It is said that “hindsight is 20/20”. The smart thing to do is to take the lessons learned and apply them to future events. In the case of COVID-19, what have we learned? Consider these two questions:
- How should we have handled the initial COVID-19 outbreak?
- How should we handle the recurrence of a COVID-19 outbreak?
Was there a better way to have handled the initial COVID-19 outbreak? It is a given that the federal and state governments were not prepared for a pandemic with the lack of planning and low stockpile of supplies or the right supplies as both the federal and state stockpiles were not fully stocked. Or, the government response plans were not implemented or they needed reviewed then updated more frequently. The federal and state governments did not have in place the necessary testing capabilities or needed materials or a plan on how to do and when to do the testing for COVID-19. Just remember that the virus that causes COVID-19 is a new (novel) virus so we were learning on the fly about this virus.
We need to ask ourselves a few questions. Would it have been better for the federal government to provide only guidance and information from the CDC and state department of health guidance to businesses and allow businesses to decide for themselves if they wanted to and how to protect their workers or not? Would the outcome have been better (less new cases and less deaths) if businesses were not closed for an indefinite time? What if we, as citizens, were provided with guidance and information from the CDC and state department of health guidance and allowed to decide for ourselves if we wanted to protect ourselves and our families or not? Would the outcome have been better (less new cases and less deaths) if, we as citizens, were not placed in “lockdown” for an indefinite time? Would we have all (citizens and businesses) practiced physical (social) distancing and the other personal hygiene and etiquette that we were taught as kids including coughing into a tissue or our arm, washing our hands, or using hand sanitizers? Would the measures, other than a vaccine for COVID-19, that we have for the seasonal flu been enough to protect us from COVID-19?
There is no way to know the true answers to these questions, though we all have strong opinions one way or the other. However, we can affect the possible recurrence or second wave.
Are we (businesses and citizens) ready to handle a recurrence of COVID-19 possibly occurring with the seasonal flu this upcoming flu season? Other than voting, peaceful public protests, and regular communications with our state and feral government representatives, we cannot affect the day to day operations and planning of our federal and state governments. What we do have very specific control over is our workplaces and our own lives. So, let’s take what we have learned from the initial outbreak and apply it to the possible recurrence.
Businesses have preparedness and response plans and policies in place because of the initial outbreak. Regardless of the type of business, we need to review, revise, and update these plans on an ongoing basis determining what is working and what did not work. We need to continue to acquire supplies – PPE, hand sanitizer, cleaning/disinfecting supplies, office modification materials, jobsite modifications, manufacturing workstation modifications. We need to determine which procedures and modifications are permanent and which are temporary? We need to fine tune the medical leave and temporary leave policies to encourage sick people to stay home. Special leave policies may need to have sunset or expiration dates that can be adjusted based upon the duration of the recurring outbreak. Workers and management need to work together to determine how workers can stay home on leave while sick and still get paid? This has to be a fair policy to both business owners and workers. It is my belief that sick workers come to work sick because they have to make money and sick people at work get more people sick at work costing the businesses money. Businesses need to promote remote working as an alternative for childcare issues or when workers have sick people to care for at home. Businesses need to ensure that we have all of the supplies on hand that we need including PPE, hand sanitizer, and cleaning/disinfecting supplies along with a defined supply chain and alternate supply chain through which to get these supplies. As part of the updating and revising of preparedness and response plans, we need to document exactly how the workplace, jobsites, and workstations were modified so we can quickly modify them for a temporary situation due to a second wave if the modifications were not made permanent. We need to update and continuously improve our procedures to identify workers with the potential for a virus though not showing symptoms of a virus, or to check people for symptoms of a virus by doing health screenings either self-screenings or employer-conducted screenings. We have the processes in place to do contact tracing and then self-quarantine which relates back to the ability for workers to work remotely even in self-quarantine if they are able. We know how to specifically locate and isolate pockets of outbreaks in the community which should eliminate the need to do a total shutdown/lockdown of people and businesses.
The same questions can be asked of the of the occurrence for a 2nd wave. Will employers take the initiative to protect their workers from a potential second wave without the government shutting all of the businesses and quarantining everyone? Will people stay home if they are sick? Will we, as private citizens, practice physical (social) distancing and the other personal hygiene and etiquette that we were taught as kids including coughing into a tissue or our arm, washing our hands, or using hand sanitizers? Will the outcomes be better (less new cases and less deaths) if there is a recurrence (without a vaccine in place)?
One Other Thought
OIf we want to exercise our rights using our best judgement as people and businesses, we need to accept the responsibility to consider how our actions will affect us, our neighbors, and coworkers then take the necessary actions on our own without government requirements.
For more information, contact:
Wayne Vanderhoof CSP
RJR Safety Inc.