Florida businesses prep for, react to swine flu
Swine flu concerns in the Florida business community continues to soar as the World Health Organization warns of an imminent pandemic. Many businesses are not caught like "deer in the headlight" but are trying to get prepped in case there is, indeed, a health emergency in the Sunshine State. Other businesses are simply trying to deal with consumer anxiety. (Photo by Willie J. Allen Jr. of the St. Petersburg Times shows El Expreso Bus Co. employees preparing to wear masks and gloves before the bus leaves Plant City for Mexico.)
Some examples from around Florida:
* At Rooms to Go, based in Seffner near Tampa, the furniture chain is working with its pharmacy benefit manager to get access to generic forms of the antiviral medication for its employees. "“We are going to see if we can get the medication at a low cost so that employees don’t have a high co-pay and thus avoid taking the medication," said HR vice president Linda Garcia, Workforce Management reports. The company is also allowing employees who are sick to take time off without having to use sick days.
* Medical supply stores are seeing a run on masks in Southwest Florida as seasonal residents prepare for air travel and others with family in Mexico snap up masks to send to relatives, the Naples Daily News reports. Several medical suppliers have already run out and hope to get restocked in the event cases of swine flu are reported in Florida, which is likely, Florida Surgeon General Ana M. Viamonte Ros told the paper.
* The University of Florida's Tourism Crisis Management Institute (I did not even know such an organization existed) is drafting an all-hazards plan with input from destinations across Florida, according to the Fort Myers News Press.
Floridians are reacting to the crisis by searching for life insurance. In a press release, Morgan Moran, a life insurance specialist, said that in response to swine flu fears, "people’s knee jerk reaction is to go online and search for life insurance. People are worried about this flu, and what might happen to their families if something should suddenly happen to them." The life insurance broker's advice? For those inclined, be sure to choose a low-cost term life insurance, one that starts immediately.
And here's one unintended silver lining for Key West. City spokeswoman Alyson Crean said the city's port operations department is fielding inquiries from cruise lines about altering itineraries to get rid of a Mexican port call and adding one in Key West. "We're getting inquiries about ships redirecting here from Mexico. I think people are thinking about it on all levels."
More on the swine flu ripples in the days to come.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist