You Don’t Know Coronavirus

I’m writing this on April 24th, 2020. Much is still unknown. Much will Change.

Sun Tzu said, know yourself and know your enemy, and you will never fear defeat.

You don’t know C19 – technically SARS-CoV-2, which I’m calling C19, because the kids on Reddit taught me how to save space.

“Currently, C19 is at least 30 identified different strains, some of which are 270 times deadlier than other strains.”

In roughly 4 months, C19 has circled the globe, shut down a large part of the economy, and killed almost 195,000 people.

Most of us have accepted and understood the following:

  • The older you are, the deadlier C19 is. Men do worse than women.
  • Protect yourself and others from viral spread by not letting other peoples’ germs into your body. Wash your hands. Follow the 6 foot rule. Wear a mask. Avoid crowds. Stay at home as much as you can. Don’t share germs. It’s not about you, it’s about protecting everyone else (including your customers and employees).
  • There should be a vaccine by sometime in 2021.
  • This too shall pass.

Well, yes and no.

Strategically speaking, what is almost everyone missing about C19 as they try to simplify the situation and make this whole thing easier to process?

C19 is not the straightforward viral pandemic you think it is. C19 isn’t Zombies. It’s a little more complicated than that. You can’t kill it off.

Without getting into the virology of C19, and admitting that much is still not known. As of today, C19 is not a single virus killing people with predictable patterns.

Currently, C19 is at least 30 identified different strains, some of which are 270 times deadlier than other strains. At least in measured cytopathic effect and viral load.

This means the aggressive strains of C19 kills 270 times better than the lesser strains. Both faster and deadlier.

C19 is not one virus. It’s 30 different strains of virus that all behave a little differently, spread a little differently, kill a little differently. 30 different patterns happening at the same time that people are confusing for a single pattern.

C19 is not one thing. It’s at least 30 different things that have been identified, and it will probably mutate even more.

Just like the flu – or influenza. Most of us have experienced mild versions of influenza that leave us in bed for a week and then we feel better. Yet Influenza kills thousands every year. There are actually hundreds of different strains of the flu. That flu shot many of us get every year is targeted at what we think are the 4 or 5 most dangerous strains of the flu for that year. And they don’t always get the targeting right. And we still have to get a flu shot every year. Immunity isn’t permanent.

What about antibodies?

Having a C19 antibody only means you had a version of C19 once and lived to tell the tale. We do not yet know if C19 immunity is a possibility or how it will work. But we do know that no one is immune to every strain of influenza, the closest analogy to C19 to most of us. Immunity is relative to what strain, and how long it lasts. Hopeful immune enough for a vaccine to work.

A C19 Vaccine is really 30 Vaccines. Or more. And they may only provide temporary immunity or resistance.

C19 is really 30 different strains of the Coronavirus. That means it’s really 30 different ways to get sick. That’s why the Pandemic hits different areas differently. Some strains spread easily but are less deadly. Some places get more dangerous strains than others. Some places and some people get hit by multiple strains at the same time or in a row.

If history is any indicator, the chance to let the flame of C19 burn out before spreading like wildfire ended in January 2020.

If history is any indicator, as there are hundreds of identified strains of influenza. There will be many strains of C19, at least the 30 we know of.

What does that mean for you? Odds are, you are not a virologist worried about the serology of detection or microbiology targeting the right RNA for a vaccine.

Odds are, you do need to understand that C19 is the new normal, how it will affect your future, and how to adapt. Humans have controlled influenza to some extent, we have adapted to manage the impact and normalize it. Influenza is deadly and responsible for multiple pandemics. Yet’s it’s just a normal risk in a world of uncertainty.

And that is what will happen with the current pandemic. They will eventually learn how to target and vaccinate the most dangerous strains of C19 in the next few years. Vaccines and antiviral treatments will be available in late 2020 and 2021. But we really won’t know how effective they are until they have been used on millions of people. It could take longer to get C19 under control with effective vaccines distributed to billions of people.

Strategically speaking, you will benefit from adapting your habits, mindset, and paradigms to the new normal. In 2009 we had to adapt to an economic collapse. And we did.

Now you have to commit yourself, your organizations, your social circle, and your family to the simple fact that there are now 30+ highly contagious strains of C19 circling the globe.

It’s literally adding a second virus that is just as bad if not worse than influenza. It will double the number of people that die from viruses every year. It will double the number of vaccinations you have to get every year. Plan for at least the next few years, life and business will normalize to social distancing, working from home, wearing masks in public, periods of government-mandated stay at home orders. Businesses and Governments will invest more time and money into automation, virtual meetings, virtual collaboration tools, the social distancing of services. Sales visits with change. Getting your hair cut will change. The business models of professional sports, the movie business, live music, air travel, buses, cruise ships, schools, theater, paid speaking and others will change. Anybody in the business of putting butts in seats is facing a long term change in how they do business. Anybody who does face to face services is facing long term changes in their business model, how they sustain revenue, how they do business. Anything that can be converted to social distancing will. I.e. pick up and delivery of retail, groceries, restaurants. If you supply affected industries, you’ll have to adapt. And any industries that are indirectly affected by those industries. If you purchased empty space on airlines to import your goods, your shipping options are changing. If you sell advertising to affected industries, the game has changed, and likely so have your budgets. If your clients, customers, suppliers, or business network are affected by C19, so are you.

If your livelihood is impacted by the new normal of C19, expect to be rebuilding your business model. Your costs, your operations, your pricing, sales targets, business development, financing, humans resources, recruiting, interviewing, supply chain, need to delegate and coordinate virtually. And get good at applying for grants and loans covered by government funds or other financing to bridge stay at home orders when revenue goes down but you are trying to maintain payroll and your workforce.

Your financial planning, budgeting, operations, policies, your business strategy needs to treat this as a long term adaption to the evolving world of C19, not a short term interruption until things “Go back to normal in the summer”

Know your enemy. C19 is fundamentally changing social norms and how we do business for years to come. If history and science are correct – C19 is the new normal, a new sickness has been added to our world, and we are learning how to live and do business with it.

Know your self. Understand not only how the world is changing, but anticipate what changes you will have to make at work and at home to thrive in the new normal of C19. Those who adapt quickly, who identify new opportunities, who innovate new business approaches will thrive much better than those who ignore the change in the world and wait for everything to go back to the way things were.

Develop scenarios and contingency plans that address them. While scenario planning is a discussion unto itself, here’s the basics. Classically scenario planning would be:

  1. Strategic Plan for the best-case scenario for your business. What it looks like, what you have to do to make the best out of it.
  2. Strategic Plan for the worst-case scenario for your business. What it looks like, what you have to do to make the best out of it.
  3. Strategic Plan for the most likely case for your business. What it looks like, what you have to do to make the best out of it.
  4. Strategic Plan for an unexpected outlier that changes everything. Like a Pandemic that forces you to pivot all manufacturing and operations to supporting health care. Or a disruptive technology or event that is manageable but forces you to change everything. Know what it looks like, what you have to do to make the best out of it.

The whole point of Scenario planning is to prepare your organization and leadership for understanding what good, bad, and different scenarios look like, so they have better odds of seeing the change coming, and you already have a few example plans to work from when things change. The future will be different than your scenarios. But scenario planning makes all the participants better at adapting to disruption and change.

Lastly, accept the change. If you don’t have a mask yet, what are you waiting for? At least in Colorado, they are everywhere now. Accept that things have changed and embrace the change. Get a cool mask that you like. Get good with virtual meetings, have discipline in publishing meeting minutes because now they matter – no more chit chat in the break room and hallways. Closely understand your government and health authority guidelines for both legal and safe ways of continuing your business. Upgrade your companies VPV capability, make sure everyone collaborating online has a laptop with a webcam (Not all laptops have webcams). You may have never purchased personal protective equipment (PPE) before. Make sure you can provide face masks and any additional PPE required in your area for your employees and maybe customers. And understand the guidelines and legal requirements literally are different everywhere and are changing. So keep yourself well informed and make sure everybody id making decisions based on the correct up to date information.

Accept the change. Understand the change. Understand how it affects you and the people you are responsible for. Anticipate the future. Innovate solutions. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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