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In Response to Coronavirus, Majority of North American Companies Launch Employee Protection Plans

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   March 05, 2020

Almost two-thirds of respondents said they have cancelled planned trips as a result of concerns surrounding COVID-19, according to a survey.

The rapid spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has caused a majority of North American companies to institute employee protection initiatives in recent weeks, according to a Willis Towers Watson survey released Thursday morning. 

Almost two-thirds of respondents said they have cancelled planned trips to select countries as a result of concerns surrounding COVID-19, while over half have encouraged employees to use virtual meetings in place of travel.

Nearly half of businesses stated that they have implemented remote work policies, in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 30% have required screening for employees who have recently traveled.

The impact of the coronavirus has made an impact in the U.S. since the first domestic cases were reported last week, causing market volatility and amplified public health responses from both states and the federal government.

"The coronavirus is a wake-up call for companies to review their strategies, policies and procedures about safeguarding employees, customers and operations in this and future epidemics," Jeff Levin-Scherz, co-leader of WTW's North American Health Management practice, said in a statement. "From boosting communication to increasing access to hand sanitizers, employers need a plan of action to protect their workers and reduce the risk of business interruption."

The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a journal article as well on Thursday that urged U.S. healthcare organizations to take proactive steps to help stem the spread of the coronavirus and prepare for a potential pandemic.

The four recommendations published in JAMA including a focus on preparedness planning, readiness for an influx of patients displaying symptoms, expansion of diagnostic testing, and public health actions to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Related: 4 Coronavirus Prescriptions for U.S. Healthcare Community

The survey was released days before the start of HIMSS 20, the annual meeting of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), in Orlando.

Several companies, including Cisco, Amazon, and Microsoft, have decided to withdraw from the conference due to concerns about the coronavirus.

HIMSS officials have stated that the conference, which expects 45,000 attendees, is still on. However, organizers issued a guidance that it will be a "handshake-free" event to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Additionally, President Donald Trump is scheduled to address the conference speak next Monday.

Related: Coronavirus Won't Knock Out HIMSS 20; President Trump to Speak

Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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