Coronavirus Update: Like many of you, I imagine, we cannot escape the increasingly dire, seemingly hourly updates about the corona virus. As of this moment, we have only three confirmed cases in Florida, but the worldwide number of cases is very close to 100,000 and cases have now been identified in 18 states in the US.
Many experts are now saying that it is not a matter of “if” but rather of “when” the virus arrives in our community. We will not try to play expert and make suggestions to you for how to prepare for this, but I want to take a moment to let our brokers know that we are preparing as best we can to continue to provide industry leading service in the months ahead.
Aside from the many bottles of hand sanitizers throughout the office and the encouragement to have employees stay home if ill, we are actively improving our ability to function by having all of our employees be able to work from home.
Our thinking is that when the virus comes to S. FL there is a reasonable chance that some if not all schools will close and possibly even parents will be asked to self-quarantine themselves. Of course more extreme outcomes are possible, but this is our best guest now and our preparation should help regardless of what actually happens.
Many of our employees have children, so in the event that they have to stay home with their children or have to self-quarantine themselves, we will still be able to function. We already have two employees who work remotely, one in Orlando and one in S. CA., and of course all of our sales reps work remotely, so we have some experience in this arena. But we need to do more. Over the next week, each of our team leaders will spend a day at home working from the Terminal Server and having their calls transferred to their cell phones. After that, each team will take a day to work together from their homes.
Emails, instant messaging and video conferencing are godsends in this situation. All of our employees now have the ability to work from home (after dual authentication logins), so we are just working out the kinks of keeping up with our many tasks when we cannot see each other in person. Even if we cannot have most or all of our employees in the office for a month, we expect that we will still be able to function and to function well.
There will be hiccups of course. For example, most of our policies are delivered to us electronically now, but Business Protection Policies from Principal, such as their buy-sell and overhead expense policies, are an exception to this. They still come to us in the mail. So workarounds are being explored.
For the brokers in the field, hopefully selling to your clients will not stop. Taking apps over the phone using e-Apps or fillable pdf’s is very easy now and apps that are not submitted directly can be uploaded securely at our website. Just login to our website and go to the upload section.
It feels like a lot to take in, but we will come through this together. I just finished reading an interesting article in the New Yorker Magazine about how the virus is affecting Rome; indeed it must be terrifying to see the streets of the vibrant city empty as the author notes, but he also writes of how both there and in China, people seem to be pulling together emotionally to get through this—even as we are asked to increase our physical distance.
Recent estimates from US health officials are now putting the mortality rate between 0.1% and 1%–considerably lower than what other health organizations have reported, in large part due to the high number of unreported cases in other parts of the world. The mortality rate for a typical flu season is around 0.1%. The accuracy of this statistic will be refined in coming months, but at least for now, it’s lethality appears to be less than what we have feared so far, but significantly worse than a typical flu season. We will have to wait see. In the meantime, please be well.