There’s still time to ‘flatten the curve’
As the global number of coronavirus cases nears 120,000 people in 115 countries, chances of stopping its spread are now considered unlikely. So public health officials have turned their attention to slowing it down.
And the key is to “flatten the curve” — a reference to an epidemiological graph of a disease outbreak.
A large spike on that graph, representing a sudden increase in people with infections, can be catastrophic even for health-care systems in highly developed countries like Canada.
That’s why in Canada (and elsewhere) large events are being cancelled, many companies are asking employees to work from home, and some students will be taking courses online for a few weeks. It’s a temporary public health strategy aimed at slowing the potential spread and buying time.
A packed subway car, bus — or a packed subway platform — is a great place to spread the virus. But reducing the number of people on the train or platform, by asking people to work from home enables individuals to stay farther apart, limiting the spread of the virus. That is social distancing in action.
What you can do to ‘flatten the curve’
Hand washing – Make it part of the job
As hand washing is one of the most effective defenses, employers need to make sure that employees have ready access to washing facilities and that those are kept well stocked with soap and (ideally) paper towels; there is some evidence that paper towel drying is less likely to spread viruses than jet dryers. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers and sanitizing wipes should be distributed throughout the workplace, and all frequently touched surfaces such as workstations, countertops and doorknobs should be routinely cleaned. Increased cleaning of common areas using standard cleaning agents can also reduce risk of spread of respiratory disease. Unless they’re delivering health care, there’s no need for organizations to stockpile face masks, as these are in short supply and the CDC doesn’t recommend their use by healthy people to protect against infection.
Stay home if you’re feeling sick – even if you’re not sure it’s Covid-19
Employees should stay home or go home if they have symptoms of coronavirus infection. But dedicated staff often resist taking sick days, instead dragging themselves into work where they may infect others. Given the threat this epidemic presents, managers shouldn’t hesitate to send employees who present with Covid-19 symptoms home.
While many jobs (retail, manufacturing, health care) require people to be physically present, work, including meetings, that can be done remotely should be encouraged if coming to work or traveling risks exposure to the virus. Videoconferencing, for instance, is a good alternative to risky face-to-face meetings. Nearly 60% of the employers surveyed by the Harvard Business Review indicated that they have increased employees’ flexibility for remote work (46%) or plan to (13%).
Cancel unnecessary travel and conferences
We have already seen scattered reports of canceled in-person conferences and meetings, especially those with international attendees, and we expect more in the coming months: 47 percent of employers in our survey said they would cancel planned conferences. In Toronto, an individual tested positive who attended the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada tradeshow may have exposed over 10,000 people to the virus. At Digitcom we have cancelled our BC launch event on March 28th to prevent any transmission.