BBJ: CareFirst CEO ‘implores’ businesses to continue remote work, even after economy reopens

By Morgan Eichensehr  

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield CEO Brian D. Pieninck is encouraging Baltimore’s businesspeople to continue working remotely “well beyond” when local leaders give clearance to reopen the economy.

Conversations around the Covid-19 pandemic are increasingly turning toward options for reopening shuttered businesses and returning to a more normal workflow. But Pieninck said it is “critical” that whenever those plans materialize, business owners do not send their workers back to offices en masse.

He explained that local hospitals and health systems may quickly be overwhelmed if reopening causes a spike in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations, and said maintaining current safety measures like social distancing is necessary to help hospitals stay on top of the demand for care.

Pieninck spoke directly to city business owners during a webinar event hosted by the Greater Baltimore Committee April 28, which drew 170 attendees. CareFirst is part of a public-private partnership with city officials, the University of Maryland Medical System and Johns Hopkins Health System, aimed at bolstering Baltimore’s Covid-19 resources and response. Leaders of each organization gave updates on the progress of the partnership efforts during the webinar.

Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, Baltimore’s health commissioner, acknowledged that health officials are already anticipating another surge in Covid-19 cases come fall, when other viruses like the flu also become more prevalent. She said it is important for officials to consider, amid conversations about loosening existing safety measures, that reopening more businesses could cause the state to see another surge even before then.

Kevin Sowers, president of Johns Hopkins Health System, said because his system’s hospitals have canceled elective surgeries and procedures for the time being, they have been able to redirect certain medical staff to other roles on the front lines of the fight against Covid-19, including at six separate intensive units and coronavirus testing sites set up at several Hopkins locations.

If normal economic activity resumes, and those redirected staff members are pulled back to their original roles and worksites, it could have major implications on Hopkins’ response plans and how the system is able to continue directing resources to confront Covid-19, Sowers said.

Dr. Mohan Suntha, CEO of University of Maryland Medical System, echoed those concerns. He added that communities in Maryland should recognize that social distancing and other safety measures, though uncomfortable and disruptive, have “had a significant impact in flattening the curve,” or slowing the spread of the virus throughout the state.

Without a viable vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus currently available, Dzirasa said health officials’ best tools for combatting the virus are continued social distancing and enhanced contact tracing, which involves identifying every person with whom a recently infected person has come in contact, so those people can be notified and take proper precautions to stop the spread.

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

Source: Baltimore Business Journal

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