Twindemic: When COVID and the Flu Collide
A twindemic lies ahead of us. Twindemic describes the pending crisis of COVID-19 colliding with the flu season. Staff sick days may increase. Your company’s productivity may be impacted. There may be confusion between having the flu, COVID-19 or both. Supply chain constraints could result once again. And its possible that some regions decide to lock-down once again. This is the time to get ready and stay ahead to mitigate these risks.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized each year for respiratory and heart conditions associated with the flu. COVID-19 infections have averaged over 50,000 per day in the US in recent weeks.
In an average year, the flu causes 40,000 – 60,000 deaths. COVID-19 has taken over 200,000 lives thus far in 2020. We are still dealing with the supply chain disruptions caused by COVID-19. What happens when those supply chain disruptions are further complicated by the upcoming flu season?
This is a perfect storm. We’ve already witnessed what one major virus can do. Dealing with two major viruses simultaneously is a businesses worse nightmare. So, what are the potential impacts? How do we mitigate risks and eliminate issues?
When dealing with only COVID-19 earlier this year, some hospital systems were overwhelmed. There was competition for respirators. Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) was in short supply. There weren’t enough emergency room beds. Intensive care units were overflowing. Makeshift hospitals were set up.
To take the bite out of the twindemic, medical experts recommend getting the flu shot. In a normal year, the flu shot make be effective against one strain of flu, and not another. Also, a possible side effects of the flu shot is experiencing flu-like symptoms. In addition, many people won’t take the flu shot.
COVID-19 and the flu share many of the same symptoms. Both cause fever, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, shortness of breath, and runny nose. However, COVID-19 has the added symptom of loss of taste and smell. Sometimes COVID-19 shows no symptoms. Self diagnosing will be a challenge. This could cause a lot of confusion and fear in your households and businesses.
We also learned that it’s possible to have COVID-19 and the flu simultaneously. We don’t yet understand the degree of danger this can present. However, we can all agree that we want to avoid being in this scenario.
Our response to the pandemic may actually help limit flu infections also. Continuing to social distance, wear masks in public spaces, wash hands often and use alcohol-based hand sanitizer could provide a layer of protection against both viruses.
Given this assessment, you may want to stock up on PPE now. There was a shortage of PPE earlier this year. Now is the time to build up your PPE while stores are fully stocked. In addition, this is also the time to stock up on medicines you normally use to treat the flu. It’s possible that these medications fly off the shelves if the twindemic is realized.
The twindemic could ramp up the number of expressed illnesses quickly. It’s better to have PPE and medications on hand and not need them, than to need it and not have it. Let’s all recall how we felt earlier this year as we couldn’t find the things we wanted and needed.
3 Key Business Risks to Mitigate
Most businesses were caught off guard earlier this year. Lockdowns, layoffs and furloughs, and delayed supply chains caused many businesses to suffer large losses or to go bankrupt. For those businesses that survived, the twindemic may be another test. There are a number of possible challenges on the horizon. You must be ready for all of them.
It is possible that the twindemic could cause lockdowns in your city or state. Economies around the country still struggle to reopen today. We are also up to 50,000 new COVID-19 infections per day. Once flu infections increase, fear and logistics may cause some areas to make the decision to lockdown once again.
If another lockdown were possible, what would you do differently? Are you able to have employees work from home? Can you add services to your menu such as online stores or delivery services? Can you pivot your business to include information products and consulting that can be done over the internet?
Determine today what options you have available. Then begin to put them in place. At best, you’ll have a new stream of income or protection against the threat of future shutdowns. At worse, you may be protecting your business from the fate so many others have suffered.
Many businesses and households couldn’t procure the products they needed due to supply disruptions early in 2020. Those disruptions were caused by lockdowns and by COVID-19 infections within supply companies. The twindemic could bring about those conditions once again.
If you don’t want to repeat any issues you encountered with obtaining supplies, now is the time to act. Restock now while most supplies are available. You’ll want to order more than usual in case supplies are harder to find later. You’ll may also need to order earlier in case those supplies take longer to manufacture and deliver. Also, remember to plan for any additional equipment needs to store more perishable items.
COVID-19 and Flu Confusion in the Workplace
Quarantines may need to increase as flu is mistaken for COVID-19. Before 2020, when a staff member isn’t feeling well, they call out sick and return when they feel better. In the age of COVID-19, the CDC recommends a 2 week quarantine if you suspect exposure to COVID-19.
If an employee has cold or flu-like symptoms, you may need to send them home until tested for COVID-19. Today, COVID-19 tests deliver results in as little as 15 minutes or as long as 5 – 7 days. If your business isn’t set up for associates to work from home, you could find yourself short staffed.
There are steps you can take to mitigate this risk. First, ensure your staff are all using PPE. You may need to supply it to ensure availability. Next, cross train your staff if you haven’t already done so. If some of your staff need to be out, make sure you have people trained to do their jobs. Third, you may want to establish relationships with temp and consulting agencies to hire supplemental staffing if required.
Also, remember that you’ll be competing with every other business, hospital system and household for personal protection equipment (PPE). Stock up now while its available before flu infections begin to tick up.
This is the Time to Prepare
Everyone was caught by surprise when COVID-19 initially shut down businesses, hospitalized thousands and overwhelmed healthcare systems. We now know what’s possible. Our eyes are wide open. We know how bad things can get.
Learning from the past and applying that knowledge to the future is wisdom. Be wise today to limit or eliminate the risks looming in the weeks to come.