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Continuous Performance Improvement

Coronavirus Risk Management: Major Metrics Matter Most

John Pryor | September 4, 2020

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Risk managers seemingly drown in data while taking proactive steps to protect their organization and its people. The same is true in managing the risk of coronavirus that plagues us all today.

As we all know, with good data, risk management works! Yet, with all the data we see daily on COVID-19, why do we still have negative outcomes and adverse trending in our nation's current pandemic?

When I view media reports of COVID-19 data, I understand why their primary focus is on the high aggregate numbers of cases. They create attention-getting headlines. Such focus shows us the "big picture" and critical trending needed to achieve the goal of "flattening of the curve"—but not metrics that really matter.

Unfortunately, emphasis on cases also instills unwarranted fear, anxiety, and even hysteria in many people rather than a good dose of reality for sound risk management decision-making and plan-setting.

Risk Identification and Measurement

The metrics on which we principally need to focus on are those who are hospitalized and those whose demise resulted from this deadly virus. We need this higher-level focus not only from the perspective of states, counties, and local communities but also within each of our respective organizations in both private and public sectors.

This is important because of the seemingly impossible ability of any governmental entity at any level to exercise effective control of this risk in their vast jurisdictions. However, it is very feasible for them to do so for their own employees—but never all residents in their jurisdiction. This is no different than others can do within their business, church, school, etc.

If effectively controlled at this microlevel, continuously improved results should be achieved at the macrolevel.

Each private organization should chart their employee COVID-19 data daily (or as changes occur) and present such data in a dashboard format for all to view. The dashboard should include both raw numbers as well as graphic displays—as we frequently see in the media and as has been practiced by risk managers for decades.

Age differentiation is proving to be critical. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the total US deaths caused by COVID-19 are very high among those aged 65 or older—80.3 percent. Most in this age group will have retired, yet there can be multiple exceptions—especially for churches and their worshippers plus those who embark on a second career.

At the other end of this spectrum are those aged 0–14. The CDC reports the number of COVID-19 deaths in this age bracket so far to be merely 31 for all US residents! This translates to 0.0002 percent.

The CDC also reports that deaths in this same age bracket from annual seasonal flu have consistently been 0.1 percent over recent years—500 times that of coronavirus—yet we see no school closures because of seasonal flu!

Risk Reduction and Control

After a system is in place to measure coronavirus occurrences in an organization, risk avoidance and risk mitigation are next in the process, of course. Major importance must be placed on the use of face masks, social distancing, handwashing, disinfecting surfaces, personal protection equipment, voluntary stay at home, blood plasma donations, and other risk reduction measures.

Risk reduction in both hospitalizations and deaths should result from proactive early intervention devoted to the care of the highly vulnerable among us who are aged 65 or older plus those of any age with preexisting conditions.

Risk Finance and Risk Transfer

Risk finance follows, of course—usually in the form of health insurance of all types and descriptions—including self-insurance plans, which is another good reason for tracking cases within an organization's employees and family members. Workers compensation and general liability insurance also can be a factor.

Many states require a presumption that an employee's infection is within the course and scope of their employment—and the sole remedy from the employer. Federal statutes are in process to hold employers harmless for alleged negligence as the proximate cause of infection of customers and others. Until passage, high costs may be incurred to defend frivolous lawsuits that may emerge.

Federal and state decrees to mitigate this risk—at all levels—at the extreme appear to be various versions of the mandatory shutdown of business operations, school classrooms and their athletic programs, church services, etc. Less drastic decrees include required "work at home" requirements, distance learning, livestream viewing of church services, outdoor dining with separation of tables, etc.

The offsetting negative consequences of such decrees are already in evidence: major economic downturns, diminished learning in education, and emotional consequences to different individuals of different severity, to name but a few.

Risk Management Solutions by Each of Us

However, this is where risk managers, insurance brokers, owners, and leaders of public and private organizations of all kinds can "rise to the occasion"—if permitted to do so by political leaders. As mentioned, governmental bodies and political leaders have proven their ability to measure the virus risk and its key metrics; however, their inability to control behavior is evident except through fines, penalties, imprisonment, and political persuasion.

On the other hand, decision-makers in public and private organizations are already effectively involved in their leadership roles, including control of employee behavior within safety, security, and productivity systems and processes—what we generally refer to as "risk management." Adding mitigation of the COVID-19 risk should work very effectively.

Bottom Line

We all should study the trends in cases yet focus on major metrics that matter and then chart our own organization's unique results through effective risk reduction and risk avoidance—all for the purpose of community-wide and state-wide victory over the coronavirus.

Don't delay. Start today!

A complimentary template for a coronavirus dashboard—personalized for your organization and/or one or more of its departments/divisions—is available on request by email to [email protected].

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