3 Years Later: How Remembering COVID-19 Can Help You Manage Future Biorisks

Remembering COVID-19 can be a heavy undertaking. Many of us would rather forget those early days of uncertainty and fear in 2020. This month, as we observe the anniversaries of key dates in the COVID-19 crisis, we have to ask, “Is there a compelling reason to stop and reflect on those events?”

Our answer is: absolutely. 

The novelist William Faulkner remarked that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.” So the events of yesterday can and should inform the choices we make today. 

In fact, as a risk officer, your attention to the past might determine the future success or failure of your enterprise. Will you be ready when the next disaster strikes? 

What the pandemic taught us about managing biorisks

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated what happens when enterprises are caught off guard by a public health crisis. Some businesses flourished, while others floundered. What made the difference? 

In many cases, preparedness was the determining factor. Enterprises with early insights and forecasts were able to plan, adapt and pivot throughout the crisis. Other enterprises were forced to take a more reactive approach. 

At PHC Global, we are working to help risk officers recognize credible threats early enough to take action. To understand how a risk becomes a pandemic, we are still dissecting the crisis. We think understanding it can help us predict and mitigate the biorisks of the future. Take a quick look with us at some key dates in the pandemic’s progress and notice the patterns that have emerged. 

The COVID-19 pandemic: a case study in the power of foresight

The first thing we noticed is how quickly we went from zero to 60, if you’ll pardon the car reference. In a matter of weeks, we went from vague rumors from China to a full-blown threat. The data changed daily, sometimes hourly, and by the time we could identify the threat, it was too late to contain it. All we could do was mitigate its effects.

On December 31, 2019, the World Health Organization first learned of new pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. The cause of the illness was unknown but included shortness of breath and fever. By March, the number of cases had dramatically increased.

March 11, 2020 

After more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 deaths, the WHO declares COVID-19 a pandemic. Global economies, governments and households face uncertainty and chaos. Misinformation and confusion quickly proliferate. 

At this point, the most successful enterprises were already aware that a global crisis was developing. They also had plans already in place for a crisis of this scale. This foresight enables them to quickly develop a consistent, enterprise-wide pandemic response.

What about businesses that didn’t see COVID-19 coming? They begin to fall one step behind their competitors. 

March 13, 2020

The Trump Administration declares a nationwide emergency and issues an additional travel ban on non-U.S. citizens traveling from 26 European countries due to COVID-19. Global trade is profoundly disrupted.

The sudden travel ban forces global companies to make lightning-fast decisions. Companies that saw it coming were able to prepare. By quickly moving overseas employees to safety, or creating safe environments so projects can continue without travel, these businesses can minimize the travel ban’s impact.

Other enterprises are not so successful. With employees stranded in the field and unable to work, many begin to fall further behind the curve.

March 15, 2020

States begin to implement shutdowns in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Nearly every business in America must suddenly make fundamental changes to daily operations.

At this stage, many businesses see a dramatic drop in revenue. Restaurants and gyms are empty, transportation services are grinding to a halt, and retail storefronts have locked their doors. Suddenly, the game has changed for everyone at once.

Businesses that saw the shutdown coming have prepared survival strategies. They swiftly implement cost-cutting measures, new sick-leave policies, work-from-home policies, and more. On the other hand, as other enterprises lag behind, they damage both their public reputations and their employees’ trust.

March 27, 2020 

The Trump Administration signs the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. This act has profound economic implications across the nation. 

In the weeks and months that follow, the economy begins to improve. For the businesses that failed the tests of COVID-19’s early days, however, it’s too late. Many will shut their doors, never to re-open.

Fast forward … a year later

It isn’t until March 8, 2021 that the CDC recommends that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can safely gather with other fully vaccinated people indoors, without masks and without social distancing. 

As businesses begin to reopen, many of them must make important decisions that will reverberate for years to come. Among these is an all-important choice. Will they rest on their laurels, having survived a global pandemic? Or will they begin preparing for the next public health crisis?

Lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic: life, death, heroism and humility

At PHC Global, we believe there are many good reasons to reflect on the COVID-19 pandemic. For all of us, the pandemic was a sobering time to reflect on life and loss, but as we remember the darkest days of the pandemic, we also celebrate the essential workers and medical professionals who gave us hope. We’re grateful for all those who assumed personal risk to keep us healthy and safe.

Finally, reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic is an exercise in humility. Biological threats do not respect organizational or geographical boundaries. No matter how successful your business is, it can be profoundly affected by a public health crisis. 

Proactively navigate the next public health crisis with PHC Global

Navigating a public health crisis as it unfolds can be chaotic. We witnessed this firsthand during the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies that had plans in place often hadn’t considered their responses to a global crisis. They were forced to adapt on the fly. What allowed them to succeed was their initial preparedness.

By gathering extensive data, applying expertise and employing advanced analysis, PHC Global can model public health outcomes before they happen, allowing you time to plan and respond. Advance warnings can help minimize the disruption to your enterprise’s operations. 

The outbreak of a global virus isn’t the only biorisk your enterprise may face. Extreme weather, environmental toxins, or natural disasters can suddenly and dramatically disrupt your business. Are you prepared to protect your enterprise’s employees and interests during the next crisis? 

PHC Global’s data-driven biorisk management solution keeps you ahead of the information curve so that you can be proactive instead of reactive.

Watch our video or schedule a demo to learn more about PHC Global and the PHC Pharos Platform.

For more information about PHC Global and the PHC Pharos Platform, view our video or visit our website

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Dave Komendat retired as the Vice President and Chief Security Officer for The Boeing Company, a role he held for 14 years of his 36 years within the security profession. Komendat was responsible for the company’s global security and fire protection policy and procedures, site security, executive protection, supply chain and aviation security, structural and aircraft fire protection, government and proprietary information security, classified cyber security, strategic intelligence, international security, business continuity and disaster preparedness, Global Security Operations Center, and security background investigations.


Komendat was also the lead Boeing interface for both national and international security policy engagement with numerous government and industry advisory groups. He represented Boeing as past co-chairman and current board member on the Domestic Security Alliance Council, past President of The International Security Management Association and served as a member of the Threats and Information Committee for the Overseas Security Advisory Council.  


Komendat is the founder and President of DSKomendat Risk Management Services, he also serves on several company advisory boards and holds board leadership roles with several non-profit organizations whose missions are to protect people globally, including Hostage U.S. and The International Security Foundation. Dave is also a Strategic Engagement Advisor for the Office of Private Sector within the FBI. In 2018, Dave was awarded the Director’s Award for Exceptional Public Service by FBI Director Christopher Wray.


Komendat graduated from California State University at Long Beach and also attended and completed the executive development program at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Dr. Carter Mecher serves as the Medical Advisor for the Public Health Company. 


Prior to joining PHC, Carter served as a Senior Medical Advisor for the Office of Public Health in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In this position, Dr. Mecher played a key role in the COVID-19 outbreak response. 


From 2005 to 2011, he served as the Director of Medical Preparedness Policy at the White House Homeland Security Council and National Security Staff. He was a principal author of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan. In this capacity, he helped set policy and devise strategies to mitigate the consequences of a pandemic and promote pandemic preparedness. 


Before serving at the White House, Dr. Mecher was the Chief Medical Officer for the Southeast VA Network in Atlanta from 1996 to 2005. In this role he oversaw the healthcare delivery for veterans in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. 


Dr. Mecher is a co-author of Lessons from the COVID War, an in-depth examination of the U.S. response to the pandemic. In addition, he is featured in Michael Lewis’ book The Premonition.


Dr. Mecher received his medical degree from Chicago Medical School and completed a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in critical care medicine at Los Angeles County/USC Medical Center.

Dr. Joe DeRisi is a Scientific Advisor to PHC. He is one of the early pioneers of DNA microarray technology and whole genome expression profiling; he is nationally recognized in the field of genomic epidemiology for designing a first-of-its-kind initiative for COVID-19. Joe currently serves as Co-President of Chan Zuckerberg BioHub and is a professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics at University of California, San Francisco. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Stanford University.

Dr. Sumiko Mekaru is the Vice President of Research and Innovation at The Public Health Company. Dr. Mekaru is an epidemiologist operating at the intersection of traditional epidemiology and technology and leading cross-disciplinary teams to solve challenges in public health. Prior to joining PHC, Dr. Mekaru was a Life Sciences Strategy, Policy, and Operations Expert at Booz Allen Hamilton where she recently led the development of COVID-19 forecasting models for disease transmission, resource utilization, and critical events for the Department of Defense. Dr. Mekaru has also led health technology teams at Epidemico and Boston Children’s Hospital, creating innovative health surveillance tools. She has published extensively on infectious disease outbreak monitoring, modeling, and surveillance. Dr. Mekaru holds a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Tufts University and a PhD in epidemiology from Boston University.

Justin McIntosh is an experienced professional with 10+ years in management and 8+ years in software engineering. Currently, he is the Vice President of Operations at The Public Health Company. His journey began in college when he co-founded Safe Site, a utility services company, which expanded to operations in three states with over 300 employees. After a successful exit, he founded Docusite, a construction risk management application, diving into software engineering. Despite challenges with Docusite, Justin’s passion for technology led him to various roles before landing at The Public Health Company.


In his current role, Justin is tackling the challenging task of improving operations in a remote environment. He is dedicated to his role and is always open to sharing experiences and insights. He is committed to nurturing effective teams, improving operations, and shaping innovative solutions. His focus is on creating a positive, growth-oriented environment and mentoring emerging leaders, reflecting his commitment to collective success.

Lori Sutton is the Vice President of Marketing at The Public Health Company. She is a strategic marketing visionary and global brand leader with 20+ years of progressive experience in B2B/B2C SaaS software marketing in large enterprise and SMB markets. She has expertise in leading strategy development, overhauling brands, launching products and driving growth in target verticals. Prior to joining PHC, Lori was the Vice President of Marketing and Growth at SMS-Magic, where she led the global GTM strategy, orchestrated a brand overhaul, developed new messaging and positioning and launched revenue generating campaigns. Lori held marketing and management roles at Model N, Bullet Point Network, Saba and other SaaS software companies where she focused on marketing strategy, business objectives and analytics to drive revenue.

Lori holds an MFA from California Institute of the Arts, a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, an Executive Education in Corporate Strategy at Harvard Business School and continues coursework at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Craig Katsuyama is the Vice President of Administrative Services at PHC. He brings extensive experience building companies from the ground up and was instrumental to the launch of IEX Group in 2012, which challenged the status quo of financial markets and created an entirely new stock exchange that works for all investors. Craig spent the last eight years at IEX where he built and oversaw the accounting and finance teams before transitioning to help establish IEX’s Event Stream business, a data messaging platform that applies IEX’s core technology to areas outside of finance. Craig graduated from Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada with a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting and Economics.

Dr. David Fisk is the Chief Medical Officer at The Public Health Company. Prior to joining PHC, Dr. Fisk served as an Infectious Disease Specialist at Sansum Clinic.  He serves as the Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Cottage Health, leading the infection control team at Cottage, working with physicians and hospital leaders on the COVID Incident Command Center to ensure the highest level of preparation and care for patients. In early March 2020, before the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Santa Barbara County, Dr. Fisk advised that the virus was already spreading locally before community members were observing symptoms.


Dr. Fisk completed his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and his Internal Medicine residency and Infectious Diseases fellowship at University of Michigan Medical Center. He is board certified in Infectious Diseases and a Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

Chris Latko is the Chief Technology Officer at PHC. He joined as a Principal Software Architect where he played a key role in building out the platform. He has over 25 years experience in the technology sector holding positions at companies he started, Fortune 500 companies, and a multitude of startups both in the United States and Japan. He has spent the last decade designing, refining, and reimplementing architectures for hypergrowth startups such as Boxfish, Paxata (acquired by DataRobot), Banjo, and Globality. Chris earned two patents for designing a streaming data ingestion/data normalization platform.

Kendall Burman serves as PHC’s General Counsel and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining PHC, Burman held leadership roles at Alloy, a data and technology start-up for the progressive political market. Burman previously served as the Deputy General Counsel for Strategic Initiatives at the Department of Commerce and as Associate White House Counsel and Special Assistant to the President in the Obama Administration. She was also a counsel in the cybersecurity and data privacy practice at Mayer Brown and served as Chief Staff Counsel for President Obama’s 2008 campaign.


Burman is a graduate of Bowdoin College and received her J.D. from the University of Chicago where she was an editor of the law review. She was also was a fellow at both the New America Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Dr. Charity Dean is the CEO, Founder and Chairman of The Public Health Company, a venture-backed Silicon Valley technology startup. 


In August 2020 Dr. Dean founded PHC, envisioning a commercial-grade global biosecurity platform to empower enterprises to manage biorisk at scale. Dr. Dean’s obsession with building a new solution was born out of 24 years in public health and the recognition that Silicon Valley innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning could birth this entirely new capability. Two years later PHC PharosTM is a game-changer for numerous businesses providing real-time, dynamic risk management across their global footprint and assets. 


Dr. Dean founded PHC having served as the Assistant Director for the California Department of Public Health where she was part of the executive team under Governor Newsom running the COVID-19 pandemic response. She co-founded and co-chaired California’s COVID-19 Testing Task Force and under her leadership, California went from ranking last in the nation for testing to first in three months. In 2019, Dr. Dean served as Acting State Public Health Officer overseeing 4,300 staff with an annual operating budget of $3.5 billion. 


Before her move to statewide office, she served as the Public Health Officer for Santa Barbara County and oversaw a myriad of disease outbreaks and biological threats; she also served as attending physician for TB, HIV, and homeless medicine at the Santa Barbara Health Care Centers. 


Dr. Dean was awarded Physician of the Year in 2018 by the Central Coast Medical Association and honored as one of the Women of the Year by the California State Legislature.


Dr. Dean is a co-author of Lessons from the COVID War. Her work during the pandemic is the focus of Michael Lewis’ book The Premonition. Dr. Dean has shared her insights about the danger of biological threats and the changes we must make before the next crisis in a number of interviews and podcasts.


Dr. Dean holds a Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine from Tulane University and a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Oregon State University.

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