Tri-City businesses should have a crisis plan in place to deal with the COVID-19 coronavirus, says the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce, which has put together a list of resources to help local companies cope.
Chamber CEO Michael Hind said businesses should be part of the solution in helping to contain the spread of the virus, which has hit 87 countries and caused more than 3,200 deaths.
B.C.’s 13th coronavirus case was announced Wednesday, March 4 and the province asking the public to take action to reduce the potential spread of the virus, including washing hands, staying home if sick and avoiding travel to high-risk areas.
Even handshakes are no longer recommended; foot-tapping and elbow bumping are now forms of greeting for top execs and workers. This may be something employers consider as they suggest people deal carefully with clients and customers.
Hind said planning for COVID-19 is like preparing for any other disaster and should be on every company’s to-do list.
“These are things you need to think about," he said. "While things are likely to be good and work out in the long run, what can be done now to minimize the disruption?”
While he hasn’t heard specific concerns from local businesses, Hind said his own operation has ensured hand sanitizers are available, including at a Tri-Cities International Day event Thursday. He also encourages employees to stay home if sick, with paid leave available, and staff can work remotely if necessary.
Some businesses are already taking a hit, including Vancouver restaurants that are experiencing a decline in business. Starbucks is changing how it deals with reusable mugs to stop the spread of coronavirus and tourism companies are expected to be affected by a drop in travel as more countries are declared no-go zones because of COVID-19.
To counter the effects of what could be a downturn in the economy, the Bank of Canada cut its key interest rate target by half of a percentage point this week.
All these changes take a toll on businesses and Hind said owners and managers can get ahead of these disruptions if they plan ahead.
One issue many employers will be dealing with is whether to offer paid sick days for those who are ill or have to be isolated to stop the spread of the disease. While some larger firms may be able to offer paid sick leave, others might not, although Hind said it’s important to consider the issue, be flexible, and work with staff.
“It’s something I think that businesses will need to assess — how they deal with sick time. Do what’s best for your business,” he said, noting, “People are key to the business. You want to treat people fairly. Do what you can within the limits you have.”
On its website, the chamber provides a number of resources, including links to information from health authorities, tips from the Calgary chamber that dealt with a downtown flood, as well as templates for a crisis communications plan and a business continuity and recovery plan.