What is known about Coronaviruses?
In the late 1960s, a new group of viruses was identified and named coronavirus. They were considered unique because they were found in humans and animals such as mice and swine. Their symptoms included human bronchitis, mouse hepatitis and swine gastroenteritis.
Further research focused on human coronaviruses; however, animal coronaviruses were increasing rapidly and found in a growing number of animals including rats, chickens, turkeys, doges, cows, cats and rabbits.
In 2002, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoVs) began to grip the world after originating in China. The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) started in Saudi Arabia in 2012. MERS is considered not as contagious as SARS but it is more deadly. However, many coronaviruses are relatively harmless such as the common cold.
In 2009, the H1N1 influenza virus killed over 150,000 through 2010. It is believed that this was the same virus that caused the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, which killed over 50 million people worldwide. Ebola emerged in 1976 and had a major outbreak in West Africa starting in 2014. Ebola has a much hire mortality rate compared to coronaviruses like SARS-CoVs and MERS. A person has a 50% chance of dying if they contract Ebola. However, like SARS and MERS, Ebola is thankfully not easily transmittable.
Covid-19 is the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that began as a pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, China in December, 2019. There is an ongoing debate as to whether it originated from a Chinese lab researching coronaviruses or whether it began at a wholesale seafood market where bats and other wild animals are sold. Covid-19 is 70% genetically similar to SARS-CoVs and 96% similar to a known bat coronavirus. On March 11, 2019, the World Health Organization declared the Covid-19 outbreak a worldwide pandemic. Its reach led to countless global lock downs to reduce the speed and rate of its transmission.
Do general liability insurance policies cover business interruption losses caused by Covid 19?
Businesses shuttered in by Covid 19 stay at home orders have sustained complete or partial losses of income due to the disruption of their normal business model. Naturally, these businesses are looking to see if their general insurance policies cover these losses. Unfortunately, the insurance industry is pushing back hard against these claims which are likely an unexpected risk. Typically, business loss provisions cover lost income that is incidental to a covered loss under the commercial business policy. The policy limits for this coverage will usually be stated separately in the policy’s Declarations. A simple example would be a fire loss. The insured property sustains significant property damage because of a fire. As a result, the business must close its doors during repairs. In this situation, coverage would be provided for lost income.
A standard endorsement for business loss coverage under a commercial insurance policy will frequently adopt language put out by the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO). A typical ISO endorsement reads as follows:
We will pay for the actual loss of Business Income you sustain due to the necessary “suspension” of your “operations” during the “period of restoration”. The “suspension” must be caused by direct physical loss of or damage to property at premises which are described in the Declarations and for which a Business Income Limit of Insurance is shown in the Declarations. The loss or damage must be caused by or result from a Covered Cause of Loss.
Business loss coverage could also be triggered by a civil authority endorsement. The typical ISO provision states:
We will pay for the actual loss of Business Income you sustain and necessary Extra Expense caused by action of civil authority that prohibits access to the described premises, provided that both of the following apply:
(1) Access to the area immediately surrounding the damaged property is
prohibited by civil authority as a result of the damage, and the described
premises are within that area but are not more than one mile from the damaged property; and
(2) The action of civil authority is taken in response to dangerous physical
conditions resulting from the damage or continuation of the Covered Cause of Loss that caused the damage, or the action is taken to enable a civil authority to have unimpeded access to the damaged property.
Again, this coverage may only apply if there is an underlying covered loss regarding the insured property. However, some policies may provide broader coverage in the event of a more general civil authority order such as an evacuation incidental to an upcoming storm. Policies may also contain supply chain interruption or virus endorsements, the latter usually for insureds in the hospitality industry. These provisions can often be found in “Communicable Diseases” or “Special Perils Business Interruption” endorsements. Needless to say, these issues need to be addressed by someone with insurance coverage experience. Otherwise, an insured will not get the full benefit of the insurance premiums they have been paying for years on end.
Will employees be covered by Workers’ Compensation if they become ill from Covid 19?
There is no telling how many workers’ compensation claims will filed throughout the country as a result of the coronavirus also known as Covid 19. There are headline reports of meat packing plants being shut down because of the rapid spreading of the virus through the work force. However, meat packing plants are not the only industries being affected. Nursing homes, hospitals and grocery stores are just a few of the other businesses that can be affected by Covid 19. The lack of needed protective equipment such as masks and gowns needlessly exacerbates the communication of the virus.
There is already widespread debate on whether the contraction of the Coronavirus is covered by workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation laws vary state to sate but a common requirement is that benefits cover injuries caused by a specific incident or a repetitive group of related incidents. Examples of the latter would be the repetitive use of a keyboard or piece of industrial equipment. Many states also have coverage for “occupational diseases,” which are diseases affecting a particular industry more than the general public. An example of this would be asbestos exposure while working at an automotive brake plant. It can take decades for the mesothelioma lung cancer to develop.
In New Jersey, work related accidents and illnesses are governed by New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Act (NJ.S.A. 34:15-1 et seq.). When the claim involves an occupational exposure to a disease such as Covid 19, an ill employee is entitled to compensation if she can establish that the condition arose out of and during the course of her employment, and the condition is characteristic to her particular trade, occupation, process or place of employment. (NJ.S.A. 34:15-31).
During a pandemic, it may be difficult for workers to establish how and where they were exposed. However, certain employees such as public safety workers are entitled to a presumption that their condition is work related if they contract the disease while responding to a specific event where the disease is present. (NJ.S.A. 34:15-31.5). Unfortunately, the definition of a public safety worker does not include “essential workers” as defined under the coronavirus orders put out by Governor Murphy. New legislation would be needed to broaden the definition of a public safety worker.
In Pennsylvania, there are also two types of workers’ compensation claims. One is the traditional case of sustaining injuries caused by a work related accident. (77 P.S. Section 411(1)). The second type is “occupational disease” cases. Typically, exposure to a disease must be substantially greater in the employee’s industry or occupation than in the general population. (77 P.S. Section 27.1 (n)). In such cases, a lower burden of proof may apply. The law includes a list of diseases such as virus Hepatitis C. Given that Covid 19 is new, it is not included amongst the list of covered diseases. However, if the worker can relate her condition to a specific incident or event, this should immediately be reported to the employer, who is required to respond to a reported claim within 21 days. This could serve as the basis an accident related claim.
What role has China played in the cause and delayed response to Covid 19?
The Coronavirus, originating in Wuhan, China, has been a main topic in the news since the beginning of the outbreak. It is an issue that brings a rapid growth of concern over how it will affect the global economy in the long run. This article will examine the timeline of the outbreak of the Coronavirus in China, as well as a timeline of how the Chinese government responded to the hysteria and severity of the epidemic. From there, it will analyze a specific study released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the epidemiology of the Coronavirus. Finally, it will touch on China’s attempts to return their economy back to a relative state of normalcy as the timeline of the virus progressed. By connecting these three major points: a timeline, scientific study, and China’s attempts to return to normal, this paper will examine all that China has done, or lack thereof, to eliminate the spread of this pandemic.
Coronavirus Progression and Government Action
On December 21st, 2019, the first epidemic report was released to the public of China. For weeks, health authorities had been detecting strange and unusual cases of pneumonia in Wuhan and the surrounding regions. All of these cases were of unknown origin, but most people who were infected had some sort of connection to the Huanan Seafood Market. At this point, it is estimated that 3.3% of the Chinese public knew of the public health concern. This was the first clue for the Chinese government to start investigating the mysterious illness. Unfortunately, with Chinese New Year right around the corner, thousands of migrant workers traveled across China to their hometowns to celebrate. Throughout January, the number of pneumonia cases of unknown origin continued to rise, and it is estimated that an additional 64.6% of the population now knew of the public health concern . By January 23rd, the Chinese Government was well aware of the Coronavirus and its potential impact on the country.
With this information, Wuhan was locked down, and in just 3 days, 30 Chinese provinces announced a first class emergency. With this strong sense of urgency on the part of the Chinese government, it is estimated that 93.1% of the Chinese population now knows about the Coronavirus and it’s public health concerns. One of the biggest concerns regarding the coronavirus is the speed of lockdowns. Since the number of new cases had already been rising for over a month pre-shutdown, an estimated 5 million people had already left Wuhan and traveled to another province, or outside of the country. With all of this kept in mind, the Communist Party of China’s central committee met on January 26th, and decided to extend the Spring Holiday, also known as Chinese New Year, to February 2nd, instead of the original ending date in January, 2020. This was done with the hope of keeping people at home, out of the public, and away from work. Measures were also put in place to make sure citizens were wearing masks outside, restrict travel, postpone gatherings, and promote social distancing as much as possible. After these announcements, it is estimated that virtually all of China’s population now knows about the coronavirus and its health risks. At this time, the number of infections had surged to over 10,000 cases and the death toll exceeded that of the SARS outbreak, China’s last major epidemic.
In February 2020, there were 28 hospitals open to treat Coronavirus in Wuhan. With cases continuing to rise, hospital beds quickly filled up and staff was forced to switch to temporary beds for new patients. Thousands of medical professionals from all of the country were encouraged to, and do, travel to Wuhan to help fight off the disease. The Chinese Government also pledged to build two new hospitals to combat overcrowding. On February 2, 2020, Huoshenshan Hospital was the first temporary hospital to open up. It is equipped with 1,000 beds, 25,000 square feet, and was constructed in only 10 days (WHO 2020 n.pg.). With China’s unique control over factors of production in the country, this extremely quick turnover was made possible.
Just six days after Huoshenshan Hospital was opened for use, it was already fully occupied with new coronavirus cases. There were 9,198 beds occupied on February 7, 2020, with only 128 spare beds available. On February 12th, an improvement was made to the diagnosis method. This results in another sudden surge of confirmed cases in China. With thousands of new cases being confirmed in Wuhan alone. By March, 2020, the Chinese government implemented a series of large-scale public health interventions to control the epidemic. According to the World Health Organization, the many steps that China took to control and prevent the spread of COVID-19 went well beyond the requirements for an epidemic. Through large-scale interventions, they were able to set new benchmarks and standards for emergency responses in countries around the world. The strategy adopted by China has changed the fast-rising curve of newly diagnosed cases, and the simplest and most direct thing that can explain this is the data.
The Hidden Truth About Covid 19
As the surface of the timeline appears, many commended China on their quick and bold approach to shut down their entire country. As it is true that they reacted urgently on January 23, 2020, the whole truth of their actions was not revealed at first. Between January 6 and January 17 of this year, China planned something known as “Two Sessions,” where local and provincial leaders met to discuss state and local affairs concerning the outbreak and how to deal with “troublemakers,” or those who spoke out about the issue. In addition, intel says they discussed how to hide undesirable developments from Beijing, who sent groups of experts to investigate the outbreak that was being called “Viral Pneumonia of Unknown Etiology” at the time. The group of leaders essentially came up with a plan to ensure their secrets. First, from December 31 through January 20, 2020, China’s National Health Commission (NHC) sent three teams to investigate Wuhan (Yang). According to these teams, there was no evidence that the virus could be passed from human to human.
The next part of the plan entailed keeping experts quiet. One specific instance was that of Li Wenliang and Ai Fen. Fen shared lab results with Wenliang that showed the virus was similar to SARS at the Wuhan Central Hospital. This news could bring loads of information on how to attack the spread, but when Wenliang began to alert hospitals, she was reprimanded for spreading rumors and scaring the public. In addition to this, other health companies were restricted from testing and developing studies near Wuhan’s province, which is why the study later in this paper takes place nearby. The government restricted the passing of information as best they could. Even more, the expert teams from the NHC were even restricted.
Although they were officially sent to “gather information on the spread,” they were not authorized to speak with local doctors in the infectious disease wards at the hospitals. The last and possibly most essential part of their plan to conceal the outbreak was the criteria to be diagnosed. As officials stated the outbreak was Viral Pneumonia of Unknown Etiology, part of the criteria to be diagnosed with the disease was that the person had to have been at the Huanan Market in recent history. However, this did not add up for healthcare personnel who were getting sicker by the day, so they were not officially recorded in the number of cases. This strict criteria kept the case number low. If doctors tried to submit a case that did not meet this criteria, they were reprimanded. Because of this severity, China was able to announce “zero” new cases on January 11, 2020 making it appear that they had things under control.
Overall, but limiting information and restricting healthcare, China was able to hide the severity of the outbreak that took place months ago. It is hard to say what the difference would be, but the Vice President of the United States argues that time is essential and even an extra month would have done the world well. Because of their ability to hold back information, organize their local and provincial leaders, and punish the healthcare system, it has been extremely difficult to analyze the size of the issue in China, adding fuel to the already immense fire that is the pandemic.
At the beginning of March, 2020, the CDC released a study early on the epidemiology of the Coronavirus, one of the only studies of its kind. Although the first reported outbreak took place in Wuhan, China, the study took place in the Gansu Province due to the high restrictions in the province where Wuhan is located. Because of the lack of control in Wuhan due to it being a major city with a large transient population of about 5 million on top of 9 million full-time residents, the disease spread quickly. In late January, 2020, Wuhan was placed on lockdown. However, due to fear of the disease, a travelling population, and the upcoming celebration of the Chinese New Year, the lockdown was not completely successful because a large number of the Wuhan population left prior to the shutdown. Because of that, in order to study epidemiology, or the incidence, control, and spread of a disease, this team chose to study a nearby Province. The Gansu Province, located northwest of Wuhan, is the seventh largest province in China, encompassing twelve major cities. It is 454,000 square-kilometers and there are a total of 26 million people living there, with about 287 people per square-kilometer.
The demographics gathered about each participant in the study include age, sex, occupation, residence, and exposure history. The study split a 12-day period into two 6-day phases: the first took place January 23, 2020 and the second was from January 29 through February 3, 2020. From there, the group compared both phases to determine whether most cases were from traveling to Wuhan, or if the new cases came from transmission in Gansu. In the 12-day period, 54 cases arose, where 34 were found in people who traveled to Wuhan and 19 were cases from transmission. The early release of the study included statistical and spatial analyses.
The statistical description included demographic characteristics, exposure time, whether each of the cases was from transmission or direct travel. Spatially, the study used a z-statistic to find that clusters of highly populated areas were significant in the study. Because the CDC released this study so early, the results should be taken lightly, without any predictions or assumptions about what this means for the future of China. However, it is still imperative that the results be discussed. Within the 54 cases of the study, it found that most primary cases were found in a median age of 38, while most secondary cases were older. The researchers discussed how this could be because the main travelling population was middle-aged because they make up a generous portion of the working population. The researchers were not able to come up with concise data on how age and sex determine the possibility of catching the virus, but indicated that other studies and literature in China are developing information and observations to help determine it.
One important finding in this study is that the severity and hospitalization rate did not differ between primary and secondary cases, leading the researchers to believe that the virus does not grow stronger through transmission, which is important for the government to keep in mind when considering the reopening of facilities. Overall, because of the small size of the study and the quick turnover time for release, it is important to not make heavy conclusions about the findings. Rather, it is important to see that alongside the government’s regulations timeline, scientists and researchers are working in a timeline of their own to receive, record, process, and distribute as much evidence and fact as they can, while still remaining credible. The hope of this study was not to prove strong facts about the virus, but rather point the government in the right direction when deciding how they should move forward with aiding regions to help combat the spread of the disease by informing the development of more effective infection control policies.
What did China do to “Return to Normal”
As the global number of cases grows everyday globally, the ever-present threat that a second wave of infections could hit China has led Chinese government officials to cautiously reboot the economy as they have been able to get the virus under control at home. The return to “normal” started taking shape on March 19, 2020, the first day that China reported no new local cases of the Covid 19 according to a timeline from the New York Times.
The nature of the illness called for a 14 day period without new cases before the restrictions could officially be eased, but this initial milestone allowed Chinese government officials to begin preparing next steps when the worst of the outbreak was finally deemed over. The Chinese government at the national level has proceeded with the slogan Fugong fuchan, meaning “resuming work, resuming production” and outwardly trying to convey a sense that they have beaten the virus and are quickly returning to normal. However, under the surface this is not entirely true, as local officials in certain cities and provinces had not allowed residents to fully return to certain settings even after the official shutdown has ended. Amongst the lifting of the national shutdown, the Sichuan province hastily banned residents from returning to entertainment venues and on March 30, 2020, the city of Jinzhou deemed that places where people could gather would not be allowed to reopen for an indefinite period of time.
The nation as a whole had seen uneven levels of reopening, which was shown as shopping malls and businesses in Wuhan began to reopen but the neighboring province of Jiangxi barring Wuhan residents from crossing the border, leading to clashes between residents and government officials. Even amongst the confusion the uneven levels of reopening had caused, production nationwide had begun to return to a somewhat normal pace.
A report from ForeignPolicy.com explains that late March, 2020 saw most of China’s auto-manufacturers reopening their factories and starting to produce goods again, which has been evident in the once again deteriorating air quality that had temporarily improved during the government imposed shutdowns of the coal-powered plants. The same report also pointed out that rush hour traffic has already returned to average levels in Shanghai and Beijing, and even in the outbreak’s epicenter, the Hubei province, has seen a return to almost normal levels of travel.
Despite this positive step, the largest hurdle that the Chinese economy faced during its initial attempt to return its economy to where it was before the crisis was tentative demand at home and abroad. The shutdowns in nations with huge markets like the United States and European countries left Chinese firms with a gap in demand even as restrictions on exports and imports were eased starting in mid-March. With many Chinese industries reliant on this demand and major parts of the world still remaining under lockdown, it was difficult for the Chinese economy to return fully to normal. Overall, the Chinese government has done it’s best to portray their return to economic normal as successful but it had been uneven and marginally successful at best due to the rest of the world’s ongoing battle with the virus and continued tentative demand from Chinese citizens.
In the end, the coronavirus has spread from Wuhan to every part of the world and has become a global pandemic that continues to threaten people’s lives daily. As this paper conveys, this extremely contagious virus and the deadly illness it causes can all be traced to Wuhan, China. Due to its Chinese origin, the actions of the Chinese government following the discovery of the coronavirus were critical and ultimately set the stage for how the epidemic would be dealt with throughout the rest of the world.
Joseph Monaco, Covid 19 Attorney
If you believe you have an insurance claim for lost business income or a personal injury case from exposure to Covid 19, call or text me, Joseph Monaco, at 215-546-166 or 609-277-3166 for a free consultation.