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(c) 2020 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

The Perfect Pandemic Storm

t has now been 220 days since, January 29, 2020, when I first posted my initial article on the COVID-19 Pandemic. It has been updated many times since. At that time I raised the issue, whether the workers’ compensation system was prepared for the COVID-19 Pandemic.

My regular readers know that I have always been concerned over the impact of infectious disease on the workers’ compensation system.The system has for decades, been lucky and squeezed by without much impact. 

This time, that is not the case. COVID-19, is still not contained. With barely 20% of the US population infected, and no vaccine in sight, lack of therapeutics, there maybe a long-way to go with this disease. Some experts indicate that if the pandemic continues on its present course, herd immunity will be achieved with an estimated total of 9,000,000 US deaths. It has already caused major consequences, including the significant loss of life and widespread illness and a major disruption in the social and economic aspects of society. The long term health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to emerge, ie. See long-haulers. The nation’s fragmented response has complicated and compounded the adversity even further. 

As Labor Day approached, and “the lost summer” is behind us, we must now come to the realization that the nation is facing “the perfect storm.” With no therapies or vaccines available, lack of national compliance to social distancing recommendations, the lack of a coordinated strategy for the production of personal protective equipment, lack of a national mask mandate, the return of students to schools and colleges, the onset of the fall flu season, no uniform standard for testing, no uniform standard for compensability (presumption statutes), and no Federal effort to fiscally backstop the economic cost of workers’ compensation programs, the future is very uncertain

Complicating the situation even further is an announcement from three major international organizations, Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations [FOA}, World Organization for Animal Health [OIE], and the World Health Organization [WHO], that, “the circulation of A(H1N1) subtype influenza viruses in the swine population in China with evidence of zoonotic potential has alerted the world to the pandemic risk associated with swine influenza viruses.” 

“Although there is limited data assessing human infections and circulation of these viruses in pigs, awareness and vigilance is strongly advised for a number of reasons” says Keith Sumption, Chief Veterinary Officer of the FAO. “The viruses analysed in the recent report from China show characteristics associated with increased ability for zoonotic transmission – the potential ability to infect humans. The viruses have some genetic markers to suggest human infection is possible; they can replicate in human airway cells, and viruses can be spread via respiratory droplets passed between ferrets.” 

Pandemic preparedness is the new normal for workplace health and safety. It is crucial that employers, workers’ compensation insurance companies and employees, take a centralized and major roll in the effort to contain pandemics and infectious disease going forward.

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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900  jon@gelmans.com  has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Blog: Workers ' Compensation

Twitter: jongelman

LinkedIn: JonGelman

LinkedIn Group: Injured Workers Law & Advocacy Group

Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters