Should Your Business Take Coronavirus Seriously?

By now, we hope that everyone understands that the coronavirus pandemic is not a drill. It’s very serious, and tens of thousands of people — perhaps many more — will die before this is all over. And it might not actually be over for years. If that’s not a sobering thought, we’ll do our best to inform you about the realities of this virus and what the future might hold for businesses who didn’t take it seriously from the start.

First and foremost, don’t be taken in by the appeal of the constant barrage of comparisons of this virus to that of the flu. Coronavirus causes the disease COVID-19, which is far deadlier than the flu (although probably less deadly than numbers suggest right now). But the virus itself is more contagious than other dangerous ailments, and that itself means this disease will result in far more deaths if it continues to spread at exponential rates.

The seasonal flu has a reproduction rate of 1.3. That means that a person infected with the flu virus is expected to infect 1.3 other people on average. By comparison, the Spanish flu killed 50 million people with a fatality rate of only 2.5 percent because it was very infectious, having a reproduction rate of 1.8. It might not sound like much, but that half of a percentage point means a big difference in the number of overall cases when you’re talking about nearly 2 billion potential hosts.

But the times have changed. The reproduction rate of coronavirus is a whopping 2.3. Although the fatality rate is lower than that of the Spanish flu, there are 5 billion more potential hosts for it to infect — and it’s more infectious than some of the deadliest modern outbreaks.

It doesn’t help that there are still people not taking this seriously. One man was arrested recently after posting a video of himself licking products in a Wal-Mart store while asking, “Who’s scared of coronavirus?” He was charged with making a terrorist threat.

Employees who have not been provided with paid sick leave or appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) while on the job will almost certainly line up in droves to sue their employers in the months and years ahead. The severity of this outbreak demands justice on behalf of those who should never have had their health or financial status put at risk, and employers who don’t heed these warnings now will absolutely be held accountable in civil court later.

Send sick employees home or close the business until the threat has passed. Forfeiting profit is better than being held responsible for the spread of this virus.