PPAI and promotional products industry companies are closely monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak and preparing for its impact on their operations and on the potential well-being of their employees.

PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, sent a letter on Wednesday to Association members to update them on the steps PPAI is taking regarding the coronavirus. Last month, PPAI held a webinar on the topic, featuring leading global experts in the fields of epidemiology and crisis management and a top specialist from the Center of Chinese Studies. Additionally, the Association has launched an information resource page on its website with the latest information on the virus, as well as published articles and additional resources.

This week, PPAI convened a meeting of its management team to discuss the latest news regarding the virus, how its spread might impact upcoming PPAI events and what needs to be considered to ensure the well-being of PPAI employees and members. As updates are announced, PPAI assured members that it will be timely with its communication and will do so through all available channels—social, email, web, Promo Connect, etc.

In the letter, Bellantone said, “Regarding our events, as of today, we plan to move forward as scheduled with all upcoming programs. However, with the situation changing so quickly, we will keep a very close eye on whether that direction continues to make sense for our members in the future. We will base our decisions on sound information and guidance provided by experts. I ask that you stay tuned and watch for updates, as we move forward. You can trust that we will make decisions that are in the best interest of our members and help us continue to be a good steward for our industry.”

Industry companies are taking similar steps within their own organizations to be prepared to respond to interruptions due to the outbreak. Among them is Lewiston, Maine-based distributor Geiger, which has had a pandemic preparation plan in place since the H1NI outbreak 10 years ago. With the plan now activated, which was reported by the Lewiston Sun Journal this week, the company’s pandemic preparedness team holds video conferences three times a week with a dozen employees located in the U.S. and Europe. As a precaution, Geiger has cancelled travel to Asia and is reviewing other international and domestic travel case by case, as well as regularly sending updates to employees on what is known about the coronavirus and its impact.

CEO Jo-an Lantz, MAS, told the Lewiston Sun Journal, “We’re preparing for everything and hoping for the best. Our No.1 priority is health and safety.”

Supplier Tingley Rubber Corporation is also preparing for potential interruptions, with its entire Piscataway, New Jersey, office staff working from home last Friday to test the company’s capacity to work remotely. Gerry Herson, national accounts sales manager, says, “Initial reports are that all of our systems held up well. We are confident that should it become necessary, we can effectively work remotely and be able to continue to service our customers with no interruption.”

Sandee Rodriquez, owner of distributor D and S Designs in Bridgeton, New Jersey, noted that one of the first steps she took for her business was to find out if the business insurance policy she carries includes business interruption coverage. She says, “It means that if I find my business is vastly impacted by, say, quarantines or other things that cause my income to drop dramatically, I'm checking to find out if I will be able to access that. I'm a sole proprietor so the other option I'm exploring is worker's compensation as a financial safety net if things get bad. I can ‘opt in’ for myself, but I'm checking to see if it would cover this type of situation.”

Harvard Business Review also published a list on March 2 of eight questions employers should ask about the coronavirus that helpfully frames many of the business decisions companies should make in responding to the outbreak. These include how best to protect employees from exposure in the workplace, analyzing employees’ ability to work remotely if needed and whether there are reliable systems in place for real-time public health communication with employees, among others.

Keep up with this ongoing situation and access additional resources at www.ppai.org/coronavirus-information.