Risks and Implications of the COVID-19 Virus, featured two world-renowned medical experts who helped us separate the facts from the noise, and gave us a measured, rational way of processing the barrage of alarmist information making headlines today, what we can expect to see, and most importantly, what we should be watching as this situation evolves.
WORDS OF WISDOM: MANAGING YOUR TEAMS EFFECTIVELY DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
“COVID-19 is not just about the infection. It’s about the psychological response. The confusion, distress and at times, panic.”
Moderator David Lawrence, Founder & Chief Collaborative Officer, RANE
Information on the spread of the coronavirus is changing daily and it’s difficult to stay on top of relevant news that could impact your people and your business. I’ve heard from many of our clients over the past week as developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic here in the U.S. escalated. No matter what part of the country we’re in, our work and personal lives are much different than they were at the beginning of March. Here in the tri-state NY-NJ-CT area, as in areas like Seattle and San Francisco, local officials quickly implemented drastic measures to contain the virus. Colleges, schools, government offices and libraries closed late last week, and yesterday, closures of bars, restaurants and gyms joined the list as many employers implemented work-from-home policies. Some of us are facing travel restrictions, and industry events where we typically get together and share ideas are being postponed or cancelled. Who knows when it will end, or what we might see before then.
To paraphrase the Beatles song, when we find ourselves in times of trouble, we seek out words of wisdom.
Those words of wisdom came in the form of a Virtual Briefing Session LightBox just co-hosted with RANE Network, a leader in enabling risk professionals to more efficiently respond to emerging threats and manage complex risks. Our webinar, titled Addressing the Physical and Psychological
“We are all in this together, and LightBox is deeply committed to empowering our clients to lead their companies thoughtfully and effectively during this time of intense uncertainty and misinformation. Today’s briefing was the first of our efforts to keep you informed as we all navigate this evolving situation.”
Eric Frank, CEO of LightBox
First, here are the medical facts from Dr. William Lang, a former White House physician:
The data is important, but so is perspective.
Most of the common colds we get are corona viruses, said Dr. William Lang, a former White House Physician. What is getting people’s attention and driving hysteria are the statistics on fatality rates from COVID-19. In China, the fatality rate is 1.5 percent and in Italy it is more than twice that. Yet in Italy, a higher percentage of the population (25%) consists of the higher-risk over-60 demographic, and smoking is much more widespread. As of yesterday, there are a total of 890 cases of COVID-19 here in the U.S., a number expected to climb in the coming weeks and months.
Even if you get COVID-19, your risk of getting severely ill is tiny.
Many, if not most, of those who get it are not so sick that they can’t go about their business, but because of the high degree of contagion, they can infect a lot of people. One person can infect two to three others, and the elderly and those with serious chronic medical conditions are most susceptible. Of those who get severely ill, 85% are elderly.
“What we’re trying to do is get the millennial generation, the ones who spend the most time out in public…interacting with other people all the time, to protect the over-70 generation. It’s essentially getting the youngest generation to try to protect the greatest generation.”
Dr. William Lang
The timeline of impact is on the basis of 4-6 weeks.
What we’ve generally seen in China and Italy is that the wave of affected individuals goes up over 4-6 weeks and then comes back down again over 4-6 weeks. That’s the pattern that we can expect here in the U.S. What we’re hoping to see is that the reduced mobility practices of the last week effectively slow the spread of the virus so we see a natural decrease in infections here.
Three important things could flatten the curve here in the U.S.
First, evidence suggests that the COVID-19 flu doesn’t like sunlight so the change from winter to spring to summer will impact infection rates, as well as the natural social distancing that occurs when schools are closed during the summer and people take vacations. Second, there are medications that demonstrate anti-viral effects that are expected to be available on the market by this summer.
Third, “and the one we’re all looking for is vaccines. Realistically, we’re looking at possibly having a vaccine in place by mid-winter.”
The incubation period is 7-8 days.
The incubation period for COVID-19—the time from getting infected to becoming overtly ill is about 7-8 days, really much shorter than the 14 days that is often cited in the news. We should see about 1 million test kits available by next week, but be aware the process is not like getting a typical strep or flu test. Getting a sample requires having medical provider in full protection take a swap sample from the nose and transmit it to a lab for testing.
Simple steps are very effective at containing risk.
“There is no evidence—physical or clinical—that COVID-19 is transmitted by airborne particles except from coughing, sneezing or wiping your face and then touching surfaces that other people touch.”
So, all the things we hear about are the ones we should all be doing. Wash hands. Disinfect surfaces, especially those that employees touch frequently. Maintain 6-10 feet among employees, and make sure anyone with symptoms stays home.
Dr. Craig Katz, who leads clinical psychiatric response efforts at Mount Sinai, had this advice for managing the emotional aspects of the pandemic with your employees:
Allow for some anxiety, but don’t let it be debilitating.
The more you can do to give employees actionable, accurate information, the less irrationally and unproductively they will act. Understand that a little anxiety is to be expected, and can even be productive.
“Here in New York City this week, the empty streets are eerie, but it shows that as we gave people more information about the risks, they started listening and they’re concerned so they’re staying inside. That’s productive anxiety.”
Dr. Craig Katz, Clinical Psychiatric Response, Mount Sinai
Focus on what you can control.
The impacts of COVID-19 vary from one city to the next so the responses will be on a regional basis, not a federal one.
“So let those whose job it is to do the worrying do the worrying. It’s the governors and mayors who are making the hard decisions about what has to happen when. Let them figure out what we have to do as a society, and you focus as managers on what you can control and your own employees and clients.”
Understand that your teams need information and calm leadership.
In past epidemics, what incites feelings of panic is misinformation, and not communicating facts calmly. In situations like this, employees need a sense of social cohesion, knowing that they are part of a community that is working in sync.
“There’s no better way to address employees’ fear and anxiety than by being transparent, by regularly disseminating information and using a calm, trusted messenger to do it.”
Offer social support any way you can in your corporate setting.
Although we are socially distancing in a physical way, it’s more important than ever to offer social support in other ways. “So, where in the past it was a handshake. Today, it becomes a phone call or an email. Although we may be working from our homes, it is going to make a big difference to make sure we stay in touch and check in regularly to avoid feelings of isolation and emotional distancing.”
Keep your trusted sources to a minimum.
The major network sites are putting out headlines designed to terrify. It’s because they are working off the revenue model based on maximizing the number of click-throughs and viewership. Many people don’t get past the headlines to read the real facts. To stay informed—and keep your teams informed, keep your trusted sources to a minimum.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For a replay of today’s Virtual Briefing: Addressing the Physical and Psychological Risks and Implications of the COVID-19 Virus
Drs. Lang and Katz suggest the following trustworthy COVID-19 resources:
- Your local health department is critical since each geographic area is experiencing different timing and different considerations that are driving different responses
- The CDC site on COVID-19
- The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post are three news sources “sharing pragmatic information on managing COVID-19 concerns”
- RANE Network offers a daily intelligence briefing on COVID-19 to track key developments and support companies seeking high-quality information to form effective policies and procedures.
ABOUT OUR SPEAKERS
Dr. William Lang is among the world’s foremost experts in medical contingency planning and public health response to biological incidents including both pandemic and bioterrorism events, having served in critical medical positions at the highest levels of the U.S. government. Previously, Dr. Lang was the Army White House Physician, assigned there initially in 1996, and serving in multiple leadership roles including Director of the White House Medical Unit and Deputy Physician to the President.
Dr. Craig Katz, M.D., leads clinical psychiatric response efforts at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and also served as the director of the World Trade Center Worker/Volunteer Mental Health Monitoring and Treatment Program to meet the mental health needs of people who worked or volunteered at Ground Zero after 9/11.