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