Coronavirus: Health and Business Considerations

William A. Levinson

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The coronavirus outbreak has caused thousands of deaths around the world along with extensive economic disruption. China has issued several overt threats to disrupt U.S. supply chains, and the stock market is in turmoil. This presentation will provide information on how organizations can position themselves to handle the disruption and even realize opportunities for improved performance as a result.

Why Should You Attend:

The physical menace of coronavirus (COVID-19) speaks for itself, as does the resulting economic disruption. Complex international supply chains have been interrupted due to force majeure including regional shutdowns and quarantines and, even worse, China has threatened to intentionally cut off supplies of rare earths and vital medications. (See for example Buncombe, Andrew. 2020. "US and China in war of words as Beijing threatens to halt supply of medicine amid coronavirus crisis." The Independent and Ferry, Jeff. 2020. "It’s Time To Rebuild Domestic Drug Production in the US, for Both Health and Economic Reasons." Industry Week, March 17 2020). This creates an imperative—in which some attendees' companies might have an opportunity to participate—to reshore vital manufacturing capability from China as well as other countries.

While nobody can predict the stock market, it could well be oversold because the countermeasures being taken against the virus are likely to reduce it to a manageable nuisance rather than a serious threat by summer. Even if a vaccine is not available, hand hygiene, social distancing, and similar measures should reduce its effective transmission rate to less than 1. The same measures will also largely end the 2019-2020 flu season and help prevent the 2020-2021 flu season if they are continued diligently.

The need for social distancing has also created opportunities for both providers and users of distance education, virtual conferencing, and virtual tourism. These opportunities are likely to continue even after the problem is contained.

Areas Covered in the Webinar:

1.Coronavirus dangers

  • COVID-19 is more lethal than seasonal flu, and no vaccine is currently available.
  • Disruption of complex international supply chains due to force majeure
  • China threatened to cut off supplies of the rare earths that are used in electric vehicles (Fredericks, Bob. 2019. "China threatens to limit rare earths exports in warning over trade war." New York Post, May 29 2019.(https://nypost.com/2019/05/29/china-threatens-to-limit-rare-earths-exports-in-warning-over-trade-war/) and more recently threatened to cut off medicines and their precursors to send the United States "... into the hell of a new coronavirus pneumonia epidemic." This makes reshoring of American jobs imperative, and attendees' companies may be able to play a role.

2.Executive summary of OSHA guidance (https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf) for limiting the spread of coronavirus

  • "How COVID-19 Spreads." Person-to-person transmission across a range of up to 6 feet is the primary route, although contaminated surfaces also may play a role.
  • "Steps All Employers Can Take to Reduce Workers’ Risk of Exposure"
  • Definition of job exposure risks as Very High, High, Medium, and Lower
  • Encourage sick employees to stay home to avoid spreading the illness.
  • Hierarchy of controls, from most to least effective: engineering controls, administrative controls that rely on compliance and vigilance, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Face masks are not the same thing as N95 respirators.

3.Additional countermeasures

  • Social distancing and quarantines
  • Reconsideration of the handshake as a common greeting

4.Stock market: panic or economic reality? While nobody can predict the stock market, if the DJIA rises 2000 one day and drops 3000 the next, it is quite likely that traders are reacting to the latest news rather than long-term economic reality. The next topic will show why COVID-19 is likely to be suppressed by summer, along with the 2019-2020 seasonal flu.

5.If the countermeasures reduce the virus' effective transmission number, the average number of people a sick person is likely to infect, to less than 1, coronavirus will be unable to sustain an epidemic. The same countermeasures kill the seasonal flu, or prevent it from spreading.

6.Supply chain implications

  • No supply chain can tolerate a supplier that threatens to deliberately cut off vital materials such as rare earths and pharmaceutical products.
  • The United States has, however, the human and physical resources necessary to reshore the jobs. Henry Ford and his contemporaries delivered proven solutions to the issue of cheap offshore labor more than 100 years ago, and these solutions are just as viable today.

7.New opportunities

  • Schools and colleges must now, by necessity, conduct classes through distance learning—which does not require classrooms, the cost of maintaining them, or commuting costs. If distance learning works, why go back to classrooms? This would reduce school property taxes and college tuition.
  • Virtual conferencing and virtual tourism technology is available, and far less expensive than on-site attendance. This will make these activities accessible to far more people even when on-site attendance is again an option.

Disclaimer: No part of this presentation constitutes formal engineering or occupational health and safety advice. Attendees are encouraged to use the publicly available OSHA document and other authoritative references for this purpose.

Who Will Benefit:

  • Executives and managers in decision making and profit and loss positions, and business policymakers in general.

From manufacturing and service companies.

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Speaker: William A. Levinson,

William A. Levinson, P.E., is the principal of Levinson Productivity Systems, P.C. He is an ASQ Fellow, Certified Quality Engineer, Quality Auditor, Quality Manager, Reliability Engineer, and Six Sigma Black Belt. He is also the author of numerous books on quality, productivity, and management.


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