The Birth of a Pandemic: Inside the first months of the coronavirus outbreak

JMD Systemics Advice and Guidance for Small Businesses

The Huanan seafood wholesale market in central Wuhan is that kind of place where people often caught colds.Vendors start setting up their displays as early as 03:00 a.m., cleaning and preparing produces for the customers that will soon be there early morning.

The sprawling market of more than twenty streets spanned two sides of a main road in an upscale neighbourhood of the commercial district of Hankou. Racks of meat are hung on hooks or dropped out on plastic mats. Workers walk around selling everything from live poultry to seafood and cooking ingredients. It is a crowded but clean market.

In mid-December 2019, when one of the workers felt unwell, he thought little of it. He stayed home to rest but after losing over ten pounds in just a few days, he decided to go to a general hospital for a basic check-up. From there, on December 19, he was sent and admitted in an hospital specializing in the treatment of infectious diseases.

This worker could not have known then that he was among the first cases of a new, highly contagious coronavirus that would soon kill more than 2,500 people in his city and engulf the world.

He thought he had a cold.

In early November and December 2019, the number of coronavirus infections began cropping up in Wuhan and, it is only in late January 2020 that the Chinese authorities informed the public that the virus could pass between humans.

Human-to-human transmission

By the end of December 2019, word had gotten out in Wuhan about a mystery illness.

On December 30, internet users circulated screenshots of a WeChat conversation, in which a doctor at Wuhan Red Cross hospital, warned his colleagues of confirmed cases of a contagious coronavirus at another hospital. “Wash your hands! Face masks! Gloves!” the doctor wrote.

That same day, on December 30, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital told a WeChat group that seven people at his hospital had contracted what he believed to be SARS, the outbreak that killed more than six hundred people in mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-03.

Also on December 30 , an “urgent notice” from the Wuhan Health Commission warning of “successive cases of unknown pneumonia” was leaked and posted online. The statement ordered hospitals to “strengthen responsible leadership” and ensure that no one “disclose information to the public without authorisation.”

Under growing pressure, on December 31, the Wuhan Health Commission, in its first official notice about the virus, said that researchers were investigating twenty-seven cases of viral pneumonia.

There is “no obvious evidence of human-to-human transmission,” the statement said, describing the outbreak as linked to the seafood market and assuring the public that all patients had been quarantined and their contacts placed under observation. “The disease is preventable and controllable,” it added.

A day later, on January 1, the Huanan seafood market was closed and Wuhan’s Public Security bureau announced that eight people had been “punished” for spreading rumours.

Authorities also tasked hospitals to screen for pneumonia cases linked to the market and it wasn’t until January 20 that vendors in the market were asked to submit to temperature checks and blood tests.

Things are getting out of control

Across the Yangtze River, some 6 kilometres away, people who had never been to the market were falling sick and things went rapidly out of control. By the time officials revealed the infectiousness of the virus, hospitals in Wuhan were already overwhelmed and the numbers increased after the announcement.

On January 23, in Wuhan, a city of 11 million people was placed under lockdown.

Surrounding areas followed, putting a total of more than 50 million people under de-facto home quarantine and by February 19, in the death toll from the virus had passed 2,000.

The rest is history.

Today, while China and Wuhan are coming back to life, most countries of the world are fighting a global pandemic that may have easily been avoided. In the western word, people are dying by the hundreds of thousands and the Global Economy is crashing down.

Large corporations will most certainly survive but what about the small businesses? What about your own business?

The global dramatic economic slowdown is already disrupting trade flows and creating unemployment that will damage our society at levels that are hard to forecast and grim to contemplate. What does it means for you?

The reality is that we are now facing a Global Economic Recession. The Covid-19 pain will long persist after all social distancing measures and lockdowns end.

Undercapitalized businesses affected by the shutdowns now realize a grim reality: Recovery will not be that easy! In these difficult times, for the duration of the pandemic .

Michel Ouellette, ll.l., ll.m.

Business Growth Strategist

JMD Systemics

Systemic Strategic Planning / Crisis & Reputation Management

Skype: jmdlive

Web: www.jmdsystemics.com

Michel Ouellette / Joseph Michael Dennis, is a former attorney, a Trial Scientist, a Crisis & Reputation Management Expert, a Public Affairs & Corporate Communications Specialist, a Warrior for Common Sense and Free Speech.

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JMD Systemics,

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Covid-19: Three Steps To Take Now To Prepare For The Possible Disruption To Your Business

We will we see a full-scale outbreak of the coronavirus across the Globe. Is your business ready to face the outbreak?

Bombarded with information about Covid-19?

Probably.

I do not want to add to the information overload, but here a few points left to address. I promise I will be brief!

No doubt about it, we will we see a full-scale outbreak of the coronavirus across the Globe. No doubt, people are afraid. And fear is a mighty force!

Left unchecked, it can lead to mass hysteria.

Over the past few days and weeks, we have seen people hoard anything from toilet paper to protective equipment to food. There have been attacks on Asian Americans, blaming them for the virus. And there is been an abundance of conspiracy theories making the rounds. While it is ok to be afraid, it is not ok to hurt others or hoard items needed by health care workers to fight this full-blown outbreak of the Covid-19 virus.

Let’s be smart! Let’s take reasonable precautions, but let’s not panic, because panic is not going to help any of us!

No Crystal Ball

It would be nice to have one but, unfortunately, no one has a crystal ball to tell what is really waiting us around the corner.

Regardless of what may or may not happen, it is reasonable to expect some degree of disruption to life and business. And it is best to be prepared. Thankfully, viral outbreaks like the current one, do not happen often. Yet they still result in disruption to day-to-day life and business.

Ideally, you would have a disaster plan in place, outlining how you would respond in case of disaster and the steps you would take to get your business or business back on its feet.

Do you have a disaster plan for your business?

Congratulations if you do.

But if you do not, now is the time to develop a plan, no matter how basic or rudimentary. Take time to think about what you would do in case your business slowed down or needed to shut down for some time?

  • How would you respond?

  • How would you communicate with employees and customers?

  • Could you and your business survive the disruption?

  • What would do to get your business back on its feet?

Three Steps to Prepare

While some disasters, natural or human-made, may cause temporary business disruptions, others could result in prolonged closures, or lead to temporary or permanent relocation of the business. Since we do not know what to expect with the Covid-19 crisis, here are 3 simple steps to take now to get prepared for what may or may not come to pass.

1.- Communication

If you have employees, it is time to talk.

What are your protocols for getting in touch with them? Will you call, email, text, or use social media to communicate with them? Decide on one primary and one backup channel to use in case of a disruption or a full shutdown of your business.

Get in touch with your customers.

What is your protocol for getting in touch with customers in case the virus should impact your business? Will you call every single customer, post relevant information to your website or social media? How will you keep your customers up to date? Are you prepared to see customers via Skype or Zoom or any other similar communication channel in case you will not be able to see them in your office or business place? No matter the channel, have a process in place to keep your website and social media pages current with up to date business information.

2.- Financial Survival

In the event your province, state or city should be affected by the virus, chances are your business will be too. There may be fewer customers coming through your doors, resulting in a loss in revenue and a temporary decrease in cash flow for your business. Additionally, there could be disruption leading to delays with your billing company; there might also be delays in reimbursements.

How robust is the financial position of your business? Would you be able to ride out the storm? Do you have the cash reserves to help you bridge a temporary drop or loss in cash flow? If you have limited or no cash reserves, consider establishing a line of credit. Use it to help you stay afloat until things get back to normal.

While there is insurance coverage to help recover from all types of disasters, both for loss of income and property, there is not much when it comes to situations like Covid-19. Additionally, most small business owners do not carry business interruption insurance, and chances are this type of interruption would not be covered.

Since some disruption to your business is likely to occur, take steps to prepare by securing funds to survive a cash flow crunch.

3.- The Supply Chain

One of the problems with the outbreak is the disruption it causes to the global supply chain. As a result, we have seen wild fluctuations in stock prices and lowered earnings projections across the board.

So, what is a supply chain, and why should you care?

A supply chain is a network or chain between a company and its suppliers of parts to produce the finished product sold to customers. A supply chain may be comprised of local, national, and international suppliers.

As you can imagine, most products contain numerous parts that could come from anywhere. Parts or ingredients may come from within the US or Canada, or they may be sourced from China, Korea, India, or Europe, amongst others.

Regardless of where a part originates, as the Covid-19 virus is making its way across the globe we could see more disruptions to production and the workforce.

And here is how it might affect your business.

You may not be able to take delivery on day-to-day, or specialty business supplies, potentially for an extended time. That is why it is prudent to take steps now.

Take stock of the supplies you need now and over the next weeks to months. Talk to your suppliers. Place your orders allowing for extra delivery times due to possible delays. Find alternate suppliers if need be. Network with your colleagues and see if you can help each other through any disruptions in supply.

One Last Word

While it is spreading all around the globe, let’s hope Covid-19 will be behind us soon.

In the meantime, it is critical to take steps to prepare as best we can. At very minimum, take time to think through “what-if scenarios” and develop basic strategies to help you respond and JMD Systemics, a division of King Global Earth and Environmental Sciences Corporationcan help you to do so.

Last but not least, take all necessary steps to protect yourself and your staff while you help others. Stay safe!

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Michel Ouellette JMD, ll.l., ll.m.

JMD Systemics,

A division of King Global earth and Environmental Sciences Corporation