Michigan first reported two confirmed cases of coronavirus on March 10, 2020. One week later, that number has jumped to 54. The State plans to update its confirmed cases daily at 2 PM at its coronavirus website. This website is a great resource.

On March 16, 2020, Gov. Whitmore signed an executive order temporarily closing bars, theaters, casinos and other public spaces. The order limits restaurants to delivery and carry out orders only. These restrictions will remain in place until March 30, 11:59 PM.

Notably, Michigan’s restrictions follow the drastically revised federal recommendations for limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people. The prior recommendation was 50. The New York Times reported that the revised recommendations stem from fatality estimates from a report from researchers at the Imperial College London. They found without changes to the coronavirus response, the death toll in the United States could rise to 2.2 million.

The potential death toll from the coronavirus is alarming. But equally unsettling is the extended scope likely needed for a successful virus intervention; According to the researcher’s report (Impact of Social Interventions to Reduce COVID-19 Mortality):

The major challenge of suppression is that this type of intensive intervention package – or something equivalently effective at reducing transmission – will need to be maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more) – given that we predict that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed. We show that intermittent social distancing – triggered by trends in disease surveillance – may allow interventions to be relaxed temporarily in relative short time windows, but measures will need to be reintroduced if or when case numbers rebound.

(emphasis added). This report was shared with the Trump administration around March 9, 2020. Days later Trump tried to give a national address to give confidence about his handling of the pandemic. He made no reference to these dire predictions or recommendations.

Unfortunately, the discrepancy between these and other findings and the once rosy predictions from the Trump Administration about the coronavirus cannot be reconciled. Instead, it is becoming increasingly apparent that businesses and governments must prepare for the likely reality that this latest pandemic is not going away any time soon. And therein is the true frustration.

Specifically, businesses, their employees, and citizens are resourceful and resilient. At our law firm, we live and breathe the “best-and-worst-case scenarios” that our Business clients and entrepreneurs routinely use for planning. But that sort of preparation only works if we are making informed decisions; not hoped-for outcomes that have little to no factual basis. So for any politician reading this, just be honest.

On this point, a good quote to live by, especially in times like now is from Marcus Aurelius:

Objective judgment, now, at this very moment. Unselfish action, now, at this very moment. Willing acceptance—now, at this very moment—of all external events. That’s all you need.

(Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations (Modern Library) (p. 119). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition).

Among the areas where employers should now exercise objective judgment is its readiness to conduct operations under extended pandemic conditions. For starters, look at implementing or updating your work from home policies, revisit your sick-leave procedures, make sure worker’s compensation and other business insurance policies cover remote work-cites, and understand how federal and Michigan employment laws may affect sick or quarantined employees.

For continued updates about the COVID-19 coronavirus and responding to it, please subscribe to this publication. For specific questions, use this link to contact Michigan attorney Jason Shinn.