By Tara Gibson - October 6, 2020
With the winter months fast approaching, businesses across the United States are still facing the threats of COVID-19 and now must begin preparing for flu season. Questions surrounding how severe the flu season will be and what will happen as it converges with the coronavirus pandemic are circling, as well as what other curveballs winter will bring, which is why it’s crucial for organizations to put comprehensive plans together to protect their employees.
Unfortunately, there are many unknowns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty about what’s to come. What is known is that COVID-19 won’t be going away until there is a vaccine and that flu season is just a few months away. According to Scientific American, the overlap of COVID-19 and influenza has many epidemiologists and policymakers concerned, as the U.S. may soon face two epidemics at the same time.
Yearly, influenza spreads quickly sickening millions across the U.S. each year. The 2017-2018 flu season was particularly bad, with hospitals flying nurses across states and the CDC estimating between 46,000 and 95,000 Americans who died from the illness. With these high numbers, it’s no surprise experts are concerned about the pandemic on top of the upcoming flu season.
“The worst-case scenario is both [the coronavirus and the flu] are spreading fast and causing severe disease, complicating diagnoses and presenting a double burden on the health care system,” says Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at Harvard University. Because of these concerns, some healthcare systems are already preparing or are prepared to increase capacity in hospitals to handle the potential influx of patients.
On the positive side, the precautions and behavioral changes many have adopted to flatten the curve of the coronavirus – such as social distancing, hand washing, mask-wearing and facial coverings – could potentially lessen the impact of flu season, as per Scientific American.
Strict prevention strategies in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 could also work for thwarting the spread of influenza as well, as both the coronavirus and flu are transmitted – mostly - by respiratory droplets and close interaction of infected people.
"Both COVID-19 and the flu are respiratory viruses that spread the same way — from person to person through close contact via respiratory droplets. This means that the steps we're taking to stay safe from COVID-19 will also help keep us safe from the flu," explains Dr. Wesley Long, director of diagnostic microbiology at Houston Methodist to Houston Methodist Leading Medicine. "In fact, everything we started doing to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 back in March seems to have put an early end to our last flu season."
Although many businesses have already put safeguards in place to protect their workers by investing in cleaning and sanitization supplies, barriers for social distancing, temperature checkpoints and more, keeping up these preparation strategies for the upcoming flu season is extremely important.
Below are 5 factors to consider when preparing for COVID-19 and influenza.
Social distancing policies have been put in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but they’re also extremely effective against the flu. Companies must keep an eye on spikes of COVID-19 cases and re-tighten social distancing measures to mitigate the early spread of the flu. Flattening the curve for both viruses is essential.
Unfortunately, according to Science Daily, more the 20% of COVID-19 positive patients presented with a respiratory viral syndrome early in the pandemic. It’s possible for individuals to contract both the coronavirus and the flu at the same time and employees should understand the risks.
With both COVID-19 and the flu, businesses should be prepared for unexpected absences. Whether an employee gets sick, or their kids, they should be aware of the company attendance policy and understand they should not – by any means – come into the office if they’re exhibiting any symptoms.
A mass notification solution with polling capabilities makes shift management easy. If somebody is unable to work, administrators can send out a polling link to employees prompting them to respond whether they can cover a shift. Once the shift is filled, the poll will end.
Here’s a short video explaining how an automated polling module can help:
Constant and clear communication with your employees during this time is essential. Businesses must share helpful COVID-19 and flu resources, office closures, availability of flu vaccine clinics and more.
With a mass notification solution, employers can set up templates and contact lists to reach employees in several locations simultaneously via phone call, SMS text message, email, digital signage, and more, which is crucial amid today’s public health crisis and the upcoming flu season.
Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12, State & Local, Higher Ed, Corporate, and Healthcare, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!
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