News about the new coronavirus and its global spread is coming at all of us hard and fast. Whether you like to get your news from social media, CNN, Fox News, newspapers or the town gossip, the truth is that it can be hard to truly know facts from fiction.

All of us have loved ones and the last thing we want is to justify making bad and/or selfish decisions based solely on our emotions. The best way for all of us to get through the coming weeks and months is to rely on factual information, sensible preparation and open communication. Together.

INFORMATION:

Fact: The CDC is responding to an outbreak of respiratory disease caused by a novel (new) coronavirus that was first detected in China and which has now been detected in almost 70 locations internationally, including in the United States. The virus has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”). (Source: CDC.gov)

Fact: Officials with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles County Department of Health declared a local and public state of emergency. As of Thursday morning, there were seven confirmed cases in the county. (Source: foxla.com)

Fact: Coronavirus Cases: 95,873 | Coronavirus Deaths: 3,353 | Recovered: 54,122 (Source: worldometers.info/coronavirus/ *Case Count as of 3/5/2020)

PREPARATION:

Let’s be honest – we live in fire and earthquake country. It is my hope that all of us are truly prepared for any potential emergency. Having said that, when it comes to preparing for a possible pandemic, there might be some new circumstances that we aren’t sure about. Many stores are currently depleted of water and toilet paper and Facebook is filled with people mocking and/or substantiating this type of behavior. Here’s my thought on this: Our community is filled with generous, kind and lovely people. In the event of an emergency, I am quite certain that nobody will turn a blind eye to people that need help. We have the advantage to observe and learn from other cities and how they have handled this situation. Anarchy has not occurred. We will, as we have through earthquakes, fires, politics and the movie “Cats,” make it through this together.

Because I eat, sleep and breathe business, I would like you to prepare your company, workplace and team. (Again, not just for a pandemic. You really should have plans for any and all types of emergencies!) Here are some recommended strategies that will help you prepare:

-Start talking now and develop a plan! Connect with your company’s stakeholders and start discussing hypothetical situations. Gather an understanding of if a pandemic were to happen, who could handle key responsibilities, where would job responsibilities transfer to and how long could your business sustain mass absences.

-Discuss the real possibilities of working remotely.  What processes and procedures can be put in place that would make working from home possible? Consider everything from virtual meeting space to increased server space to investing in online software to enhance the work capabilities.

-Have an honest conversation with your employees about staying home when sick.  We don’t know enough about COVID-19’s incubation period nor how communicable the disease is. It is critical that anyone not feeling well must stay home and not try to play ‘hero’ as they run the risk of inadvertently infecting others. It is also just as important that employees feel that they have permission to stay home and that there won’t be negative repercussions if they miss work. 

-Strongly consider cancelling all non-critical business travel. If business travel is necessary, talk through protocols and necessary precautions. 

-If an employee does become sick, send them home immediately. Should they subsequently test positive for COVID-19, inform the company’s employees. However be sure to maintain complete confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

-Stay flexible. Information is changing daily, sometimes hourly, and everyone must be ready and willing to change course if necessary. Communication is key and by starting now, hopefully you can put a plan in place that will keep your company strong in the event of a pandemic.

COMMUNICATION:

Growing up in my family, we didn’t talk about money, hardships or feelings. Oddly enough you could curse, smoke and sip gin but that’s another story for another day.

My point is that today, I firmly believe that open and honest communication can make miracles happen. Communication isn’t a one-way street though – listening is critical too. Right now, we have an opportunity to come together as a community and start listening to what people are saying. Then we must be thoughtful with our responses. For the most part, we all share a similar goal: To live happy and healthy lives.

When our goals are threatened, fear can become all-consuming and every one of us reacts to fear differently. When a person is expressing fear, it can be life changing for someone to acknowledge that fear and then offer a safe place to talk. Let’s take this opportunity to really listen to what people are saying and then, when possible, offer varying degrees of support.

If someone is buying three cases of toilet paper, is it because they ultimately feel all alone? That a pandemic would render them isolated and without community support? Is there a chance that we all feel this way and instead of thinking

the worst, instead we can be our best? I believe that we can come together, that we can unite as a community and that with information, preparation and communication, we will all go on to live very happy and healthy lives.

Together.

Miri Rossitto is CEO of COWE Consulting and can be reached at 818.970.9177 (cell) or 855.435.7484 (office).Connect with her on LinkedIn@MiriRossitto.