Communicating Coronavirus Updates to Your Employees: The Patriot Software Way

communicating coronavirus image of a business sending out messages

We will continue to update here with future communications. Patriot Software is headquartered in Ohio, a state that’s been at the forefront of pandemic response. Feel free to share and edit as needed. 

Patriot Software’s President and Chief Legal Officer, Mike Wheeler—who is a licensed attorney in the state of Ohio—has been in daily communication with employees, providing COVID-19/Coronavirus updates via email and Slack. We thought it would be valuable to share these updates continuously. Feel free to use these to keep your team up-to-date, too.

Because of the coronavirus, it’s more important now than ever to communicate with your employees. Are you keeping your employees in the loop about the spread and your business’s coronavirus-related policies?

At Patriot Software, we believe it’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate during a crisis like this. From staying in touch with employees via Slack messaging and having virtual meetings to sending out daily updates about the coronavirus, we’re doing everything in our power to keep employees informed, safe, and healthy.

To get an idea of how to keep your employees posted during this pandemic, we’ve compiled our internal communications to use as templates. These are general communications with informal summaries, government responses to COVID, and helpful links geared toward self-education.

Patriot Software’s coronavirus communications

March 30

Dear All,

Hoping you had a safe and healthy weekend in the sunshine! Here are a few developments that [HR] and I felt may be helpful in navigating the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Finding yourself adding “homeschool teacher” to your list of talents? Governor DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton signed an order today keeping schools closed until at least Friday, May 1, 2020.  
  • Here are some free educational resources geared toward K-12 public education:

Last week, the President signed The CARES Act into law which, offering $2 trillion in economic relief to individuals and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new law provides for employers to apply for Payroll Protection Program loans through the SBA (Small Business Association). There is $350 billion available in SBA COVID-19 funding, which can be 100% or partially forgivable depending on employee retention through the coronavirus crisis. With proper planning, the entire Paycheck Protection Program loans of 2.5x monthly payroll may be forgiven. The list below are some of the items that we expect small businesses need to submit to their bank with their loan application:

  • 2019 IRS Quarterly 940, 941 or 944 payroll tax reports
  • Last 12 months of Payroll Reports beginning with your last payroll date and going backward 12 months
  • Payroll report must show the following for the time period above:
    • Gross wages for each employee, including the officer(s) if paid W-2 wages.
    • Paid time off for each employee
    • Vacation pay for each employee
    • Family medical leave pay for each employee
    • State and local taxes assessed on the employee’s compensation for each employee.
  • 1099’s for 2019 for independent contractors that would otherwise be an employee of your business. 
  • Do NOT include 1099s for services.
  • Documentation showing the total of all health insurance premiums paid by the Company Owner under a group health plan.
  • Include all employees and the company owners
  • Document the sum of all retirement plan funding that was paid by the Company Owner (do not include funding that came from the employee’s out of their paycheck deferrals).
  • Include all employees, including company owners
  • 401K plans, Simple IRA, SEP IRA’s

Feel free to send that list on to anyone you know that may be asking about SBA loans—full instructions are likely to be released tonight or tomorrow, and loans will be available starting Friday.

I hope this information has been helpful! As always, if you begin developing symptoms, please reach out to us at [email]. Finally, if you’re a bit overwhelmed by all of the unknown surrounding COVID-19, check out John Krasinski’s #SomeGoodNews program on YouTube to highlight great things happening in real time. Need more laughs—enjoy the Twitter memes trending as #After3WeeksWithMyFamily.

Just remember, it is FINALLY the last Monday we should expect to see this week.

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

March 26

Dear Team,

In lieu of my daily update, I wanted to reach out with info from [HR department] should you or a loved one become ill at any point. Primarily, if you are sick please reach out to [email] immediately in addition to your manager.

We have many resources available and can help navigate various issues. And, our primary concern is to ensure each and every one of our employees have the available resources to keep themselves and their family healthy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to provide timely updates, as maintaining open lines of communication are critical during this time. We hope everyone continues to stay healthy, but in the event you are not feeling well, we have included the following plethora of available resources and commonly asked questions below to help you navigate through these uncertainties:

What do I need to do if I or a member of my family is sick?

  • Notify [HR or other department]. Note: Your confidentiality is of the utmost importance, your personal medical information will not be released.
  • If you or a loved one feels sick and symptoms coincide with COVID-19—fever, shortness of breath, cough—the CDC has issued steps on how to handle symptoms.

How are our providers adjusting to COVID-19?

  • [Insurance company] will waive member cost share for all diagnostic testing related to COVID-19. This policy will cover the test kit for members who meet CDC guidelines and have the test completed at in-network providers. Per IRS guidance (Notice 2020-15), covering the diagnostic testing related to COVID-19 at $0 cost share will not jeopardize the tax status of an individual covered under a High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and paired with a Health Savings Account (HSA).

What if my family has a “qualifying event” and our insurance coverage needs to be updated?

  • In the event you experience a qualifying event (e.g., loss of other coverage, change in income that changes your eligibility, divorce, etc.), please reach out to [HR or other department] at [email], as soon as possible and they will walk you through the enrollment process.

We understand that this is a lot of information, and there is much more available. All we are asking is that employees keep us informed. Once we are aware of a potential illness, we will work with you through each step. While we may not be physically in the office each day, I am available at any time to answer any questions or provide you with further information. Please do not hesitate to reach out, as we are all in this together.

Thanks everyone!

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

March 25

Hi All,

Quick update today—my goal is to get you factual information as it becomes available so you can take a look at the end of the day or forward info on to those feeling overwhelmed by a deluge of information. Below are various helpful/interesting links and brief overviews regarding news in the last 24 hours:

map of the U.S. showing where people are engaging in social distancing

Source: The Washington Post

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

March 24

Dear Team,

This morning at 7:30 a.m. I was able to join a conference call led by doctors including those from The Cleveland Clinic, and it’s pretty incredible to hear what they’re doing to prepare for what they expect to be a major increase in COVID-19 cases in the coming days. They have turned our hospitals into giant ICU centers, transforming every available room into make-shift trauma centers due to expected continued coronavirus infection. Ohio announced that we will begin using hotels and college dorm rooms for extra capacity. Today’s Ohio press conference was very informative on this topic and it would be worth watching Dr. Amy Acton’s remarks on hospital transformation.

There’s been a tremendous amount of news, and it’s increasingly difficult to to determine what is fact and what is conjecture. When writing these memos, I’ve tried to put together only verifiable information for you. Here are a few updates:

  • President Trump held an outdoor town-hall style press conference where he asserted his desire to see America fully reopen for business by Easter Sunday. Whether that is possible remains to be seen as COVID-19 rates have drastically increased in the last 24 hours and experts warn that number will rapidly grow.
    • Ohio Governor Mike DeWine disagreed with the President, making national news by saying “protecting people and protecting the economy are not mutually exclusive. The fact is, we save our economy by first saving lives. And we have to do it in that order.”
  • Our federal elected officials still have not come together to pass an economic relief package. When they do, we’ll want to get official updates/analysis, as it may impact many of our Patriot Software clients. This news caused a huge day on Wall Street.
  • With confusing state-by-state mandates, here’s a great resource on what each state is doing.
    • Visit coronavirus.ohio.gov for full info on Ohio—which had 1 million visits in 60 seconds the moment that Governor DeWine issued the Stay At Home Order!
    • Lt. Gov. John Husted clarified today that Ohio businesses have a responsibility under Section 18 of the Ohio order, the employee can report violations to their local health department and the business will be held accountable. Also, any employees that are told to go home due to illness can immediately apply for unemployment assistance.

state map breaking down states that have passed or having pending legislation pertaining to the coronavirus

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

The best measure to protect your health and minimize viral spread is to maintain social distancing, which I know we’re all practicing. I’m hoping you’re all finding ways to enjoy the process of remote life as we know it.

chart showing coronavirus curve and goals to slow the spread of COVID-19

Source: Governor Mike DeWine, Twitter.

I appreciate those that continue to reach out to me [phone number] and [email] with questions, comments, and health concerns. We have so many resources available and want to make sure everyone stays healthy! Always communicate, we are here for one another!! You and your families are all in my prayers.

All my best.

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

March 23

A different take…

Today I went to an empty office building. It was surreal, yet I became overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude.

While we at first maintained social distancing in the office, it became clear that going 100% remote was the best decision for the whole company. It’s a great example of us all coming together to act quickly. We’ve invested heavily in our infrastructure and systems, and we had no idea that COVID-19 would so definingly prove that our company can run seamlessly off site.

———

So, here I am back at home, looking out at yet another bleak Ohio afternoon from my home office. The news is as dreary as the weather. I’m wondering whether this “Stay at Home” mandate put in place by our great state was worth it.

See, right this very minute my little family was supposed to finally be on vacation together. It was a vacation that, in many years, was never a priority because there was always more work to be done and more important things to focus on. But, here we are, living through an historical moment. I’m still here, and VERY MUCH with my family (sans clear water and white sands). Instead, I’m thrilled to see that my three boys are seeing the work ethic of their parents, and I hope it extends down to them and those that come after them.

It would be too enticingly easy to just pretend to “work remote,” but I know many sets of little eyes are watching and that my co-workers are as “all-in” on seeing Patriot be successful as I am. I don’t think I’ve been more motivated to be an example to them. My wife is sitting across the room from me working so hard to help the lives of little children in need here in our community. She found herself a few months back to be unexpectedly named as Board President of a non-profit called Tiqvah Hands of Hope that sees to the well-being of ~100 Canton City kids, and those kids are now even more vulnerable than ever and their major fundraiser has been canceled due to Coronavirus. Their need doesn’t end no matter if we’re in the midst of a once-in-a-generation pandemic. Yet, here are my kids—safe at home and well-fed—and they are (hopefully!) learning that what they choose to do every single day matters.

It’s with that lens that I look to the future. When I do venture out into the scary outside world, I am setting myself up to remember how grateful I need to continuously be to not only have a job but also to be a part of something incredibly unique at Patriot.

Further, I have extended family that would be highly susceptible to COVID-19. I’m sure you may, too. We have loved ones that have fought and overcame cancer, others that have incredibly amazing stories of beating the odds that come with rare diseases. So, when I ask myself whether the imposition of social distancing is worth it, I look at my kids, I look at my wife, I look at my extended family, and I look at my community and know that the answer is a resounding yes! May you all find moments of great joy in these uncertain times. May you find brief moments where you’ll one day look back and cherish the time you’ve unexpectedly had together. This time apart from the rush and busyness of life may be a huge blessing in disguise—it just depends on how you look at it.

Last night and today I watched the news—something I used to avoid when my kids were around. I find myself sitting there thinking how overwhelming everything is. This is a moment of “us together” working to limit the spread of a highly contagious virus. But, the news is tough to swallow! For example, Governor DeWine announced state budget cuts of up to 20% including no new contracts to be put in place effective today. Ohio is now seeing huge COVID-19 numbers, including 442 confirmed cases, but because of limited testing, we know this number is low. There are 104 hospitalized and 6 deaths. Dr. Amy Acton stressed that timing is everything and to communicate if anyone, or those in the household, are sick and to suspect COVID-19 and immediately isolate in quarantine at home. We should remember to utilize phone and telemedicine tools before going to the Emergency Department so as to limit spread. We know that social spread is taking place, so minimal or ZERO outside contact will help reduce contagion of the coronavirus. While Ohio’s supply chain is still healthy, the physical health of those that make our economy continue to operate is suddenly in question. With the Ohio Stay At Home directive, essential businesses must stay open while still maintaining proper social distancing. Creating a healthy environment for workers is a top concern.

With that news, it reminds me, again, how blessed and lucky I am to be a part of the Patriot Software family. I am home. I have a job. I am safe. I have food and my health is generally protected. I am blessed—we all are. Now, what do we do with that blessing and how do we use the gifts in our lives to impact the lives of our customers, and our neighbors, too?

One day we’ll rebook that missed vacation and I think the memories made will be just that much sweeter. As always, I am here for anyone that needs to talk. If you need anything or feel even slightly unwell, please also contact us at [HR email]. Take care, friends and thanks for reading. Remember, we depend on one another and have loved ones that hopefully are not only watching—but they are better for it!

All my best.

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

March 22

Hey Team,

I’d hoped to remain rather quiet this weekend to give everyone a much-needed information-break from what seems like constant COVID-19/Coronavirus updates. However, I wanted to get a few resources over to you ASAP [the following information is Ohio-specific, as our headquarters is in Canton, but it is consistent with what a number of other states are doing]. Earlier this afternoon, Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton announced that Ohio will be under a Stay at Home Order for all non-essential services beginning Monday, March 23rd at 11:59 pm and lasting until at least April 6, 2020. That order means that Patriot Software will continue to operate fully remote — please plan to work from home during that period.  

Information on the Stay at Home Order is available online via the following:

Why? Why are these measures seemingly so extreme? The Governor said he’s an optimist and then quoted that Abraham Lincoln understood this well when he famously quipped, “If given the truth, the people can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.” The point of my emails has been to present as much of the truth as possible as education helps quelch fear.

The fact is that the COVID tests are now being reserved for the most at-risk individuals. This means that many individuals that present signs/symptoms of the virus are being told by their doctors to quarantine at home unless additional symptoms begin to present. Thus, the numbers we see nationwide and globally are only counting verified/tested cases. The actual number of COVID cases is most certainly much higher. With that information, it does mean that we have to protect those more vulnerable in our society and we do that best by not being in contact with one another.

Additional help: For those that have extended family or friends considering whether they qualify for a COVID-19 disaster assistance loan, feel free to pass along this William Teusink resource as I’ve found it straight-forward and helpful. Also, my legal colleagues at Baker Hostetler put together a continuously-updated COVID-19 Resource Center that is comprehensive and considers all of the final details of legal, tax, and HR rules and they gave me permission to forward to you all.

Stay safe, friends, and I hope you’re finding time to create wonderful family memories — even under the circumstances. Always remember to contact [HR email] or me directly as needed — we’re here for you!

All my best and Happy Sunday!

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

March 20: Second update

Dear All,

A few end-of-week updates and helpful tips for employees seemed like a great way to end a rather nutty few days. I wanted to send out an email to go through a few “what if’s” and some other news.

What do I need to do if I get sick and I’m an employee?
Please call your physician or emergency department to report your sickness. Also, please contact [email] with any possibility of interaction with COVID-19/coronavirus. [HR or other department] has multiple resources available to assist employees as needed.

Will I lose my benefits?
No, if you are currently on one of our medical, dental or vision plans, we are not anticipating any changes in relation to your plan. [HR or other department] has been in contact with each of our providers and will continue to provide employees with any new updates.

What if my family has a “qualifying event” and our insurance coverage needs to be updated?
In the event you experience a qualifying event, (Examples: loss of other coverage, change in income that changes your eligibility, divorce, etc.), please reach out to the [HR or other department], [email], as soon as possible and they will walk you through the enrollment process.

What are some things our providers are doing to adjust to COVID-19/coronavirus?
[Insurance company] will waive member cost-share for all diagnostic testing related to COVID-19. This policy will cover the test kit for members who meet CDC guidelines and have the test completed at in-network providers. Per IRS guidance (Notice 2020-15), covering the diagnostic testing related to COVID-19 at $0 cost-share will not jeopardize the tax status of an individual covered under a High-Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and paired with a Health Savings Account (HSA). Feel free to reach out to [HR or other department] with any questions.

Rather than focus on the outside world, my hope is that you have a safe and enjoyable weekend with family. I’ll certainly do my best to reach out this weekend if/as needed. We’ll continue to watch this unfold day-by-day. Always feel free to reach out to me at [phone number] with any questions or concerns, as I certainly will be home and available!

Take care, everyone!

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

March 20: First update

Dear Team,

I’ll tell ya what!! Not sure about you, but my commute to work this morning was rather perfect. I felt like I got there in no time at all! While I miss you all, it’s great to see everyone making the most of remote work via [preferred method of communication].

Please do not come into the office for any reason without manager permission as we’ve been working hard to sanitize every surface throughout the building.  Also, we are planning to continue working remote next week. I’ll continue to update you as the situation develops.

Rather than wait for press conferences from President Trump (I may send a bullet-pointed list later or this weekend if applicable), I wanted to get out a comprehensive overview regarding various federal updates and new COVID-19/Coronavirus legislation that has an immediate impact on all Patriot employees and Patriot customers.

We are all working hard to understand the updates, and I wanted to put together bullet items to help answer questions.

Federal Updates/Resources:

  • April 15 payment extension. Income tax payments due April 15, 2020 can be made by July 15, 2020. (Notice 2020-17, IRB 2020-15). For more information and details, see IRS provides extension for federal income tax payments due April 15.
  • IRS central website. The IRS website has a coronavirus webpage focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus.
  • Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court is postponing the oral arguments currently scheduled for the March session (March 23-25 and March 30-April 1). The Court will examine the options for rescheduling those cases in due course considering the developing circumstances. See the press release.
    Tax Court. The U.S. Tax Court has canceled March and April 2020 sessions. See the March 11 and March 13 press releases.

Legal Update: Families First Coronavirus Response Act signed into law on March 18, 2020.  An overview of the main points of the Federal Law:

In the coming days and weeks, federal regulatory agencies, including the Department of Labor (DOL) and Health and Human Services (HHS), will provide guidance on how to execute or implement the new Family First Coronavirus Response Act (known as the FFCRA) requirements. In the meantime, employers and advisors must rely on a good faith interpretation of the act’s text. We are working with various resources, such as the HR Support Center, to share everything we know today. We encourage you to check back for updates.

Summary: For certain circumstances related to COVID-19, employees will be eligible for:

  • Up to two weeks of sick leave (full pay for self, 2/3 pay for family care) for illness, quarantine, or school closures.
  • Up to 12 weeks of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for school closures (10 days unpaid and then up to 10 weeks at 2/3 pay).

Effective Date of Law:  

  • The FMLA and Paid Sick Leave sections discussed below will go into effect on April 2, 2020 and expire December 31, 2020. It appears there is no retroactive application.

Key Elements for Employers

  • FMLA expansion
  • Paid sick leave
  • Payroll tax credit
  • Group health plan benefit mandate

Emergency FMLA Expansion

  • Covered Employers: Employers with fewer than 500 employees are covered.
  • Covered Employees: Any employee who has been employed for at least 30 calendar days, though employers may be able to exclude employees who are health care providers or emergency responders.
  • Covered Leave Purpose: To care for a child under 18 of an employee if the child’s school or place of care has been closed, or the childcare provider is unavailable, due to a public health emergency, defined as an emergency with respect to the coronavirus declared by a federal, state, or local authority.
  • Duration: Up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave.
  • Compensation: No pay for first 10 days of leave (other paid time off, and emergency sick leave under the FFCRA, may be applied).
    • After 10 days, employers must pay two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate of pay for the number of hours they would normally be scheduled to work, capped at $200/day and $10,000 total.
  • Reinstatement to Position After Leave: The same reinstatement provisions apply as under traditional FMLA. However, restoration to position does not apply to employers with fewer than 25 employees if certain conditions are met:
    • The job no longer exists because of changes affecting employment caused by an economic downturn or other operating conditions that affect employment caused by a public health emergency;
    • The employer makes reasonable efforts to return the employee to an equivalent position; and,
    • The employer makes efforts to contact a displaced employee if anything comes up within a year of when they would have returned to work.
  • Note: The act reserves the right for the Secretary to exclude certain care providers and first responders from the list of eligible employees and to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if business viability is jeopardized.

Emergency Paid Sick Leave

  • Covered Employers: Employers with fewer than 500 employees.
  • Covered Employees: All employees (no matter how long they have been employed), though employers may be able to exclude employees who are health care providers or emergency responders.
  • Covered Leave Purposes:
    • When quarantined or isolated subject to federal, state, or local quarantine/isolation order;
    • When advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine (due to concerns related to COVID-19);
    • When experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking a medical diagnosis;
    • When caring for an individual doing #1 or #2 (2/3 pay);
    • When caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19 (2/3 pay); or,
    • When the employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition (2/3 pay).
  • Duration of Leave:
    • Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave.
    • Part-time employees are entitled to sick leave equal to the number of hours worked on average over a typical two-week period.
  • Rate of Pay:
    • Sick leave must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay for leave used for the employee’s own illness, quarantine, or care.
    • Sick leave must be paid at two-thirds of the employee’s regular rate if taken to care for a family member or to care for a child whose school has closed, or if the employee’s child care provider is unavailable due to the coronavirus.
    • Pay is capped at $511/day and $5,110 total if the employee is entitled to their regular rate.
    • Pay is capped at $200/day and $2,000 total if the employee is entitled to two-thirds of their regular rate.
  • Interaction with Other Employer-Provided Paid Sick Leave and other Paid Leave:
    • This act does not preempt existing state and local paid sick leave requirements.
    • Employers cannot require employees to use other leave first.
    • Sick leave provided for under the act does not carry over from year to year, and the requirements expire December 31, 2020.

Notice Requirements:

  • Employers must post a model notice, which will be provided by the federal government.
  • Note: The act reserves the right for the Secretary to exclude certain care providers and first responders from the list of eligible employees and to exempt small businesses with fewer than 50 employees if business viability is jeopardized.

Payroll Tax Credit:

  • Applies to both the emergency FMLA expansion and the emergency sick leave.
  • Dollar for dollar credit for sick leave and paid FMLA wages against the employer portion of Social Security taxes.
  • Refund is possible for amounts that exceed what is available as a credit.
  • Limits on what can be claimed mirror the caps for what must be paid.

Health Plan Benefit Mandate:

  • The act requires all insured and self-funded medical plans, including grandfathered plans, to cover diagnostic testing-related services for COVID-19 at 100 percent without any deductibles or co-pays.
  • Examples include services provided by doctors, emergency rooms, and urgent care centers leading up to the decision that testing is needed, along with the actual lab-based testing.

Unemployment Aid Expansion

  • The FFCRA also expands unemployment benefits (nearly $1 billion in state grants) by providing greater assistance to states so they can handle the increased claims as a result of coronavirus.

Nutrition Assistance 

Please feel free to reach out to me with questions or for clarification. Internally, we’ve developed a much more comprehensive look at the FFCRA to help plan for software and internal updates. Also, our Patriot Software marketing team worked hard with Mike Kappel to publish this Forbes Article on “6 Ways to Protect Your Business During the Coronavirus Outbreak,” and it’s a great resource!

Please continue to contact [email] with any possibility of interaction with COVID-19—no matter how likely/unlikely—as we have resources available to assist should they be needed. Be assured that news reports state that the supply chain is still in great conditions and that grocers are not running out of food.

While remaining up-to-date with information on COVID-19 is helpful, please be reminded that even Governor DeWine is urging you to disconnect from time-to-time, your mental health is important. Take care of yourselves!! Put down your phones and turn off the noise when you can. It’s the first full-day of spring. I hear that the rain has passed and it should remain in the 60’s through late afternoon, so try to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather for a bit!

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

March 19

Dear Team,

Please continue to plan to work remote into next week. We do not anticipate asking anyone to return to the office at the moment, but we are taking the situation day-by-day. Today’s update will focus on a few matters and informational pieces to help understand the current state of events since yesterday. Global news is up and down, with the U.S. passing 10,000 confirmed cases, while China reported no new domestic virus infections for the first time since the outbreak began.

Virus Education: This morning, the Cleveland Clinic asked me to share this site which is a fantastic FAQ coronavirus resource. This video is an excellent overview piece to share with friends and family to help educate them about coronavirus. A good national resource comes from Fox Rothschild LLP, which includes free legal resources that will be continuously updated for employers and employees impacted by the virus.

cleveland clinic coronavirus prevention tips

Source: Cleveland Clinic.

The following are assertions from a Goldman Sachs call where 1,500 companies dialed in. The key economic takeaways were:

  • 50% of Americans will contract the virus (150m people) as it’s very communicable. This is on a par with the common cold (Rhinovirus) of which there are about 200 strains and which the majority of Americans will get 2-4 per year.
  • 70% of Germany will contract it (58M people). This is the next most relevant industrial economy to be impacted.
  • Peak-virus is expected over the next eight weeks, declining thereafter.
  • The virus appears to be concentrated in a band between 30-50 degrees north latitude, meaning that like the common cold and flu, it prefers cold weather. The coming summer in the northern hemisphere should help. This is to say that the virus is likely seasonal.
  • Of those impacted, 80% will be early-stage, 15% mid-stage, and 5% critical-stage. Early-stage symptoms are like the common cold and mid-stage symptoms are like the flu; these individuals are to stay at home for two weeks and rest. 5% will be critical and highly weighted towards the elderly.
    • Mortality rate on average of up to 2%, heavily weighted towards the elderly and immunocompromised; meaning up to 3m people (150m*.02). In the US about 3m/yr die mostly due to old age and disease, those two being highly correlated (as a percent very few from accidents). There will be significant overlap, so this does not mean 3m new deaths from the virus, it means elderly people dying sooner due to respiratory issues. This may however stress the healthcare system.
  • There is a debate as to how to address the virus pre-vaccine. The U.S. is trending towards quarantine. The UK is trending towards allowing it to spread so that the population can develop a natural immunity. Quarantine is likely to be ineffective and result in significant economic damage but will slow the rate of transmission giving the healthcare system more time to deal with the caseload.
  • Technically the market generally has been looking for a reason to reset after the longest bull market in history. There is NO systemic risk. No one is even talking about that. Governments are intervening in the markets to stabilize them, and the private banking sector is very well-capitalized. It feels more like ‪9/11 than it does like 2008.
    • There will be economic damage from the virus itself, but the real damage is driven mostly by market psychology. Viruses have been with us forever. Stock markets should fully recover in the 2nd half of the year.
    • China’s economy has been largely impacted, which has affected raw materials and the global supply chain. It may take up to six months for it to recover. Global GDP growth rate will be the lowest in 30 years at around 2%. S&P 500 will see a negative growth rate of -15% to -20% for 2020 overall.
    • In the past week there has been a conflation of the impact of the virus with the developing oil price war between the USA and Russia. While reduced energy prices are generally good for industrial economies, the U.S. is now a large energy exporter, so there has been a negative impact on the valuation of the domestic energy sector. This will continue for some time as the Russians are attempting to economically squeeze the American shale producers and the Saudi’s are caught in the middle and do not want to further cede market share to Russia or the US.
  • Definitely a time to plan, prepare and position our companies (and ourselves) for when we come out of this, we come out with a stronger plan and strategy then we did when we went into it!

President Trump spoke today (3/19) stating that the FDA may have a “tremendous breakthrough” as anti-malarial drugs are “effectively showing good results in combating” the COVID-19 virus. FDA Commissioner Hahn stated that we have “10,000 doctors working around the clock” to fight coronavirus.

What can you do to help? Well, if you’re healthy, please consider donating blood as supplies are low. “Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement,” said U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams today. Be aware, the U.S. government is asking healthy individuals to set up appointments to give blood to reduce crowding.

To end today’s message, I wanted to share a few uplifting stories worth checking out. CNN put together a montage on random acts of kindness taking place across the country.

Please feel free to forward me anything that could be of value to share in these updates. I appreciate you all and look forward to our next Zoom meetings and Slack conversations. Always feel free to contact me [phone number], I am here for you! If you or your family are affected by COVID, please let [HR or other department] know as we have resources in place to assist.

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

March 18

Hello Team,

“This virus is twice as contagious and 20-times more deadly than the flu,” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced today. Education about how to reduce community spread of COVID-19/Coronavirus through social distancing will save lives — especially for those that are most at risk and for our population over age 60.

After speaking with the Government & Community Relations department at The Cleveland Clinic and via their connections with PoliticoPro, I was able to confirm extensive state and federal initiatives. President Trump said today that he would invoke the Defense Production Act, which would significantly increase the production of critical equipment including hospital beds and other medical supplies. He also confirmed that the military would deploy two hospital ships, sending one to New York — which has become the biggest hot spot on the East Coast — and sending one to an undetermined location on the West Coast. In addition, he revealed that the Department of Housing and Urban development, in an attempt to provide “immediate relief,” would be suspending foreclosures and evictions through the end of April in addition to proposed $1 billion in economic relief.

President Trump also said that his administration is looking into self-administered coronavirus tests in an effort to dramatically expand access to tests for the fast-spreading disease. Trump said that his administration is working with “several groups” to determine whether a “self-swab” is as accurate as the tests health providers are currently performing. He’s pushing for speedy FDA approval of the self-swab test that people can do themselves. He didn’t elaborate on the timeline of getting the diagnostic to market, or who’s producing it. 

CDC public health labs and CDC labs coronavirus testing chart

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We are working to flatten the curve and contain the disease:

coronavirus curve

Source: Drew A. Harris, DPM, MPH, Twitter.

Friends, as we watch states across the country this is a state of emergency. We are at war with a virus. While 80% of us will be fine but it is all of our job to protect the other 20% that are most at risk. This is not a moment to take random outside personal contact with one another, no matter how well-intended. These articles are intended to be open about this problem and to educate one another, so please feel free to share them openly. I hope they’ve been factual and helpful.

In times like this, I look back through life and think of those that I may have had contact with in recent weeks—as well as the pain associated with the loss of those that have left the earth too soon. It is in love that I hope to distance myself from my friends and family because I never want to be part of an unnecessary loss of a loved-one due to coronavirus. There are too many stories of the otherwise healthy perishing across the world. Let’s all do our part to mitigate the spread by choosing to maintain proper distance and to continue refraining from social interaction. For now, please stay home and I’ll look forward to continuing interactions with you all on [video conferencing method]! Please reach out to me at [phone number] or contact [HR or other department] if you need to talk, have questions, or feel unwell — we are better together!

As always, stay healthy!

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

March 17

Dear Friends,

It’s been unsettling to hear of all the impacts that COVID-19/Coronavirus is having across the world. Be sure to take time to look after your own health first. For some, involuntary isolation can be incredibly difficult. For others, it may mean that taking time to go outdoors or do activities with family at home is essential for their overall health. Ohio Mental Health & Addiction Services have been posting great tips, resources, and suggestions that may be helpful. 

social distancing: instead of this, do that

Source: Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services (OhioMHAS, Twitter).

One outlet you do have available is connection to others within the Patriot community. We’re here for each other and in this time of social distancing. We have to remember that our physical separation should lower the risk of the spread of this disease which ultimately will save lives. This cause is noble and worthwhile, although notably difficult. 

We’ve gone 100% remote at Patriot Software — well done, team!!! Your continued hard work from home means that we will still operate as a well-oiled machine and provide world-class software and support to tens of thousands of Patriot customers coast to coast. We should all be proud, as non-interruption of service means we’re an even more reliable resource to our accounting and payroll clients.

Please continue to use [your preferred method of communication] to keep the team aware of availability, lunches, etc.

If you, like me, have been wondering what may happen to those that refuse quarantine, it turns out that Deputies in Kentucky are actively surrounding a COVID patient’s home for 14-days as he’d refused to comply. The authorities there “cannot allow one person we know has this virus to refuse to protect his neighbors.” There are reports that the disease may go undetectable if young people become infected, but the fact remains that they’d then be carriers and infect our older or physically weakened population simply is not worth the risk of continuing social interaction. Cincinnati police boarded up the windows of a business that refused to comply with Ohio’s ban on public gatherings. Overreaction? Think again — this Wall Street Journal article on the dire situation in Italy and “why we have to choose which patients to put in intensive care” outlines and shows exactly why we may still be under-reacting as a nation.

effects of social distancing on the 1918 flu deaths

Source: Governor Mike DeWine, Twitter

President Trump spoke early this afternoon (3/17) on why the government is imposing such stringent social regulations saying, “we are working to save the maximum number of lives.  Everything else will come back. Jobs and the economy will come back, but lives will never come back.” The Federal Government is looking into the possibility of immediately issuing checks to those most financially impacted by Coronavirus. Reports are becoming widely available on how those that don’t seem to be sick are spreading the disease, and education is key.

According to the Governor’s press conference, [insert state-related information here].

All, the goal of these emails is to present scientific data and mathematical evidence as to why social distancing works to reduce the curve of COVID infection. Feel free to forward them to friends/family if they’d be a helpful tool. Remember, many have already been laid off in various service industries — so try to shop local if you’re going out for drive-through food. Buying local will help support our economy so small businesses can keep afloat during these particularly difficult times. 

I am always here for every one of you at [preferred communication method]. We are actively working today to begin disinfecting the office building by sanitizing every flat surface, keyboard, door handle, etc. Please let [your HR email] know if you or any of your immediate family members begin showing coronavirus symptoms, as we are taking this threat very seriously. As always, stay safe my friends!!

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

March 16

Dear Team Patriot,

We have been getting reports all day that drastic measures were going to be put in place across the nation by this evening. 

As you monitor COVID-19/Coronavirus, one of the more interesting sites is the Johns Hopkins University Global Cases Chart. It is continuously updated. The United States had less than 1,000 cases last week and we are well over 4,000 cases now. They are saying to expect the number of confirmed cases to begin doubling daily as it spreads across the nation. Another consideration — very VERY few people have even been tested for COVID, so community spread of the disease may be much higher than numbers currently report. To help educate why the state and national response is incredibly pragmatic, I’ve found that this Washington Post article accurately helps explain how we are “flattening the curve,” and what may happen if we did not take drastic measures. We’ll never know how bad this could have been so long as we take these measures seriously, this Reuters article helps explain why social distancing is important.

free for all vs attempted quarantine comparison curve

moderate distancing vs. extensive distancing comparison curve

Source: The Washington Post.

President Trump spoke around 3:30pm today, the following excerpts help explain the national direction our government is taking to curb coronavirus:

  • Containment efforts — the administration considering larger containment and quarantine efforts. President Trump: “We are not considering a nationwide lockdown.”  
  • Other information regarding the President’s speech can be found online.

As we roll out 100% remote work, please finalize and adhere to the following points from [your HR department]:

  • Travel notification: Any employee who is traveling outside of [state] is required to notify [HR] of their destination regardless if they are using PTO, remote work, etc. via the Temporary Travel Tracker. For those that have elected to travel, we have been in touch with the Ohio Department of Health and they have urged us to put in place a minimum 5-day voluntary self-quarantine upon your return.  
  • Employees are required to utilize PTO if you are not able to work remotely. If you have not already done so, please review and sign-off on the Temporary Remote Work Procedure at your earliest convenience. To maintain open lines of communication, PTO requests still need to be approved through your manager. Note: The expectations of remote work are the same as if you were in the office. 
  • If you think for any reason you have come in contact with the COVID-19/Coronavirus or a person who has COVID-19/coronavirus, please notify HR. Note: Your confidentiality is of the utmost importance, your personal medical information will not be released but for the safety of the entire team, please notify HR immediately.
  • [Communication Method]: As we roll out 100% remote work, please utilize our [quick communication method of choice] to indicate if you are taking PTO, lunch breaks, leaving early, etc. As we will all now be working remote, for the time being, it is not necessary to continue to indicate daily that you are working remotely.  
  • [Communication Method]: Please continue to check [communication method] daily for additional updates.

According to the Governor’s press conference, [insert state-related information here].

Please stay home and close to those you love. If you know of any elderly, consider asking whether they need a meal delivered to their doorstep. Now is the time that America will band together as we always have in times of crisis. As a company, we will be there to help answer questions and update clients as new laws/regulations unfold. This is one of those defining moments, and we are abundantly prepared to not only make it through but to do exceedingly well!

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

March 13

Good Afternoon Everyone!

The COVID-19/Coronavirus is very much here in [state].

Please be patient and flexible while we work to create our corporate response based on the Governor’s orders, federal requirements, and CDC guidelines. This situation is changing daily, so our response will likely reflect the most up-to-date information.

Part of our multi-step plan is to ensure that the company continues to safely and securely operate and we expect to remain working under this scenario for the time being.  

If you feel that you’re in a position where you need to work remotely, please ask for permission from your manager. We continue to take extra precautions to ensure cleanliness and daily sanitization within the building. We urge all employees to take laptops home each evening along with any additional necessary equipment. If needed, HR has additional backpacks, USB Ports and chargers available, please stop up if you need any additional equipment. 

President Donald Trump held a briefing at the White House

  • President Trump has declared a National Emergency to Confront Coronavirus.
  • His declaration has authorized the waiving of laws and regulations which will open up to $50 billion to help fight the Coronavirus. 
  • Large scale drive through protocol at locations such as WalMart, Target, CVS, and Walgreens was announced. Additionally, Google has partnered to launch a response website by Sunday night and has dedicated 1,700 developers to create a comprehensive online response portal.
  • Federal Student Loan Interest will be halted for certain circumstances and the White House will release information via a memorandum later tonight on who this impacts.

 As a reminder, until further notice, we ask that no outside food such as birthday donuts or cookies be brought into the building, per CDC advice.  

Please plan to report to work each day unless otherwise directed or if you are showing signs/symptoms of illness. Our number one priority is your health. As always, I am completely available should you need me at [phone number] or [email]. Have a safe and healthy weekend—please be smart and we’ll look forward to next week!

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

March 11

Dear Team,

Please take a few moments to read the following. 

We at Patriot Software are taking this matter very seriously. We’ve implemented a multi-step plan to ensure that the company continues to operate. Some people will begin to work remotely, but we are asking that everyone continue to report to work unless we announce otherwise. If you feel that you’re in a position where you need to work remotely, please ask for permission from your manager and also HR. The Temporary Remote Work Procedure will need to be signed if remote work is required. If able, please begin taking your laptop home each evening but plan to return to the office the next day unless otherwise instructed by HR and/or your manager. We expect to remain working under this scenario for the time being, however, we will be following government guidelines. Therefore, we intend to continue operating as usual, with extreme attention to cleanliness in the building.  

During the Ohio Governor’s press conference I took the following notes which may be helpful if you’ve not had a chance to hear what the Department of Health is doing to control/combat this virus. According to the Governor’s press conference, [insert state-related information here].

The Governor’s strategy is to decrease the overall spread by implementing significant limitations on community/public events. This limitation would protect the capacity of what our hospitals can handle if COVID-19 continues to impact the community. They are working to avoid a level in our healthcare system which is considered to be a threshold where our healthcare system would become overwhelmed—similar to what has happened in Italy as they have no hospital space available for patients. Everything the Governor is doing is purposeful so as to not overwhelm our healthcare system.  

The doctors involved stated that COVID-19 is very unpredictable. Community spread of the virus at this stage is a game changer. 

The CDC states that the illness is particularly bad for our older population. Limit public events. If feeling unwell, please do not come into the office and/or work from home until at least 24 hours have passed once feeling better. 

COVID-19 cases in the U.S. per CDC map

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Please plan to report to work each day unless otherwise directed. Our number one priority is your health. Thank you for your patience in this matter as we all work to quickly respond. I am personally available [cell phone number] should there be an emergent situation where immediate attention is needed—please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Again, thank you, and let’s work to help mitigate this situation wherever possible.

From the desk of Mike Wheeler, Esq., President & Chief Legal Officer at Patriot Software.

This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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