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TEXAS PROFESSIONAL INSURANCE AGENTS DIGITAL JOURNAL

TEXAS

CONNECTION March 2019

SPECIAL EDITION: CORONAVIRUS In This Issue How to Handle COVID-19 in Your Agency

Smart Ways For Insurance Professionals to Work From Home Leading Through Troublesome Times Protect Yourself From Coronavirus Scams TEXAS CONNECTION - TEXAS PROFESSIONAL INSURANCE AGENTS DIGITAL JOURNAL


NATIONAL RESOURCES The NAIC has added a Coronavirus resource center: NAIC Coronavirus Resource Center They have also posted a Pandemic Primer, developed by its Center for Policy and Research: Pandemic Primer John Hopkins University is tracking global cases in real time of COVID-19 on this website. And of course the CDC offers the most reliable information on the control and treatment of Coronavirus on their site. The III has also posted a number of articles relating to COVID-19 and the impacts on the insurance industry on their site.

TEXAS RESOURCES The Texas Department of Health and Human Services has developed websites to keep Texans informed about Coronavirus in our state. Information for people receiving HHS services and for providers can be found here. Comprehensive information for the entire public is here Daily tracking of statewide cases of COVID-19 is updated here The Texas Department of Insurance has a page which lists Texas insurers waiving costsharing for medicallynecessary testing of COVID-19, as well as industry guidance and other links to resources. Visit the TDI Coronavirus page here. PIA National has also put together a list of resources. Coronavirus resource page

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Texas PIA P.O. Box 700877 Dallas, TX 75370 (972) 862-3333 www.piatx.org

Pandemic Checklist: How Individuals and Businesses Can Prepare

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How to Handle COVID-19 in Your Agency

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Leading Through Troublesome Times

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Smart Ways For Insurance Professionals to Work From Home

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Coronavirus Work-from-Home Response May Expand Cyber Risk

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Protect Yourself From Coronavirus Scams

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SBA Disaster Loans Could Help Businesses

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Coronavirus-Related Scenarios That Insurance Might Cover

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Texas News Round-Up

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Welcome New Members Nathan Dagley

Dagley Insurance & Financial Services, Inc.

Katy

Adrian Reyes

InsuranceNow

San Antonio

Lance Nowlin

Nowlin Insurance Group

Houston

Rick Hernandez

Rick Hernandez Agency, INC.

El Paso

Chuck Hulett

The Hulett Agency

Southlake

David Dollar

The Dollar Agency

Cypress

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

David Gorman

As we all strive to do our best to deal with the unprecedented events that the outbreak of COVID -19 has perpetuated, we are here to provide support. As independent agents we’re resilient, and will independently and collectively work to be part of the solution. This issue is focused on providing you and your clients with information and resources to cope with the ever-evolving situation, and grow even stronger. To the right of this page, you’ll find a list of resources we’ve compiled to help you stay current on the latest issues surrounding Coronavirus.

Yours,

David David (Red) Gorman Office: 214-374-9997 Email: david@redgormaninsurance.com

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Pandemic Checklist:

How Individuals and Businesses Can Prepare by FC&S Editors, PropertyCasualty360.com Despite efforts to contain the outbreak, the coronavirus is continuing to spread throughout the world. As of March 17, the virus had already claimed the lives of 11 people in the U.S., where there are more than 6,000 reported cases and over 100 deaths, according to worldometers.com. Globally, there are close to 198,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in more than 164 countries and territories. In light of disease’s severity, the editors at FC&S Expert Coverage Interpretation have developed a checklist for individuals and businesses to help everyone prepare for potential illness and slowdowns in business and supply chains.

Assessing risk First, individuals and businesses should assess their risk of exposure or infection to understand the proper precautions to take.

HIGH RISK

Living in the same household, intimate relations and/or caring for someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 without using precautions (precautions are keeping the ill person in a separate bedroom, use of gloves and masks for any contact, and proper handwashing). Travel from Hubei Province, China. Close contact with someone with symptoms of infection but not high risk. Being in

MEDIUM an airplane within 6 feet of someone with the infection, living in the same houseRISK hold, intimate relations, or caring for someone with the infection and consistently using all recommended precautions. TEXAS CONNECTION - TEXAS PROFESSIONAL INSURANCE AGENTS DIGITAL JOURNAL

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MEDIUM Travel from mainland China outside Hubei province and not having any high-risk exposures. RISK LOW RISK NO RISK

Being in the same indoor environment as someone with the virus for a prolonged period of time but not within close (6 feet) contact. Travel on an aircraft within 2 rows of a traveler with the virus but not within 6 feet and not having any exposure that meets medium or high-risk exposure. No interactions with people with symptoms of the disease, such as walking by the person or being briefly in the same room.

Pandemic Preparation Checklist INDIVIDUALS Wash hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, particularly when you get home from being out in public. Changing clothes is not a bad idea either. Wipe down surfaces regularly, especially doorknobs and counters. Clean remotes, phones, keyboards.

Stock up on dry goods and food for approximately 2 weeks; this is so that if you need to self-quarantine, you have supplies handy. No need to hoard, but having some extra on hand gives you wiggle room. Be sure to have Acetaminophen, aspirin, Gatorade or similar drinks, and nausea medication handy just in case. Be sure to keep your supply of prescription medications up to date; do not wait until you are out of medications to order a refill. Face masks are not needed unless you are ill. They should be used if you are unwell to prevent the spread of the virus to others. It’s important that if you are using a face mask that it fits properly, and you avoid touching the front of it.

Develop a plan for if schools are closed or if your child is sick and cannot go to daycare; your current ‘plan B’ may not be available, so have a ‘plan C.’ If traveling, consider plans for if you get stuck overseas or on a cruise ship and cannot get home. BUSINESSES Encourage sick employees to stay home. Suspend requirements for notes from healthcare providers — those offices are likely to be extremely busy, and it’s better to keep those with the virus away from others. Employees should not return to work unless they are free of a fever (100.4 degrees) for at least 24 hours without the use of medications to reduce the fever. Extend sick leave so that employees do not feel impelled to come to work because they have bills to pay. Separate any employees that arrive at work with a respiratory illness or develop one during the day and send them home immediately. Encourage employees to work remotely if they are able to.

If remote work isn’t possible, allow employees to stagger shifts.

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Test remote and staggered shifts now before you are in an emergency situation to work out any possible kinks that might arise. Allow employees to stay home to care for ill family members. People can have the virus and not have symptoms; those with ill family members could have it as well and not know it. Provide tissues and no-touch trash cans; post hygiene reminders. Develop a communication plan to keep employees up to date on the status of the virus. Ensure employees know what the communication plan is.

Develop an activation plan and ensure all employees know what to expect. Assess staffing — what work is critical, and which employees can do those tasks. Unless required to work together, consider separating them so there is less chance of all critical employees getting ill at once. Provide disposable wipes so that commonly used surfaces (doorknobs, desks, keyboards, etc.) can be regularly wiped down. Reconsider employee travel; limit it to what is essential. Schedule video conferences or use other remote conferencing technology. Advise employees to have plans in the event of getting stuck in an area that becomes quarantined because of the virus. Will you extend employee sick leave or paid vacation if an employee is ill or trapped in a quarantine zone? Provide alcohol-based hand rubs around the office and encourage their use. Place them in open areas, conference rooms, kitchen and break rooms. Encourage employees who become ill while traveling or on temporary assignment to contact their supervisor and medical provider if needed. Perform routine cleaning of the office (weekly). Ensure that surfaces are wiped down. Employers should review insurance coverage; is business income/interruption coverage on the current policy? Will it provide coverage for a shutdown because of the action of civil authority, such as a quarantine? Are there liability and workers’ compensation coverages in place if employees or customers catch the virus at the business location? Are there alternative supply sources if business products are unavailable from China or other locales? Stock up on basic office supplies as well as supplies needed for production and other work tasks. Can the business operations be conducted at alternate locations if the current location is quarantined? If employees are not cross-trained for key tasks, begin cross-training now to avoid gaps in production.

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How to Handle COVID-19 in Your Agency by Kelly Donahue-Piro, agencyperformancepartners.com

The Coronavirus (Covid-19) has impacted almost every single part of our lives, and it’s left many independent insurance agency owners unsure how to proceed. In this article, we will review how you can handle Covid-19 in your insurance agency. We state this upfront: everyone must do what is specifically best for them, their insureds and their team members. This is your agency’s choice, but we wanted to get out some strategies to assist you as quickly as possible in making difficult decisions. In addition, please reference and follow any State, Federal and local regulations.

Creating a Safe Work Environment For many team members, coming to work may suddenly not feel very safe. For agencies with many team members and/or walk-in business, each and every person may seem like a carrier. We ask that everyone remain calm and treat each other neighborly. Here are a few strategies that your agency can take to create a safer workplace: •

Use a simple wave rather than a handshake. Due to social distancing, a wave is still a very friendly way to say hello without physical contact. If you are uncomfortable or think clients may take this the wrong way, place a sign in the lobby.

Hand washing for 20 seconds (or 2 Happy Birthdays songs) should be discussed and posted. You can place signs in the bathrooms and kitchens. If you want to have some fun, place these top hand-washing songs near all sinks and pick a song of the day.

Practice safe sneezing, and remember to stay calm when someone sneezes or coughs. It’s also allergy season. Send this video around to share with everyone appropriate sneezing etiquette.

There’s no time like the present to practice cleaning and disinfecting the office twice per day. Don’t forget to clean things like: •

Your keyboard

Phone

Desk

Doorknobs

Bathrooms

Have (when you can find them) hand sanitizer and wipes available for use.

If you feel it necessary you can shut your office down to not allow walk ins and or have people work from home.

Stay Calm For many people, Covidmania has broken out. Now is not the time to borrow problems from the future. We need to take one day at a time. In addition, we also should be cautious not to judge other people in their views or plans around the virus. You may not have all the facts, and it’s important as an agency you stay together rather than judge or make assumptions. TEXAS CONNECTION - TEXAS PROFESSIONAL INSURANCE AGENTS DIGITAL JOURNAL

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While we need a heightened awareness of the seriousness of the virus, we shouldn’t assume that a sneeze is the virus. Practice sanitary safety precautions and keep calm.

School/Day Care Closures This is the one that is perhaps the most concerning in handling workforce issues. It’s difficult for an agency to close. However, with mainly working moms at the customer service frontline, it’s a good time to address the issue. •

Your agency may need to review the policy on working from home, if that setup is possible.

People may need to take shifts to keep the agency open and work together to get through a possible 2-4 week school and daycare closure.

Agency team members need to investigate and evaluate all options for childcare, including other family members, spouses and friends that can help lessen the load.

In the future, after this pandemic is over, it will be a good time to create a plan of attack for these situations.

Taking Cash Payments While I know many agencies that do need to take cash payments, we should review the safest protocol for handling cash during a pandemic. Here are some tips from Bankrate on handling cash transactions in your business.

Communication Now is also a great time to encourage clients to use electronic methods of communication such as: •

Phone

Chat

Webforms

Getting on EFT/Pay In Full

Practicing Calling In Payments

While we are in trying times, this is also a great way to train your clients for future natural disasters.

In The Event Someone Is Sick This is obviously the worst-case scenario. In the event you or anyone in your family are feeling under the weather or have a fever, it’s imperative that you stay home and seek medical treatment. Please do not ignore symptoms/signs or downgrade them. As the status is constantly evolving, the emphasis is on safety, and following all guidelines for your community’s best interest. TEXAS CONNECTION - TEXAS PROFESSIONAL INSURANCE AGENTS DIGITAL JOURNAL

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Leading Through Troublesome Times by Suzi McAlpine, SuziMcAlpine.com How a leader responds in troublesome times is a measure of their mettle. It’s when their whisper comes out as a shout and is the true test of all those leadership traits we’ve been taught to emulate. It’s a pretty relevant topic right now too. The world is grappling with a virus that we’ve never seen before sweeping the globe and affecting people and businesses virtually everywhere. If there was ever a perfect example of leading through an environment that epitomises the leadership acronym VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) – it is facing the COVID-19 outbreak. Leading a team through stormy waters (all the time leading yourself through those same stormy waters) requires a steady hand and a clear head. How you handle a crisis will set the tone for how your team handles it. If you’re running around like a headless chicken, or at the other end of the scale, breezily espousing platitudes that indicate there’s “nothing here to see folks”, you’re likely to lose respect and trust with your team. So here are seven ways to successfully lead your team through troubled waters:

1. Face reality. As Bill George tells us in his book, 7 Lessons for Leading in a Crisis, “face reality – starting with yourself”. This is not the time for sugarcoating, glossing over issues or misplaced optimism. At the same time, facing reality also encompasses hope and focusing on things we can do – and that’s your job as a leader. Although facing reality is always an important leadership trait, it becomes crucial when we are leading through turbulent times. Be honest with yourself and your team about what is happening and focus on known facts, however few there may be. Facing the truth might not be much fun, but putting your head in the sand is going to be far worse.

2. Be visible. And available. When things are going awry, people want to see their leaders out front, not behind closed doors. Worse, they definitely don’t want to be wondering where the heck you are.

Technology has provided lots of ways you can be visible to your people on a regular (daily, if needed) basis – from a short, personal email message to a video. Work out who you need to be visible and accessible to during troublesome times and ensure you are communicating. Speaking of which…

3. Communicate often, candidly and clearly. It’s almost impossible to over-communicate during a crisis. And remember, communication is a two-way street. That means listening as well as talking! Ironically, this is one of the most crucial times for providing an inspirational and compelling vision of a way forward. Metaphors can be your friend here. Is what you’re facing like navigating stormy seas, or like facing a mythical creature from Greek mythology? Is it like some other thing from nature? Storytelling and metaphors help people make sense, which in turn helps to lower their anxiety and fear. TEXAS CONNECTION - TEXAS PROFESSIONAL INSURANCE AGENTS DIGITAL JOURNAL

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4. Build a sense of control, even when it appears that so much is out of your (and their) control. It’s natural for people to feel powerless and worried in tough times. If you can help them move away from what they are not in control of, towards what they can do – while still creating space for people to share how they are experiencing the rough waters – you’ll help to lower anxiety. Ask “What is within our power in this situation?” “What are our options, given X, Y and Z?” There is always something you can do when facing turbulent times, even if it’s changing your attitude to factors that are outside of your control.

5. Model the behaviour you want others to demonstrate. Be the change you wish to see in others. If you panic and get flustered, others will likely follow. Conversely, if you react with the calmness of a swan – even though beneath the water you’re paddling like crazy – this will have a flow-on effect. I bet if I asked you who you’d turn to in a personal crisis, the person you think of comes across as calm and pragmatic, not flustered and freaking out.

6. Collaborate – think “leadership”, not leader. This is not the time to go it alone or try to lead in isolation. Think about who gives you good advice and a sounding board when you are in the thick of it? How can you access a diverse, trusted team to help you lead through volatile times or a complex problem? What sources of information are reputable and trustworthy for your current situation?

7. Look after yourself. Simple things like exercising, getting enough sleep and doing things that make you happy or enable you to take time out are imperative in times like this – even (and especially) when you think you “don’t have time.” You won’t be able to lead others through this tough time if you can’t first lead yourself.

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Smart Ways For Insurance Professionals to Work From Home by Patricia L. Harman, PropertyCasualty360.com There are many things I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on, but when it comes to working remotely, I have decades of practical experience. I’ve always considered it a privilege because many people don’t have that option. However, being a journalist means I can work anywhere with a computer and internet access. I have edited copy in hospitals, in doctor’s offices, while waiting at school events, and anywhere else I can grab a few quiet minutes. That has allowed me to develop an amazing ability to ignore background noise and focus on a project (having three kids probably contributed to this ability), but it is a learned skill that has proven quite valuable. If you’ve never worked from home before, there are some definite benefits. Many people are worried that they will feel isolated — that’s never been an issue for me. Technology allows us to IM, email, text and call someone anywhere at any time. Here are some other tips that should make working remotely a little easier: 

Follow your regular office hours. You should still have a definite start and finish time even when you’re working from home. Let your colleagues, supervisor and coworkers know what those times will be if necessary.



Have background music or the television on low for a little ambient noise. It should be something that won’t break your concentration too much. (Just don’t get caught up in watching a show and stop working!)



Eat breakfast and lunch at the same times you would in the office. Take a break as you would in the office.



Sometimes it’s easy to get glued to your computer. Give your eyes and your body a break. Roll your shoulders, get up and walk around for a few minutes. You can set an alarm if necessary to remind you to get up and move.



Check your phone and social media, but again, limit that access. It can become a huge waste of time if you’re not careful.



Set up a specific place to work in your home if possible — a desk, dining room table that isn’t used, a quiet corner away from the household craziness. I realize this will be a lot more difficult if your kids are home from school too. But because all of the schools are closed, it might be easier to find a high schooler who is bored and wouldn’t mind making some money playing with the kids.



Try to let the kids know you’re working (yes, this can be much easier said than done, particularly with younger children) and ask them to respect times when you’re on the phone or trying to meet a specific deadline. Let them know when it’s okay to interrupt (e.g., for broken bones or injuries that can’t be fixed with a band-aid) and when it isn’t. Understand that you may need to adjust your work hours because of the kids being around. Let your manager know if that is the case and that you will still get your hours in for the week. This is a learning experience for everyone, so be patient and realistic.

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8. Yes — you can throw in a load of laundry. It will give you a reason to get up in an hour and stretch your legs again. 9. If it’s nice out, take a short walk after lunch, walk the dog, or take the kids outside for a quick break. The fresh air will reinvigorate you and a little time in the sun can help lift a gloomy mood. 10.Appreciate the time, gas, parking, subway and train fares you’re saving by not commuting to work. Save that money and use some of it to treat yourself at the end of the week or month. It will give you something positive to look forward to when you can go out again. 11.If you supervise staff, check in with them once a day to make sure they’re adjusting okay, see if they have any questions, and let them know you’re there for them during this time. Working remotely can be difficult for staff if they haven’t done it before. 12.If your supervisor contacts you, make sure to respond in a timely manner. If you have questions or need something, make sure to share that information too.

13.If your company has a VPN, don’t forget to log into it. Hackers will be working overtime to access networks with open internet or poor password protection, and you want to protect any information going through the internet. 14.Make sure your computer, internet and other technology will support working remotely. Work with your IT department if you have any questions or issues.

15.Dress for work — not necessarily a suit or even business casual — but put on your makeup, brush your hair, get out of your pajamas, and at least look decent in case you need to have any webcam calls. This also helps to put you in a more “professional” mindset for your workday. 16.Remember what you’re working on may be confidential, so be careful about leaving papers around the house where children or others can see them or holding conversations in a coffee shop (if they’re still open) so that client or project information isn’t inadvertently shared. Working remotely provides numerous benefits — no commute in crummy weather; whatever coffee, tea or soda you want; multiple options for lunch without going anywhere; fewer interruptions (unless you have kids); time with your pets (a great stress reliever!) and just a more flexible workday. Embrace it and try to appreciate the opportunity.

EARN CE CREDIT If you’re working from home, or if things are slower than usual in the office, take advantage of Texas PIA’s partnership with Kaplan Education. A complete library of online discounted continuing education and insurance licensing options are available. Access our portal to get started.

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Coronavirus Work-from-Home Response May Expand Cyber Risk by Jim Sams, InsuranceJournal.com As U.S. employers ask employees to work from home to avoid exposure to coronavirus, they may be exposing themselves to another kind of risk: Cyberattacks. Aon recently issued an advisory cautioning employers to take steps to ensure that work-from-home employees can connect to secure remote networks. “Any time you’re taking about employees who are not used to working from home, who may not have the correct cybersecurity posture, a virtual private network is critically important and having two-factor authentication is critically important,” Aon Senior Vice President Stephanie Snyder said in an interview.

Work-from-home employees may be especially vulnerable to phishing expeditions. Aon said there have already been reports of phishing emails being sent out posing as alerts regarding COVID-19, which is the specific coronavirus that has infected an estimated 100,000 worldwide. A phish is used to implant malware in a computer that can give hackers an opportunity to demand a ransom or steal data. “In an environment where people are stressed and hungry for more information, there is a lack of commitment to security best practices,” the Aon report says. Snyder said telecommuters may be tempted to sneak off to Starbucks to work from their laptops. She said that could expose all of the records on their computer to a potential hack. She said employers need to have strict security protocols in place to avoid such exposures. Aon said businesses throughout Asia has activated business contingency plans that allow or instruct employees to work from home. Those contingency plans followed the virus to the West Coast of the United States last week. King County, Washington, which has had the worst outbreak in the U.S. so far, last week asked all of its 2.2 residents to work from home if possible. The county Health Department said 51 cases had been confirmed as of late Friday, with 10 deaths. In California, Apple on Friday asked its 12,000 Silicon Valley employees to work from home, Reuters reported. Facebook and Google also advised employees to work from home if possible to avoid the risk of spreading the virus. Those tech giants presumably have adequate security in place for their telecommuting employees. That may not be the case for smaller businesses that have all of their security apparatus wired in only to the home office, said Rajeev Gupta, co-founder of Cowbell, a Pleasanton, California-based cyber insurer that launched in January. Gupta said the complete lack of a virtual private network is one of the most common cybersecurity mistakes that he’s seen among small employers. Another mistake is having a VPN but making it accessible only on one server or an inadequate number of servers to handle the load created by employees trying to gain access from remote locations. TEXAS CONNECTION - TEXAS PROFESSIONAL INSURANCE AGENTS DIGITAL JOURNAL

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“You have to scale the infrastructure according to need,” he said. Like Snyder, Gupta said employees connecting to public servers are also a hazard. He said many people who use their computers for work will log into Wifi at a coffee shop or at a hotel without a second thought. Without a VPN, “the hackers are going to have a field day,” he said. CyberScout, a cybersecurity firm based in Scottsdale, Ariz., issued a bulletin on Feb. 27 warning employers to beware of phishing scams and ransomware. “It all comes down to access points,” CyberScout Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Leuer said in a prepared statement. “For every WiFi network that an employee signs on to, they are creating an additional access point for hackers to infiltrate your business systems. The danger is even greater if employees are using public WiFi.” CyberScout suggested these tips for securing business data: •

Set up a virtual private network, and be aware that some are better than others. The network should include multi-factor authentication.

Require employees to use private WiFi. If employees need to work from hotels, conference rooms and other public places, require them to use a mobile hotspot (such as those available through a smartphone) to access a secure connection.

Upgrade password requirements to require more complex and lengthy passwords and regularly change passwords — up to once a day if the culture will allow it.

In a telephone interview, Leuer said many small and mid-sized employers that have not paid much attention to cybersecurity are taking a closer look now because they are concerned employees will have to work from home. “You never want to see a crisis go to waste,” she said. “Unfortunately, that’s what’s getting their attention.”

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Protect Yourself From Coronavirus Scams by Steve Anderson, SteveAnderson.com Being in the insurance industry, we should be aware that preparing for the “unlikely events” that could happen is what insurance is all about and wise planning. Thanks to my friends at Scambusters for allowing me to reprint the latest issue of their newsletter. I hope this information will help you avoid being caught by the many scams that are popping up. For example, Amazon has removed or blocked over 1 million products on the Amazon Marketplace for either false claims or price gouging. If you recently read about a coronavirus cure, we hope you didn’t act on it. Because there isn’t one — so far at least. Nor do you necessarily need to buy and wear a mask or invest in companies that will supposedly make a lot of money from this crisis. And beware of donating to fake charities claiming to be supporting research and treatment. We’ll tell you more about these con tricks relating to pandemic disease outbreaks in this article. Let’s get started…

Coronavirus Cure Claims are Just Scams We’d all be delighted, wouldn’t we, if someone announced a coronavirus cure? Of if there was a simple way to protect against coronavirus. Like coronavirus masks, vaccines, or pills that were guaranteed to work. Well, as with all pandemics and global virus outbreaks, there’s no shortage of people claiming they’ve got just these solutions. They’ve got the cure; they’ve got the drugs; they’ve got the protective masks. Of course, most of them are scams. As of this writing, there is no cure, not even a tested vaccine. There are no miracle pills. And most masks offer only limited protection. For instance, if you touch an infected object and later touch your unguarded face when you take the mask off, you could still be at risk. Wash your hands! Eighty percent (80%) of all infections are spread by touch. We’re not scaremongering, but we’re highlighting the dangers of being tricked by a coronavirus scam into thinking you’re safe. Ads and fake news reports making dishonest claims are spreading like wildfire.

Social Media Carriers Social media networks are alarmed at becoming carriers — not of the illness but of phony claims. In fact, Facebook has already announced a ban on ads offering a cure or preventative treatment and it looks like Google is filtering out coronavirus cure claims in online searches. TEXAS CONNECTION - TEXAS PROFESSIONAL INSURANCE AGENTS DIGITAL JOURNAL

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Instead, in both cases, if you search on the word “coronavirus” you’ll get useful information about the illness, not dubious claims. Facebook also includes a link to the latest information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Amazon says it has blocked or removed more than a million products it thinks are making false claims about protection. The retailing giant has also identified and removed sellers who are price-gouging for face masks. However, the picture is made murkier by official claims (the latest was from Vietnam) to have cured the illness, when what has really happened is that victims have been effectively nursed through the illness and emerged healthy out the other side. In fact, that’s what really does happen for most victims worldwide. We tend to read only about the deaths. There are certainly hundreds or thousands of scientists searching for a cure, but that could be a long way off. After all, we don’t even have a cure for flu yet! It still kills thousands every year.

Five Steps to Avoid a Scam So, while we wait for an effective vaccine to emerge, here are five key things you should do to avoid getting sucked into a coronavirus or other pandemic scam: 1. Don’t respond to any claims about cures, safety, vaccines, or other protection without first checking with official sources, notably the CDC. See Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary. This CDC site is updated virtually every day and is the go-to source of reliable information.

But watch out for messages claiming to be from the CDC. Scammers are pitching them too. Just use the link above to get the real facts. 2. Watch out for other email, text, and online links about news or products relating to the disease, especially those pointing to supposed breakthroughs. Never click these links as they may lead to downloads of another virus you don’t want — computer malware.

3. Be wary about donating to charities soliciting funds to help with research or treatment. Always check them out first with sites like the Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, or Charity Watch. This may also be an opportunity for scammers to use the well-known “relative-in-distress” or “friend-in-distress” calls, which trick victims into sending money to someone posing as a friend or relative. Or they may just turn up at your front door with a collecting box. Don’t give. Politely decline and say you choose to make your charitable donations elsewhere. Then visit Charity Watch for a list of genuine charities accepting coronavirus donations. 4. Don’t believe the face mask hype. You’ve seen the videos. You’ve seen the ads. But according to the US Surgeon General, you’re wasting your time. We’re not medical experts here at the Scambusters HQ, so we don’t give medical advice. However, Surgeon General Jerome S Adams said on Twitter at the end of February: “Seriously people — stop buying masks! TEXAS CONNECTION - TEXAS PROFESSIONAL INSURANCE AGENTS DIGITAL JOURNAL

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They’re not effective in preventing (the) general public from catching coronavirus.” At the same time, panic-buying of masks is creating a supply shortage for the people who really need them — medics who have to deal with a whole lot of risks in hospitals and operating theaters. The CDC says more or less the same thing. At best, the organization points out, masks can only help prevent spread of infection from someone who is already sick. See You Don’t Need a Face Mask for Coronavirus for an analysis of mask effectiveness. If you have a mask and want to wear one, the CDC adds, go ahead. It can’t do any harm. But it likely won’t do you any good either. 5. Watch out for fake “investment opportunities.” Yes, some scammers are already claiming that the spread of the disease gives investors a chance to make easy money by putting their cash into certain dubious companies. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has issued an investor alert to this effect — Look Out for Coronavirus-Related Investment Scams Investor Alert — warning that fake “research reports” are circulating, making false statements and promoting so-called “penny stocks” or “micro stocks.” The crooks want you to buy so they can dump their holdings at a profit. There’s no shortage of reliable news about coronavirus on official sites, like the CDC’s. So, look no further if you want to avoid being sucked into this or other pandemic threats.

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SBA Disaster Loans Could Help Businesses

by Daniel Salazar, AustinBusinessJournal Local businesses impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic may soon have access to disaster assistance loans to help them get by. As the public health response to COVID-19 ramps up, the U.S. Small Business Administration said it will offer low-interest economic injury disaster loans of up to $2 million to impacted small businesses. "These loans can provide vital economic support to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing," according to a March 12 SBA announcement.

The rapid rise of social distancing in American life is already affecting countless businesses, both in Central Texas and across the nation. Austin restaurants and bars are scaling back hours for workers or closing altogether. Employers serving the events industry, like SXSW and Circuit of The Americas, are laying people off as mass gatherings go by the wayside. SBA said the loans can be used to help with fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills. "Our agency will work directly with state governors to provide targeted, low-interest disaster recovery loans to small businesses that have been severely impacted by the situation," SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said in a statement. "Additionally, the SBA continues to assist small businesses with counseling and navigating their own preparedness plans."

In order for loans to be available, governors need to request that the SBA issue an economic injury disaster loan declaration. Gov. Greg Abbott declared a state of disaster March 13 for all Texas counties, but that doesn't automatically allow the SBA to disburse disaster relief loans in the Lone Star State, according to the Dallas Morning News. SBA will offer interest rates of 3.75% for small businesses without credit available elsewhere — businesses with credit available elsewhere are not eligible — and 2.75% for nonprofits. Loan terms are determined on a case-by-case basis depending on the borrower's ability to repay. There is no limit on the number of loans available in a given area, but a $2 million limit applies to each eligible business, according to Columbus Business First in Ohio. For more information, the SBA disaster assistance service center is available at 1-800-6592955 or disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. TEXAS CONNECTION - TEXAS PROFESSIONAL INSURANCE AGENTS DIGITAL JOURNAL

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Coronavirus-Related Scenarios

That Insurance Might Cover by Anita Byer, PropertyCasualty360.com The economic impact of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is spreading like the virus itself. As the financial effects trickle down from global organizations to regional and local businesses, many are asking whether losses caused by COVID-19 are or will be covered by insurance. This isn’t an easy question because standard commercial insurance policies are not generally designed to protect against people getting sick. However, standard policies may provide limited coverage under the right circumstances.

Scenario 1: Employee contracts COVID-19 Workers’ compensation insurance generally covers occupational injuries and illnesses that arise out of work performed in the course and scope of employment. Employees contracting COVID19 may be covered by workers’ compensation insurance if they were initially exposed to the virus in the workplace or while working. But, an employee’s employment, and the resulting exposure, must be the major contributing cause of contracting COVID-19. Workers’ compensation coverage would likely turn on whether an employee could establish a causal link between their employment and their exposure to COVID-19. This may be harder for some employees than others. Those working in the health care industry, for example, may find it easier to establish the causal link than those whose employment does not clearly subject them to a greater risk of exposure than that to which the general public is exposed.

Scenario 2: Business operations interrupted due to COVID-19 Closed manufacturing facilities, quarantined workers, travel restrictions and the temporary suspension of imports and exports are just a few ways that a pandemic can disrupt crucial supply chains. The resulting disruption or interruption of operations poses perhaps the greatest financial risk to many businesses. Business interruption insurance, which replaces lost business income when a covered property loss causes a business to reduce or suspend its operations, may sound like the perfect solution, but it really isn’t. TEXAS CONNECTION - TEXAS PROFESSIONAL INSURANCE AGENTS DIGITAL JOURNAL

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Business interruption coverage is triggered when a covered peril causes damage to covered property. The damage must be sufficient to render the property unusable in its current state. A standard policy, for example, would cover lost business income if operations are interrupted because the manufacturing facility is destroyed by fire. Coronavirus-related claims are unlikely to cause the property damage needed to trigger business interruption coverage. Even if facilities (offices, warehouses) or inventory (raw materials, fish, produce) are rendered unusable by COVID-19 contamination, business interruption coverage would be unlikely because standard policies typically contain exclusions for bacteria, viruses and other pollutants. Supply chain insurance is an option for businesses wanting broader business interruption coverage. Policies can be written to name specific suppliers, manufacturers, etc. and to cover negotiated perils, including pandemics. Unfortunately, the breadth of coverage provided by supply chain insurance comes at a cost. Policy premiums are often cost prohibitive, particularly for smaller businesses.

Scenario 3: Cancellation of business-related travel Pandemics naturally stifle travel abroad, particularly to high-risk areas. Travel insurance is designed to limit financial losses caused by various travel-related risks. Trip cancellation coverage, for example, reimburses pre-paid, nonrefundable travel expenses if a trip is canceled for a reason that is covered under the policy, such as an injury, illness or death involving you, a family member or a travel companion. Some insurers offer “cancel for any reason” coverage that should respond to pandemic-related cancellations. However, it’s important to note that travel insurance does not cover “disinclination to travel” cancellations caused by fear or concern over what might happen while traveling abroad.

Scenario 4: Cancellation of a business function or special event Event cancellation insurance, as its name implies, is designed to cover circumstances beyond your control that necessitate the interruption, abandonment or cancellation of a businessrelated function or event. Unfortunately, it’s too late now to purchase coverage for cancellations prompted by COVID-19. Policies issued prior to the outbreak, however, may cover cancellations, at least for now. Insurers are expected to add exclusions for pandemics and communicable diseases as policies renew.

Scenario 5: Liability for negligently exposing others to COVID-19 Standard commercial general liability policies would likely respond to third-party claims regarding the negligent release of or exposure to COVID-19. Despite the potential for limited insurance coverage, it’s worth noting that standard commercial insurance policies are not designed to cover the spread of contagious diseases like COVID-19 or the flu. And, depending on the severity and duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, insurance companies are likely to add exclusions that eliminate the possibility of any coverage for COVID-19 claims. As a result, most businesses will not be able to rely on their standard insurance policies to adequately protect against coronavirus-related losses. TEXAS CONNECTION - TEXAS PROFESSIONAL INSURANCE AGENTS DIGITAL JOURNAL

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Texas News Round-Up Some Telemedicine Regulations Waived in Texas in Effort to Expand Access The Texas Department of Insurance has issued an emergency rule aimed at helping doctors across the state to continue treating patients during the crisis created by COVID19, the disease stemming from the new coronavirus....more Some TDI Meetings, Events to Go Online, Some Postponed or Cancelled The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is postponing or creating online options for several upcoming meetings and events to help prevent the spread of COVID-19....more Return-to-Work Rates on the Rise in Texas Workers’ Comp System: Report The return -to-work (RTW) rate for employees in the Texas workers’ compensation system who received temporary income benefits (TIBs) for their injuries increased by 5% over the decade from 2007 to 2017….more Houston, Dallas Courts Call Off Jury Trials, Citing COVID-19 The Southern District of Texas announced Thursday it's suspending all federal jury trials until April 1, and Harris County courts, which include Houston, have suspended civil jury trials for the rest of the month and suspended criminal jury trials through March 20…more Houston-Area Physicians Group Settles False Billing Claims Case for $1.2M Millennium Physicians Association PLLC has paid the United States $1,248,964 to resolve claims that they improperly billed the Medicare program for sleep studies, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas reported....more Auto Insurer Windhaven National Ordered Into Liquidation by Texas Court Texasbased private passenger auto insurer Windhaven National Insurance Co. (WNIC), a subsidiary of Windhaven Insurance, has been ordered into liquidation at the request of the Texas Department of Insurance, which was appointed as liquidator....more A&M Study: Texas’ Future Depends on Climate Preparedness Texans should expect warmer weather, more wildfires and urban flooding, and increased impact from hurricanes through 2036 thanks to climate change, according to a new study from the Office of the Texas State Climatologist at Texas A&M University...more SXSW Canceled Because of Coronavirus Austin and Travis County officials said in a March 6 news conference that the festival will be canceled amid worries about the spread of the novel coronavirus....more

San Antonio Officials Declare Emergency After COVID-19 Quarantine Hiccup The top two governing officials of the San Antonio area blocked the release of quarantined cruise ship evacuees, declaring a public health emergency after a woman allowed to leave quarantine later tested positive for the new coronavirus.....more Fire Departments in Texas’ Border Zone Awarded $1M in Grants Professional fire departments along the Texas-Mexico border region will be sharing $1 million in grant funding through the Border Zone Fire Department (BZFD) program, according to the office of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott....more Do you have news to share? Email vicki@piatx.org with your story.

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Profile for Texas Professional Insurance Agents

Texas Connection March 2020 Special Edition: Coronavirus  

Texas Connection March 2020 Special Edition: Coronavirus