There is an abundance of concern in our communities regarding Coronavirus. As a businessowner we realize this pandemic is unchartered territory. Escalating risk of employee illness and lost income from business interruption are key considerations.
Workers Compensation policies are intended to cover employees’ injuries and occupational diseases sustained in the course of their employment. In the coming weeks, Workers Compensation claims will arise that will test the language of these policies; carriers will determine whether employee’s medical expenses and lost wages will be covered by those policies.
Business Interruption is inevitable. School closures, event cancellations, travel restrictions, government mandates and overall economic conditions caused by this outbreak will impact businesses large and small. The coverage for business interruption is found under your Business Owners or Commercial Property Polices. Loss of Income or Business Interruption differs greatly according to the property coverage form and your specific carrier.
Business Interruption coverage is intended to provide Loss of Income when your property suffers “direct physical loss or damage.” Some policies may include contingent business income, civil authority or crisis management coverage forms that provide limited coverage not subject to the requirement of direct physical damage.
Liability policies have been tested over time during pandemics including; the outbreak of Legionnaires disease in 1976 and Ebola in 2014. Carriers responded to these outbreaks by crafting specific exclusions targeting bodily injury from the exposure to fungi, bacteria, airborne illness and the like. Attorneys are sure to look at the “standard of care “in the prevention of Coronavirus spread. The more proactive a business is, the more likely they are to avoid legal liability at the time of a claim.
General Liability policies are intended to provide defense and indemnification to an insured for claims of bodily injury, sickness, disease, shock, emotional upset, mental injury or mental anguish. Directors & Officers and Employment Practices Liability are other policies that may provide support, such as defense, at the time of a liability claim.
Each property and casualty policy are going to have specific terms and conditions that impact coverage. As your advocate, we will work with you at the time of a loss to secure a determination of coverage from your insurance company.
As you prepare for Coronavirus impact on your employees, clients and community, refer to:
the CDC Pandemic Business Planning Checklist
World Health Organization – https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
Centers for Disease Control – https://www.cdc.gov/
What is the Coronavirus?
The 2019 novel Coronavirus (“COVID-19” or “Coronavirus”) is a virus that is closely related to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, runny nose, cough and trouble breathing. Most people develop only mild symptoms. But some, usually people with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. The incubation period for COVID-19 varies between 2 and 14 days.
Initially detected in Wuhan, China in late 2019, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020. Since then, the disease has spread to more than 150 people within the United States, with CDC officials warning of further outbreaks.
How is the Virus Spread?
According to the CDC, the virus is thought to spread mainly from person to person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet) or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby, or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. It may also be possible for a person to contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has been contaminated with the virus and then touching his or her own mouth, nose, or eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic. Some spread might be possible before people show symptoms, and there have been reports of this occurring, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads.
General Prevention & Treatment
There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.
However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
- CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
- Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others.
- The use of facemasks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.