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Update from PIA: Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

From PIA National, March 5, 2020

There has been an increase in concern about the spreading coronavirus COVID-19.

PIA has an ongoing partnership with ALM Media, publishers of the National Underwriter, PC360 and FC&S. It has developed a webpage, Instant Insights that collects all coronavirus outbreak stories and resources in one place.

Agencies should consider implementing safeguards to reduce exposure to illness. Steps should include, but are not limited to:

Encourage sick employees to stay home. Suspend requirements for notes from health care providers—those offices are likely to be extremely busy, and it’s better to keep those with the virus away from others. Employees should not return to work unless they are free of a fever (100.4 degrees) for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medications. Extend sick leave even to employees who aren’t ordinarily entitled to it, so that employees do not feel compelled to come to work. 

  • Consider encouraging employees who are able to do so to work remotely. If remote work isn’t possible, allow employees to stagger shifts. Test remote work policies and staggered shift options now, before you are in an emergency situation.
  • Test remote work capabilities, including remote access to agency server, management system, phone, voicemail and email.
  • Develop a communication plan to keep employees updated on the status of the virus. Ensure employees know what the communication plan is. 
  • Develop an activation plan and ensure all employees know what to expect. 
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizers around the office and encourage their use. Place in open areas, conference rooms, kitchens and break rooms. 
  • Consider whether business operations can be conducted at alternate locations if the current location is quarantined.
  • If employees are not cross-trained for key tasks, begin cross-training now to avoid gaps in production.

This full pandemic checklist is available from FC&S Coverage Interpretations. 

Another helpful resource is Assessing the Personal Impact of the Coronavirus. This article looks at the current situation, the likelihood of spread, and the potential insurance impact and coverage questions raised by COVID-19.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also is a good resource; its coronavirus page has information about how coronavirus is spread, travel tips and restrictions, and information for specific audiences like businesses and schools.  

State departments of insurance

Insurance departments across the U.S. are planning or executing actions to eliminate barriers to testing and treatment for COVID-19. [Best’s News 3/5/20]

The New York State Department of Financial Services took the lead March 2 by issuing an order that health insurers in New York must waive cost-sharing for procedures and testing for the coronavirus among a number of other steps, according to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office. Pennsylvania officials also are discussing ways to lower barriers to testing.

Other state insurance departments are aware of New York’s action and considering whether they should announce similar plans as well.

Some agencies, including the Illinois Department of Public Health, are covering the cost of coronavirus testing, along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.