Health care executives at large companies have been told by senior executives to expect the worst when it comes to COVID, even though the virus will not be completely contained.
The latest news that has reignited concerns is that senior executives at companies including General Electric Co., IBM Corp., and UnitedHealth Group Corp. have been given an update on the state of the pandemic.
Some executives at the top companies, such as CEO Jeff Immelt and chairman Gary Lauder, have told associates to expect that the pandemics response will be long and difficult, but they have been assured that things will return to normal once the pandemaker stops working.
That message came as the health care industry reported a spike in infections across the country, particularly among the elderly.
But some experts say the pandems initial response was woefully inadequate and that many people are not fully aware of what they will be going through once the coronavirus ends.
“We don’t know what the future will hold,” said Chris Cate, senior vice president for policy at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank that advocates for an American return to the global stage.
“This is a massive crisis that’s coming to a head in a matter of weeks.”
Dr. James Fenton, who is the medical director for the CDC’s coronaviral surveillance office, said he had not yet seen the updated plan for the COVID pandemic response.
“I have not had a chance to review it, and I don’t want to be in a position where I have to make a decision,” he said.
The plans, which have not been released publicly, include new guidelines for the use of antibiotics in the early stages of a pandemic, a recommendation for patients to stay in their homes for up to four days after a severe illness, and a requirement that healthcare workers wear face masks when working in close quarters.
The CDC has been warning about the need to use an array of strategies, including “situational awareness” and social media, to get the public prepared.
The agency also said it is planning to increase surveillance of flu shots for people who are under the age of 65, to be announced in mid-March.
While some health officials have cautioned against overreacting to the pandemia, others are hopeful that the virus may soon be contained.
“If we don’t have any information to go on that suggests that the situation is worsening, we’re going to have to wait and see,” said Dr. John Carrigan, director of the division of infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, who has studied the spread of COV-2.
“What we need is a sense of optimism.”
In addition to the new guidance, a senior executive at UnitedHealth said Friday that she had been told that some executives at GE were being asked to remain at their current positions for the foreseeable future.
The executive, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation, said she and other executives had been advised to “keep an eye out for anything new.”
She said the company has received no direct threats to its employees, but added that they are being encouraged to stay home and work during the pandemetep.
“It’s very much a precautionary measure,” the executive said.
“Everyone is being asked for patience.”
But she added that she expects the pandefacts to be a slow process.
“Everybody is going to go through this.
And everyone will get through it,” she said.