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Buckle Up: COVID-19 Is Going to Be a Long Ride

Toby Graham /

12 weeks. That’s about how long the average hit song stays on the Billboard Hot 100. Many of those never reach number 1, and those that do tend not to remain there for long.

Then there are the anomalies. “Macarena,” for instance, dominated the charts for 14 straight weeks in the 90s. Last year, “Old Town Road” broke records when it became the longest-leading number 1 song in history, spending 19 weeks at the top of the Hot 100.

Can you imagine if a hit song lasted any longer than that? How incredibly annoying it would sound? Can you imagine listening to the same thing every day for 6 months, or a year, or longer?

You and I don’t have to imagine it. We’re living through it.

COVID-19 Isn’t Going Away Any Time Soon

The COVID-19 crisis is testing our resolve in more ways than one. We’re experiencing pain and suffering on a scale and timeline previously unimaginable.

The reality is that the world isn’t returning to normal any time soon, or ever. We haven’t beaten COVID-19. Here in the United States, we never really “flattened the curve.” We barely poked the curve, and now it’s steadily rising again like a memory foam mattress.

In a June 21 interview with Meet the Press, Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, put it this way (emphasis added):

“I think this is more like a forest fire. I don’t think that this is going to slow down. […] I think that wherever there is wood to burn, this fire is going to burn. And right now we have a lot of susceptible people. I don’t see this slowing down through the summer or into the fall. I don’t think we’re going to see one, two, and three waves. I think we’re going to just see one very, very difficult forest fire of cases.

Whether you agree with Osterholm’s assessment or not, the numbers don’t lie. Take a look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s chart of daily new COVID-19 cases in the US. We haven’t had a day with fewer than 13,000 new cases since March.

Adapting to Life Under COVID-19 Is Like Learning to Wear a Seatbelt

What does this mean for you and your business? It means you need to remain vigilant about ensuring your employees’ health and safety, and minimizing your risk.

It’s time to buckle up and get ready for a long, bumpy ride.

The phrase “buckle up” should have profound reverberations here. In a lot of respects, our current situation mirrors the early days of seat belts. Believe it or not, seat belts were once controversial. Between the 1950s and the 1980s, few Americans wore them, and most opposed mandatory seat belt laws. Now, buckling up seems like common sense to most people.

We need to think about COVID-19 safety the same way. You wouldn’t make your employees drive a vehicle without seat belts. You shouldn’t force them to do their jobs without personal protective equipment, sanitation, and other virus control measures in place.

I’m not the first one to make this comparison. Back in February 2020, Tim Ferriss wrote on his blog:

“I dislike the unknowns of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19, no treatment has yet proven effective, and—like putting on a seatbelt—it’s easy for me to mitigate a lot of downside risk until more data paint a clearer picture. […]

In cases like this, I find it better to prepare and not need, than to need and not have prepared… especially when some precautions are so simple and so cheap.

I am constantly looking for such ‘seatbelts’ in many areas of my life. Dead-simple ways to cap some or all of the downside risk.”

The risks Ferriss was worried about then are more present now, and still largely uncertain. We still don’t know much about the coronavirus.

Questions abound:

  • Is COVID-19 transmissible through surface contact?
  • How long does it stay on surfaces?
  • Is it safer indoors or outdoors? How effective are masks?
  • Should we stop flushing toilets?

The guidance seems to change each week with another news-making study—until that study gets debunked next week.

Add to all that the inconsistent—and sometimes contradictory—responses from counties, states, and the federal government, making it difficult to operate in more than one location.

How Can You Manage Your COVID-19 Risks and Responsibilities?

How is anyone supposed to do business right now?

How can you help your employees feel safe in the work environment, so they can bring their full, energetic selves to the job? And is there anything you can do to deter them from reporting you to OSHA at the first opportunity?

Here’s what you shouldn’t do. You shouldn’t look at this as a one-and-done thing. You shouldn’t write up your COVID-19 response program, stick it in a binder, and consider it done.

You must be able to demonstrate that you’re working in good faith to keep your workers safe and healthy every single day. It’s your legal responsibility as an employer. That responsibility won’t go away tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year.

You need to be vigilant and tenacious. Fight against the human instinct to move on and slip back into bad habits.

It is possible to continue running your business. It’ll be like living in a world where “Old Town Road” comes on every time you turn on the radio. It’ll be annoying and, at times, mind-numbingly tedious. But it’s better than nothing at all. And hopefully, if we can pull it together, we can actually get through this.

In other words, we have to ride ‘til we can’t no more.

KPA is here to help make the journey ahead as smooth as possible. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been hard at work helping companies like yours grapple with this every day. We’ve stayed on top of the latest guidance and ensured our customers are following best practices to keep their employees and customers safe.

To learn more about COVID-19 safety, visit KPA’s Coronavirus Resource Center. If you need any help, please contact us.

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