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Thursday, October 21, 2021 at 2:00 ET

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Inside Medical Liability

Third Quarter 2021

 

 

AND, FINALLY

Delta Variant Highlights Need for Adaptability

There seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel. We were thinking about those postponed family gatherings.

By Susan Beach

 

We were heading back to restaurants and maybe even the gym. We were getting our pandemic puppies ready for our return to the office.

Then the Delta variant arrived. Virologists and epidemiologists have described this variant as “the fastest, fittest, and most formidable version of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 the world has encountered, and it is upending assumptions about the disease even as nations loosen restrictions and open their economies,” according to recent reporting in Forbes magazine.

This highly contagious COVID-19 variant is driving up infections and hospitalizations in the U.S. including in areas where there are high rates of vaccination. With low global vaccination rates, Delta may not be the end of the variant alphabet.

MPL insurers, providers, and other industry stakeholders have learned much over the past 18 months about their employees, their businesses, and how to adapt to a dramatically different world. It’s time to apply those lessons to the months ahead.

“The good news is that as the virus has evolved, employers have honed their strategies to keep infections in check. By continuing to be creative, flexible, and adaptive in their approaches, they can contain the threat now and handle other outbreaks as they arise,” wrote Jeffery Levin- Scherz and Patricia Toro in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

Vaccination has been shown to be one of the best ways to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, or death from COVID-19. Employers have been key in communicating the importance of vaccinations to their employees and are considered a trusted source of information about the pandemic, Levin-Scherz and Toro asserted. By offering time off for vaccinations and to recover from the side effects, employers can make it easy for employees to get shots.

Despite making plans to return to the office—or having already made that transition—new outbreaks may make it necessary to rethink these decisions. Monitoring local conditions will provide important information about having workers return to the workplace for MPL insurers and healthcare providers. Management needs to continue to demonstrate flexibility and creativity with scheduling or simply delay the return to office in order to reduce the risks in high-infection areas.

There may also need to be new or reinstated protocols for masking and social distancing in offices. Maybe your company should hold off on having meetings in conference rooms or discourage people from congregating in lunch and break rooms for a time. Just as returning to the office requires thoughtful consideration, so should a return to business travel. Fortunately, most people have become accustomed to videoconferencing and while it certainly doesn’t replace face-to-face in-person interactions, it is a good alternative when considering the risks of traveling to areas with high rates of infection.

The stress of these times has taken a toll on the mental health of employees. Renewed concerns about variants will only exacerbate depression and anxiety for some workers.

Companies should continue to attend to the mental health needs of their employees by offering access to and encouraging use of mental health services. Companies—and their employees—have proven their resilience facing COVID-19 over the past year. Remaining flexible and innovative for the workplace will not only keep employees safe and productive but will also continue to allow organizations to meet their business objectives during uncertain times.

 

   
 


Susan Beach is Vice President of Marketing & Communications at the MPL Association.