By Sarah Larson
There’s an old saying in journalism: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” A shorter version says “Trust, but verify.”
This guiding principle is more important than ever in the midst of a public health crisis. While the world is entranced by the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic and all of its ramifications, people are searching for, and sharing, a huge amount of information. How do we ensure that information is accurate? Here is a quick test.
- Does the source have authority in public health, employment law, occupational safety, epidemiology, or other pertinent disciplines?
- Does the source have access to up-to-date, accurate data?
- Does the source share information and recommendations in a neutral manner?
As crisis communicators, the Furia Rubel team has been monitoring the coronavirus outbreak for weeks and offering guidance to our clients. Here is a list of authoritative sources that we have found very useful. We share it here for your reference.
The Latest Updates and Coverage – Last Updated 3/17/2020 – 9:33 a.m.
Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases, Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University
- Johns Hopkins University is tracking the number and worldwide location of COVID-19 cases, deaths, and recoveries and is publishing the information in a real-time dashboard. NOTE: The JHU dashboard and map is vetted and is reportedly safe to visit, but beware of hackers running a malware attack using fake coronavirus maps. That malware usually is embedded in a file called Corona-virus-Map.com.exe.
Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to ‘flatten the curve,’ The Washington Post, March 14, 2020
This fascinating, interactive piece simulates the spread of a fake disease through a population. The simulations starkly illustrate the importance of slowing down the epidemic to prevent the health care system from being overrun.
CNN has been updating this helpful list and map of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the United States, based on data from state and federal health authorities.
“How long can the new coronavirus live on a surface, like say, a door handle, after someone infected touches it with dirty fingers? A study out this week finds that the virus can survive on hard surfaces such as plastic and stainless steel for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours.”
- “The United States and other countries, experts say, are likely to be hit by tsunamis of Covid-19 cases in the coming weeks without aggressive public health responses. But by taking certain steps — canceling large public gatherings, for instance, and encouraging some people to restrict their contact with others — governments have a shot at stamping out new chains of transmission, while also trying to mitigate the damage of the spread that isn’t under control.”
- See what might happen if the country does, or does not, implement certain social distancing measures in this interactive piece from the New York Times, How Much Worse the Coronavirus Could Get, in Charts.
- Bonus reading: Check out “The story behind ‘flatten the curve,’ the defining chart of the coronavirus” on Fast Company.
- “The situation on the ground is evolving incredibly quickly, and it’s impossible to synthesize everything we know into clean, intelligible charts. But we do know a fair bit about how bad the outbreak is, what the disease does, and what controlling and ultimately ending the outbreak will look like. With that in mind, here are nine charts that help explain the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis.”
Much of the world is grappling with an outbreak of an infectious respiratory disease known as novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Coronaviruses belong to a large class of viruses that cause illness in animals or humans. Several coronaviruses cause respiratory infections in humans, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 is the most recently discovered coronavirus disease. The World Health Organization has put up a dedicated web page to compile a wide range of information and recommendations.
- What is it?
- Where did it come from?
- How does the disease present?
- How is it transmitted?
- How can transmission be prevented?
- What is the treatment?
Preparation and Prevention
The nation’s highest public health agency, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has a dedicated web page with background information and helpful resources for healthcare professionals, families, communities, schools and businesses, and more.
People at Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19 “If you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of your age or because you have a serious long-term health problem, it is extra important for you to take actions to reduce your risk of getting sick with the disease.” Those at higher risk include older adults (age 60 and older) and people who have serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease.
How to Protect Yourself and Prepare for the Coronavirus, New York Times
- “If you feel sick, stay home. Even if you have no underlying health conditions, be extra cautious and protect other people if you are not feeling well.”
- “Wash your hands. With soap. Then wash them again. It’s not sexy, but it works.”
- “Don’t stockpile masks. But do stock up on groceries, medicine and resources. Preparation is the best way to protect your family. Stock up on a 30-day supply of groceries, household supplies and prescriptions, just in case.”
Video: Handwashing Steps Using the WHO Technique, Johns Hopkins
- “Proper hand hygiene is the most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of germs and to protect yourself and others from illnesses. When not done carefully, germs on the fingertips, palms and thumbs, and between fingers, are often missed.” Go ahead and watch it. You might notice a couple steps you haven’t followed before.
Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019, U.S. Small Business Administration
- “The SBA will work directly with state governors to provide targeted, low-interest loans to small businesses and nonprofits that have been severely impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19).”
COVID-19, U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
“There is no specific OSHA standard covering COVID-19. However, some OSHA requirements may apply to preventing occupational exposure to COVID-19. Among the most relevant are:
- OSHA’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards…which require using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection. When respirators are necessary to protect workers, employers must implement a comprehensive respiratory protection program in accordance with the Respiratory Protection standard.
- The General Duty Clause, …which requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
- “Employers not only have to deal with the current outbreak, but they also must prepare for the virus to recur next year. If the coronavirus is not controlled soon, it could materialize stronger and faster next winter…”
- “Companies need emergency teams headed by a coronavirus coordinator and a cross-functional team that includes HR, legal and information technology,” says Joseph Deng, an attorney with Baker McKenzie in Los Angeles.
- “An effective pandemic plan addresses such topics as: workplace safety precautions; employee travel restrictions; provisions for stranded travelers unable to return home; mandatory medical check-ups, vaccinations or medication; mandatory reporting of exposure, such as employees reporting to employers and employers reporting to public health authorities; employee quarantine or isolation; facility shutdowns.”
Legal issues for businesses
Many law firms around the country, some of them grappling with COVID-19 exposure or illness in their own ranks, are sharing valuable guidance for businesses and employers.
The New Jersey law firm Genova Burns notes that COVID-19 “presents many complex situations for employers and their respective workforces. While management is trying to navigate the maze of wage and hour issues, FMLA and ADA leave, remote workspaces, and childcare, they must also keep in mind their legal obligation to keep employees safe pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”).”
Am Law 200 firm Stoel Rives LLP has launched a web page with guidance for employers to mitigate issues related to COVID-19, including these tips: “Encourage individuals with symptoms to stay home, and to work remotely if applicable,” and “If an employee reports to work with obvious symptoms (of any communicable illness), send the employee home.”
Look out for each other
As businesses and organizations across the country and around the world navigate these uncertain times, health experts and leaders are calling people to work together for the good of all.
In remarks on March 11, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the outbreak of novel coronavirus is a public health crisis, but also is a crisis that will touch every sector, so everyone must be involved in the fight.
“I remind all countries that we are calling on you to activate and scale up your emergency response mechanisms,” he said. “Communicate with your people about the risks and how they can protect themselves – this is everybody’s business; find, isolate, test and treat every case and trace every contact; ready your hospitals; protect and train your health workers. And let’s all look out for each other, because we need each other.”