The global implications of COVID-19 – commonly known as coronavirus – appear to be changing literally by the hour. We thought it might be helpful to share what we’re seeing and hearing from the experts on our Health and Crisis + Critical Issues teams as well as our outside partners around the globe. 

Regardless of where this goes, we’re advising companies to carefully consider the importance of communications to key stakeholders who could be affected, concerned or simply interested in its potential or real impact. 

Based on several conversations with our contacts in various public health departments, here are a few observations:

  • While we shouldn’t be alarmist, this could very well change how Americans live and work for some time. Schools may close for extended periods, companies will ask people to telework, and productivity will likely suffer. The impact on the hospital work environment, in particular, will be significant, with nurses getting little sick time and serious complications for those who are immunocompromised.
  • Hospitals and payers have the opportunity to step forward and help correct misinformation regarding prevention. In short, wash your hands and keep them away from your face!
  • Preparedness varies widely state by state, and it’s important to pay attention to local response protocols. The spread of the virus in the U.S. will be largely determined by the preparedness of the place where it first arises.
  • There’s a high likelihood of pandemic in under six weeks. 

So, what should organizations be doing right now?

  • Consider establishing a task force to ensure that you’ve explored all the dimensions of a coordinated response should something arise.
  • Dust off and update business continuity plans in the event that the virus does spread into the domestic workplace. Many companies put plans in place back in 2003 because of SARS, but communications methods have evolved greatly since then.
  • Consider a simple prevention campaign to remind employees of the basic steps they can take to protect themselves. And most importantly to stay home if they are feeling sick. COVID-19 notwithstanding, it can prevent other nasty colds and ailments from spreading unnecessarily.
  • Have contingency plans in place around planned meetings or special events with staff or clients. We’ve advised several clients on postponements and alternate arrangements.
  • Clients are halting travel to China and other high-risk areas and asking employees to use their own judgment in travel to other parts of Asia-Pacific. We are not hearing anyone curbing travel in the U.S.
  • Listen to your key stakeholders – investors, boards, employees, customers, supply chain partners – and communicate preparedness to them if there are concerns. If not, be careful about being unnecessarily alarmist, but in the meantime make sure you’re prepared.

To learn more, connect with us – experts from our health and crisis communications teams both at Padilla and our AVENIR GLOBAL sister agencies and partners are available to answer your questions.

And for tips on how to help you efficiently move from a face-to-face event to a virtual meeting should you face a new travel-restricted reality, see “Holding Virtual Events and Meetings.”