see: 4 ways businesses are encouraged to prepare for the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)