Our successful launch of the Health Plans for Jewelers program in Q4 of 2019 gave us a lot to be thankful for here at the Jewelers Suite.  Not only are we now able to offer affordable healthcare solutions to every segment of the jewelry industry, including retail, wholesale, sales representatives and service support vendors, watchmakers, bench jewelers, consultants, pawnshop owners, jewelry designers and specialty shops, but we also get to connect every day with industry members who share their health care challenges and concerns with us as well.

The launch of the Health Plans for Jewelers program didn’t happen overnight.  We spent approximately two years researching, watching, waiting and praying that things would fall into place for us to be able to crack the door open enough to make the plan happen.  It wasn’t until the spring of 2019 when things finally fell into place, and we were able to start putting our plans in place.

Since we are so immersed in both the health care side, and within the jewelry industry, it gives me a unique perspective on current events, such as the Coronavirus and the weird flu season we are experiencing, and the effects, and impacts, each may have on our industry in 2020.

Coronavirus may be in the headlines, but it’s still flu season, and an exceptionally weird one at that, which many of our fellow industry professionals are talking about as they return from Tucson.  Officials are seeing a new spike in flu activity as they monitor a second strain of the flu hitting right on the heels of the first.

The 2019-2020 flu season already had an unusual start, with the main strain of flu virus, influenza B, showing early and elevated activity beginning in November of 2019.  Flu season in the United States can ramp up in the fall and peak anywhere between December and March, then drag itself out as late as May. In the last 36 years, flu most often ramped up in December and January and peaked in February. 

But now, Influenza A is making a comeback. In recent weeks, there has been a surge in activity of H1N1 in the U.S., according to data from the CDC. And that means even more people are going to the doctor for flu — the percentage of people visiting the doctor for flu-like illness increased from 6.6% of all visits last week to 6.8% of all visits this week, according to the CDC.

This type of “double-barreled” flu season is unusual, although something similar did happen last year, when an initial wave of H1N1 activity was followed by a wave of H3N2 activity.  According to the CDD, there have been an estimated 26 million illnesses, 250,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths from flu so far this year.   “We may well have, for the second year in a row — unprecedented — a double-barreled influenza season,” according to Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. 

Many of my industry friends have shared experiences with the “Tucson Crud” they either recovered from or are in the process of recovering as they return from the Tucson gem events.  Some were so sick that they ended up spending several days in the hospital, which is, of course, always a cause for concern.  This flu season isn’t messing around, it’s serious business.

But the flu season is something that happens every year.  We know it’s coming, and do our best to prepare for it.  It’s scary, and deadly, but it is a sickness most people are used to dealing with.  Flu shots, hand sanitizer, wipes and common sense usually help keep the worst of it at bay. 

The Coronavirus (COVID-19), which was first reported in Wuhan, China, on December 31, 2019 is different.  Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.  Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.

In less than two months, the spread of the coronavirus in China and beyond has prompted shifts in our industry that are making people sit up and take notice.  The virus has caused many businesses in China to temporarily close, which is now beginning to affect the jewelry supply chain, both from China, and India.

And over the last 10 days, several international jewelry trade show organizers announced they are either moving or cancelling shows altogether, with only one, the Bangkok trade show, saying it will go on as scheduled. 

So what does this mean for the industry, and the industry trade show season which is just now getting cranked up?  It seems like now might be a great time to err on the side of caution when it comes to international travel, at the least.  The World Health Organization has declared that the outbreak of Coronavirus now meets the criteria for a public health emergency of international concern, and China’s central bank just announced it will reportedly destroy some cash in areas hard-hit by the coronavirus to prevent contagion.

It’s unclear how long the Coronavirus outbreak will last. If the SARS outbreak is any indication, it could drag on for months longer—although it appears the public-health response in China has been much faster this time around. 

As of now, there is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this disease. The CDC is currently recommending the use of these everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask.
    • CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.

Have concerns or want to know more about how the Coronavirus may impact your business, health or family, have questions about this article or want to suggest a topic for me to cover in future blogs? I’d love to hear from you! Email me at Ann@JewelersSuite.com today!

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