Businesses Urged to Prepare for Bird Flu
BY Angus Loten
A new White House report says up to 40% of the nation’s workforce could be affected.
Businesses must prepare for a severe shortage of employees and other disruptions associated with a potential bird-flu pandemic, according to a White House report released Wednesday.
The 228-page report outlines several hundred point-by-point steps to be implemented by federal agencies and other entities based on a worst-case scenario, in which the virus kills 2 million people and infects 50 million more -- ultimately sidelining 40% of the nation's workforce.
In November, the Bush administration submitted a $7.1 billion emergency budget to Congress for pandemic preparedness.
White House spokesman Scott McClennan called the plan a "road map" designed to put the president's response strategies into action.
The plan includes a checklist by the Department of Health and Human Services calling on companies of all sizes to evaluate the potential effects of a pandemic on their business, employees, and customers, while establishing clear policies to lessen its impact on the economy.
Among other initiatives, the checklist includes:
Identifying a pandemic coordinator or team, as well as essential employees required to maintain business operations
Training an ancillary workforce, including contractors or retirees
Establishing an emergency communications plan
Preparing for employee absence due to illness, school and transportation closures, or quarantines
Improving employee access to health care services
Establishing policies for when an inflected employee may return to work