The coronavirus is continuing to spread rapidly, and at Lavu we are committed to helping our customers stay informed and survive the economic impact.
The data behind the coronavirus outbreak, along with what strategies larger companies quietly adopt, is important to consider in the restaurant industry. Utilize this information to get yourself familiar with the facts, tactics, and strategies of this outbreak. The article below is adapted from Elad Blog by Elad Gil of San Francisco, California. To read his full blog, please click here.
The Emergence of COVID-19
In December 2019, cases of a new respiratory virus emerged in Wuhan, a major city of over 10 million residents in the Hubei region of China. The World Health Organization (WHO) was contacted on December 31, 2019, and a new virus was identified on January 7, 2020.
On January 11, the virus was named SARS-CoV-2 and the disease was named COVID-19. The virus is from the family of viruses that cause SARS and MERS. Humans have at least 4 coronaviruses already that cause 10-30% of all seasonal colds.
The first non-China cases were identified on January 13 in Thailand and January 16 in Japan. On January 23rd Wuhan was placed on lockdown by the Chinese Government. As of February 28, over 80,000 people  are infected with COVID-19 and 2,700 have died (mainly in China). Many epidemiologists believe these numbers from China are underreported by up to an order of magnitude, and it may be closer to 800,000 people infected in China alone.
Major outbreaks are occurring in the following countries with and without public shutdowns:
- Italy locked down 50,000 people in 12 small towns
- Japan’s Prime Minister asked that people work from home and a 38,000 person Tokyo marathon canceled
- Iran, where the deputy health minister tested positive for the coronavirus
Additionally, all continents have cases of COVID-19 except Antarctica. As of March 3, the United States and Canada are now seeing small outbreaks in major metropolitan areas.
The Risks, Concerns, and Facts
Despite the WHO’s assurances that it can be contained, epidemiologists think the virus has broken out and will continue to spread around the world to a rate of >20%.
Realistically, the incubation period (time from infection to symptoms) appears to be under 14 days and 5 to 7 days for most people. People appear to be contagious rapidly after infection, potentially as soon as 12-24 hours. The spread rate of the virus seems to be well over 2 and likely ~3. This means for every person infected, at least 2 to 3 more get the disease. In comparison, the flu is 1.5 or so.
Most cases are mild. Estimates suggest 80% of COVID-19 cases are reported as a mild case of the flu. Estimates suggest that roughly 10-15% of cases will be more significant and may necessitate hospital visits with 1-3% needing an ICU.
The concern of many governments is the peak number of cases that can occur quickly. For example, if 1,000 sick people show up overnight to a hospital that hospital would be overwhelmed. Many of the social engineering policies (closing schools, public events, etc.) are focused on spreading infectious cases out over time, so hospital infrastructure can deal with all the sick. The higher death rate in Wuhan versus the rest of China may reflect a local collapse of healthcare infrastructure.
Unfortunately, what is apparent with COVID-19 is that the elderly and people with preexisting conditions are especially susceptible to complications or death. In contrast, very few cases have been reported in young children.
As the disease makes it across the US (or to your country) the government may enact techniques to decrease spread. This usually means canceling gatherings, sporting events, schools, or other situations in which groups of people will aggregate.
What Your Business Can Do
A majority of the following information is based on the US CDC website. Be familiar with their site for critical updates on recommendations and as an accurate source of COVID-19 information.
Most labor laws expect employers to provide a healthy and safe work environment. This can be enforced, in part with a zero-tolerance sick policy where anyone who is sick or starting to feel sick, should stay at home. The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.8 degrees Celsius) is gone. Also, consider a no-discipline policy for those without enough sick time to cover their absences to encourage honesty.
For now, consider these steps and policies:
- In the absence of a vaccine or effective medicines, always encourage handwashing that is thorough and regular. Remind staff not to touch their face, as this is a common way general illness is spread after touching an infected surface.
- Separate delivery of food and cleaning of tables to minimize cross-contamination. If you have a small staff, enforce handwashing before delivering food and after cleaning a table of dishes.
- For customers, you may want to add a Purell dispenser at the entrance to the dining areas.
- Wipe down work areas regularly. There is some evidence suggesting the virus may stick around for at least a few hours, if not more, on surfaces.
- Wipe your phones down on a regular basis, including cell phones or have a ‘no cell phone’ policy during the outbreak.
- Encourage flu vaccination to decrease the health burden on hospitals and help prevent people from getting the flu and thinking they have COVID-19.
- If an employee is returning from a country with a known outbreak, they may want to consider self-quarantine for 14 days. As a rule of thumb, you can use the US CDC site to assess what countries should be of concern. The CDC right now (Feb 28, 2020) lists China, Korea, Italy, and Iran as the countries that are “level 3”.
What to Tell Employees About Personal Planning
In addition, individuals may want to plan for a situation where either they are or their loved ones are impacted by supply chain issues, their city or region is placed on lock-down, or they are asked to self-quarantine for 14 days or more. This is a “worst-case” and “abundance of caution” backup plan and each person can decide what they want to do.
Plan for the unlikely event you cannot leave the home for 2 weeks due to isolation or quarantine. This may impact medication, food, or other planning. If a loved one is taking a medicine or drug regularly, you may want a few months extra supply if possible.
Plan for caring for a sick loved one. If hospitals are temporarily overwhelmed, family members who get infected, or who have pre-existing medical conditions may experience a delay in care. Plan ahead for your specific situation.
What the Future May Hold
In generalized outbreaks, the disease course may come in two waves. The first wave is the initial infection as we see now, with governments tightening movements, shutting schools, and in general decreasing the spread of the disease. Controls are eventually relaxed and then a few months later a second wave hits and infects a subset of the people who were not infected in the first wave. Eventually, enough people get sick, develop antibodies, and there is a stronger immunity in the population to decrease future generalized outbreaks. Historically speaking, this was seen with the 1918 Spanish Flu and the 2009 H1N1 flu.
Lavu has a plan in place to help customers with hosting fees if they are forced to close because of the coronavirus. Visit https://lavu.com/coronavirus-relief/ for more information.