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CEO Addresses Illinois Business Leaders About Developing Pandemic And Business Continuity Plans


George Abercrombie, president and chief executive officer, Hoffmann-La Roche Inc., told more than 100 Illinois business leaders today at a Rotary Club of Chicago luncheon that the threat of a pandemic flu presents businesses with challenges unlike those anticipated with traditional emergency preparedness plans.

“While businesses are all too familiar with preparing for potential disasters such as floods or tornadoes,” according to Abercrombie, “local businesses also need to look at the special challenges posed by the potential of a public health crisis caused by a global influenza pandemic.”

Abercrombie, who shared details of Roche’s own plans to safeguard the health of its employees and business infrastructure during a pandemic flu outbreak, says that Illinois’s key industry sectors, including finance and insurance; manufacturing; government; wholesale trade; and transportation and warehouse would be among the hardest hit.

Last March, Trust for America’s Health released a report (funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts as part of the U.S. Pandemic Preparedness Initiative) estimating that Illinois could face a potential financial loss of $31.3 billion as a result of a severe pandemic flu outbreak.

“Influenza pandemics are not static events like a hurricane or tornado, nor are they confined to a specific area. Pandemics come in multiple waves, each one affecting a given area from four to twelve weeks. During the first wave, officials expect 20 to 30% of people will become ill. Here in Cook County, that’s 1,057,731 to 1,586,697 people who will get very sick in a very short period of time, inundating emergency rooms already strained to near capacity.”

According to Abercrombie, experts believe that many businesses and organizations would have difficulty maintaining operations as a result of an increased level of absenteeism due to illness, employees caring for the sick and social-distancing policies. In Illinois alone, there is the potential for more than 3.7 million employees to be absent from their jobs, according to the Trust for America’s Health report, resulting in losses of roughly $14.1 billion dollars due to absenteeism and death.

Based on his experience in working with the federal government the past several years on pandemic preparedness, Abercrombie reminded the audience that the government has asked private businesses to share in the responsibility of planning. While the federal government has plans to help slow the spread of the virus among critical populations, such as healthcare workers and emergency personnel, it is up to local communities and businesses to ensure that residents and employees stay healthy and that businesses and local economies remain up and running.


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