COVID 19: Business and Health Implications, Countermeasures and Opportunities for Organizations

The Chinese characters for “crisis” mean danger and opportunity, and the Coronavirus outbreak is certainly a menace to human health and also the economy. The countermeasures that are being taken to contain it should however reduce it to a still-dangerous but low-level nuisance by summer, which means the stock market selloff could have more to do with panic than economic realities. Adaptations to the outbreak through distance education, virtual conferencing, and virtual tourism meanwhile offer opportunities to leverage existing technology to offer better value to customers including students, conference attendees, and tourists.

Why You Should Attend:

Almost every manufacturing and service business is affected by the COVID-19 threat, including not only absenteeism to prevent further contagion but also supply chain interruptions. Overt Chinese threats to cut off vital supplies of rare earths (2019) and life-saving drugs (2020) make it imperative for U.S. manufacturers to re-shore sources of vital supplies, or at least look to reliable and trustworthy foreign suppliers.

The webinar will also provide an overview of OSHA’s recent guidelines for protecting workers, visitors, and other relevant interested parties from the virus, and explain how these and other countermeasures should largely eliminate the menace by summer. If adaptation to social distancing through distance education and virtual conferencing is successful, organizations might meanwhile want to consider, even after social distancing is no longer necessary, whether these approaches are more cost-effective and therefore offer greater value to customers.

Objectives of the Presentation:

  • Know the health-related and economic dangers of COVID-19 including overt Chinese threats to cripple U.S. supply chains.
  • Gain an overview of OSHA’s (2020) “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” which is available at along with other countermeasures such as social distancing, and an explanation of the difference between face masks and N95 respirators.
  • While nobody can predict the stock market, attendees will learn why investors may be selling due to panic rather than economic reality, noting that the virus is likely to be suppressed—along with the seasonal flu—by summer.
  • Know that, if countermeasures such as hand hygiene, quarantines, social distancing, and even a 14-day national shutdown of nonessential business reduce the virus’ effective transmission rate (R) to less than 1, it cannot propagate to epidemic proportions and will instead become a still-dangerous but manageable nuisance. The same countermeasures will also suppress the seasonal flu. This information may be useful for business and financial planning.
  • Know the importance of supply chain continuity, as shown by the history of interruptions due to force majeure. Chinese threats to intentionally cripple U.S. supply chains that involve rare earths (2019) and now life-saving drugs (2020) make it urgent to re-shore key supply sources.
  • Learn about new opportunities, perhaps in the form of needs your organization can fill or services your organization can use, in distance education, virtual conferencing, and virtual tourism. As but one example, do you need to pay to send your employees for offsite training (or pay a trainer’s travel and lodging expenses to come to you) if distance learning is viable?

Areas Covered in the Session :

  • Health and economic dangers associated with COVID-19
    • No vaccination is currently available, and clinical trials may take roughly a year to deliver one.
    • The effects on complex international and even domestic supply chains due to force majeure are already obvious. Mainland China has meanwhile threatened to intentionally interrupt supplies of life-saving medications (Buncombe, Andrew. 2020. “US and China in war of words as Beijing threatens to halt supply of medicine amid coronavirus crisis.” The Independent. and this is not the first time Beijing has made threats of this nature.
  • OSHA released (March 2020) “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” for which the webinar will provide an executive overview.
    • The disease is transmitted primarily person-to-person (as opposed to contaminated surfaces although these also are problematic). Online sources have stated that person-to-person contagion can occur at up to three feet. The OSHA reference says six feet and this is reinforced by the UK’s public health agency which says two meters.
    • The OSHA document cites “Steps All Employers Can Take to Reduce Workers’ Risk of Exposure.”
    • Sick workers should be encouraged to stay home.
    • Hierarchy of infection controls: engineering controls, administrative controls (these rely on vigilance and compliance), and personal protective equipment (PPE).
    • Face masks are not the same thing as respirators although they may offer some protection. The Health and Safety Executive (the UK’s counterpart of OSHA) tested respirators and face masks, and rated their performance. (Howard and Robinson, 2020. “Coronavirus face masks sell out as prices soar 800%: But do they really work and which one should you buy?” Daily Mail,
    • OSHA describes how to classify job exposure risks as Very High, High, Medium, and Lower.
  • Additional countermeasures:
    • Social distancing
    • Reconsider the desirability of the handshake as a greeting
  • Is the stock market oversold? Economic reality may differ from sentiment including irrational panic (as opposed to rational respect for danger). The next topic explains this.
  • A disease’s effective transmission rate is the average number of people that an infected person will infect before he or she ceases to be contagious. If the countermeasures that are already being taken reduce this to less than 1, COVID-19 will not be able to propagate into an epidemic. As the same countermeasures kill seasonal flu (e.g. through hand washing and surface sanitization) or prevent its spread (through social distancing), this problem will also be suppressed in 2020 and will continue to be suppressed if sensible precautions are not relaxed in 2021.
  • Supply chain implications
    • Force majeure supply chain interruptions have already caused havoc in major industries including the semiconductor industry.
    • China threatened in 2019 to intentionally interrupt supplies of rare earths (Fredericks, Bob. 2019. “China threatens to limit rare earths exports in warning over trade war.” New York Post, May 29 2019. and threatened to cut off supplies of life-saving drugs in 2020. Chinese control of medications was recognized as problematic even before the coronavirus outbreak (Dilanian and Breslueur, 2019. “U.S. officials worried about Chinese control of American drug supply.” NBC News,
    • The United States has however had proven off-the-shelf solutions, as developed by industrialists such as Henry Ford and Fredrick Winslow Taylor, to competition from cheap offshore labor for more than 100 years. The same solutions are still viable today and all we need to do is use them.
  • Opportunities for off-the-shelf technology
    • Distance learning is less expensive than classroom instruction. Schools and colleges must now make it work, so why go back to classroom instruction if it does work?
    • Virtual conferencing eliminates travel and lodging costs, and thus makes a conference accessible to more attendees.
    • The technology for virtual reality tourism already exists, and can almost put a visitor on-site in a city, museum, or historic building.
  • Disclaimer; no part of this presentation constitutes formal engineering or occupational health and safety advice. The presentation will cite authoritative sources such as OSHA and the CDC that should be used for this purpose.

Attendees will also receive an Excel spreadsheet on which they can enter different epidemic parameters (basic reproduction rate, recovery rate, and initial vaccinated fraction if any) to illustrate and help teach the desirability of compliance with social distancing and other countermeasures, and also vaccination (for seasonal flu). It can demonstrate the concept of “flattening the curve” and also the possibility of breaking the curve by making its first derivative (slope) negative right out of the starting gate. The latter reinforces the need to practice the recommended hygiene and social distancing guidelines. The spreadsheet uses the Susceptible, Infected, Recovered (SIR) model for which instructions also will be supplied.

Who Should Attend:

in decision making positions with responsibility for reaction to the COVID-19 outbreak, including profit & loss, supply chain, and health and safety. XF3372

William Levinson

William (Bill) 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 holds degrees in chemistry and chemical engineering from Pennsylvania State and Cornell Universities, and night school degrees in business administration and applied statistics from Union College, and he has given presentations at the ASQ World Conference, TOC World 2004, and other national conferences on productivity and quality.

Mr. Levinson is also the author of several books on quality, productivity, and management. Henry Ford’s Lean Vision is a comprehensive overview of the lean manufacturing and organizational management methods that Ford employed to achieve unprecedented bottom line results, and Beyond the Theory of Constraints describes how Ford’s elimination of variation from material transfer and processing times allowed him to come close to running a balanced factory at full capacity. Statistical Process Control for Real-World Applications shows what to do when the process doesn’t conform to the traditional bell curve assumption.

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