Omicron and Other COVID Variants: What is the message for employers?

December 07, 2021

Omicron and Other COVID Variants: What is the message for employers?

If there is one thing this pandemic can teach us, it is to expect the unexpected. However, using the information we have gathered on viruses from pandemics of the past, we have learned that future variants, and pandemics for that matter, are to be expected. So long as viruses are left to replicate in human hosts, variants are inevitable.

Variants can arise in a number of ways. One area of variant risk is healthcare inequity, as many people around the world do not have access to COVID vaccines. Lower vaccination rates lead to increased infections and thus, more opportunities for the virus to mutate. However, this is not the only way COVID can mutate. COVID infections in immunocompromised individuals are another pathway for prolonged COVID infections, leading to multiple mutations as well as potential transmission to an animal host and back into a human.

So, why are employers behaving in such a reactive way to new variants? Maybe because they keep hoping that the end is near and that any new variant will be the last one. The issue with this is that it is just not in sync with reality. The consequence of this thinking is that employers respond to these new variants in a very chaotic, disruptive, and inefficient manner.  

For the past decade, our consulting team at InHouse Physicians has been advising some of the largest employers on the globe regarding pandemic preparedness. Currently, we are guiding these clients on a path leading to a proactive approach to the management of new COVID variants. We believe this proactive strategy is the optimal solution for employers interested in ensuring busing continuity and promoting a safe workplace. 

With this proactive strategy, employers learn how to be prepared to respond in advance of any potential variant by basing their workplace protocols around a designated threat level. This threat level is defined by the new variants’ level of transmissibility, severity of illness, and resistance to available vaccines. Each threat level is associated with a respective defined employer response allowing for a swift, unequivocal reaction to the new variant. We believe such a proactive approach offers employers a sensible path forward for your company’s leadership, rather than scrambling reactively without a plan when a new variant appears.

This strategy not only applies to the COVID Pandemic, but also to future pandemics caused by influenza or any other virus. The world has changed as we know it, and Health Security will need to become a central strategy for any business that wants to remain resilient in this new future.

The key elements of Health Security include Prevention, Detection, and Response (or PDR for short). These elements form a tactical guide to responding to health threats around the globe and are designed with the purpose containing the spread of infectious agents. Below is a brief, high-level overview of each element.

Prevention – Prevent the spread of illness by allowing for social distancing, frequent handwashing, the use of effective masks, and vaccine verification tools.

Detection – Detect the infected through symptom surveys, surveillance testing, and biometric screenings on a regular basis.

Response – Respond to infections and outbreaks by developing a contact tracing system, quarantine protocols, and tabletop exercises for contingency plans in the case of an outbreak.

We believe it is wise to prepare your organization for the future by incorporating a proactive approach to Health Security into your business continuity plans.

To learn how InHouse Physicians can help your organization create a culture around Health Security, contact us at https://inhousephysicians.com/pages/backtowork