EPGD Business Law is committed to the health and welfare of our employees, clients, and friends. As such, we have prepared this bulletin to offer the latest developments, facts, and health tips in light of the ongoing developments of the Coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, the Coronavirus (COVID-19) was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, a classification used to describe a disease epidemic that spreads across a large region. In the case of Coronavirus, there have been reported cases and deaths in every continent except Antarctica. Wednesday evening, President Trump announced a ban on travel from Europe with exceptions for US citizens that have been pre-screened before reentering the country and for trade and cargo. On Thursday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez declared a county state of emergency and suspended mass gatherings, including the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair, the Miami Open tennis tournament, the MIA 5K run, and all major events at the American Airlines Arena.
Healthcare and Financial Preparedness:
Due to the media attention afforded to this public health crisis and the precautions that are being put in place, by local, state, and the national government, there has been a rise in interest for estate planning. While estate planning is always important, during health crises such as these, there are three important estate planning documents that cannot be overlooked: The Designation of Healthcare Surrogate, Advanced Healthcare Directives, and the General Durable Power of Attorney.
A Designation of Healthcare Surrogate is a document that names the person who will make healthcare decisions for you if you should become incapacitated and are no longer able to provide informed consent for medical treatment or surgical and diagnostic procedures. This document allows the surrogate to make medical decisions on your behalf which include, contracting for medical services, employing and discharging medical personnel, and reviewing and disclosing medical records. Advanced Healthcare Directives allow you to express your values and wishes with regard to end-of-life care. These include being placed on life support, receiving nutrition and hydration artificially, and receiving palliative medicines. Finally, a General Durable Power of Attorney grants your attorney-in-fact the legal power to act for you in all matters related to finances and business interests. The most common instance in which a Power of Attorney is needed is to make decisions with regard to banking, such as making withdrawals, receiving account statements, initiating wire transfers, and endorsing checks. Now might also be a good time to review your beneficiary designations and any existing estate plan you may have to ensure that your wishes are properly reflected.
Coronavirus “Fast Facts:”
- Coronaviruses have been around for some time. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are zoonotic, meaning that they are transmitted between animals and humans. A novel coronavirus (NCoV) is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously found in humans, such as COVID-19.
- Most cases of coronavirus are mild. Eighty percent (80%) of cases are classified as “Mild.” Twenty percent (20%) of cases are classified as “Severe” with a mortality rate between three and four percent (3-4%).
- Children are less susceptible. A study of 44,672 confirmed cases of infection found that children under 10 years old made up less than one percent (1%) of cases and none of the 1,023 deaths. A similar trend has been found in Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) which are distinct strains of coronaviruses. This immunity in children has yet to be explained. However, that is not to say that children cannot transmit the disease just as easily as adults. With COVID-19, at-risk groups are those over the age of 60 and those with chronic illnesses or compromised immune systems.
- Symptoms. Signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
- The virus is spreading quickly. The virus originated in China and is actively spreading in South Korea, Italy, Japan, France, Germany, and the United States, to name a few.
Tips on Staying Healthy:
- Wash your hands. Washing your hands frequently is the most effective way to prevent contracting the virus. Wash your hands often, for at least twenty seconds, with soap and water, especially after being in public spaces and after blowing your nose.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing. Covering your mouth prevents the spread of infectious germs. The safest way to cough or sneeze is into your elbow. If you use your hands, you risk transmitting germs to others by touching doorknobs, elevator buttons, and other surfaces.
- Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
- If you are sick, stay home. Those with symptoms should practice self-isolation to lessen the risk of spreading the virus to others.
- Have a plan in place. If you are a business owner, consider preparing a Business Continuity Plan in the event that operations are disrupted. Having a plan in place will ensure that everyone knows what actions to take as developments progress.
Individuals in Miami-Dade County who believe they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should call the Florida Department of Health at 305-324-2400. If you have a medical provider, call them. If traveling to a medical office or facility, call ahead. For questions about COVID-19 in Florida, please call the Florida Department of Health at 1-866-779-6121.