- South China Morning Post: China coronavirus outbreak could be 10 times worse than SARS, expert says
- South China Morning Post: Another city joins Wuhan in quarantine lockdown as Beijing tries to contain deadly outbreak
- BBC: Davos / World Economic Forum Hub
- US Department of Homeland Security: Iran Bulletin
- US Department of Homeland Security: National Terrorism Advisory System
Hello. Welcome to this week’s episode of BryghtCast Weekly. Today is Tuesday, January 21st, 2020. My name is Bray Wheeler, consultant with Bryghtpath. In this week’s episode, we’re going to talk about the World Economic Forum, a recent bulletin by the National Terrorism Advisory System, and we’re going to begin this week actually talking about the Wuhan coronavirus.
So, the United States Centers for Disease Control has announced that the first case of the Wuhan coronavirus has been diagnosed in Washington State, here on Tuesday. The virus appeared last month in the Wuhan province of China and has already made hundreds sick. It’s killed about six people already in Asia, according to current counts. The U.S. has become the fourth country outside of China with a confirmed case of the virus. The other countries include Japan, South Korea, and Thailand. While the virus can be spread from person to person, health professionals are indicating that it’s not as easily spread, they think, as influenza or measles, for example. But there’s not a lot of information kind of about this new virus, in terms of really what makes it tick, where it’s kind of… They have a general idea of where it’s coming from, but they don’t have a lot of the details that they need, in order to effectively kind of combat the virus, as it stands right now.
So, the World Health Organization is set to meet tomorrow, to decide whether to declare an international public health emergency. But more than likely, here in the U.S., the CDC has announced that in addition to previously announced passenger screenings… Which they announced on January 17th, I believe, at JFK Airport in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco International Airports… the CDC is also going to start screening passengers flying into Hartsfield Jackson Airport in Atlanta, as well as O’Hare Airport in Chicago. Now, these screenings will only be for passengers that are flying directly or indirectly through Wuhan at the moment. Now certainly, if this kind of virus continues to spread, or things change, it will likely change the way in which they’re screening at some of these things, and we could very well see an expansion to different airports.
So, what can organizations do right now? Kind of with this new virus, people are already mentioning references to the SARS outbreak, or H1N1, or things like that. But really, kind of for medical facilities especially, a lot of them are beginning to change some of their intakes prompts, to make sure that they’re asking anyone with a fever or respiratory symptoms if they’ve been to or been in contact with anybody who has been in China. We certainly would recommend this to any of our hormonal contraceptive clients or listeners here, to consider implementing those types of steps now. Certainly these facilities and U.S. organizations, as healthcare companies and facilities, definitely are kind of best positioned to respond to some of these and have plans and processes in place around epidemics, or outbreaks of different viruses and things like that.
We’re certainly in cold and flu season, so a lot of facilities are on alert for those. We’ve had measles here in the last couple of years, being kind of a real thing, in terms of needing to make sure that those things are contained. So, nothing new, but certainly something that you want to start asking those questions if you’re a healthcare, medical company.
For other organizations, it’s definitely important now to kind of determine your level of travel exposure within Wuhan province in China, as well as other Asian countries, including kind of just China at large. But really, you’re going to want to start connecting with your travel agencies or travel security and health vendors, to discuss resources, review processes for offering medical assistance, and just to ensure employees, when they return or if they’re currently in or will be going to China or Asia, are aware of the virus, are aware of what medical resources you as an organization have in place for them. Where they should be going, who they should be contacted to make sure they’re reporting any concerns about their travel safety or health, or issues that they’re having, to your travel safety or security teams, your global operation centers, or just to their managers and leaders. That’s kind of the most basic kind of reporting structure.
From a broader standpoint, within the organization, it’s good… This is kind of a good reminder, at this point, or a good prompt to review your business continuity workforce plans, your pandemic planning. Any related plans or processes, in terms of how you would manage through an incident around an issue like this. It’s just a good time to start, kind of… If you haven’t dusted them off in a while, it’s a good time to dust them off. If you’re kind of regularly engaged with them, making sure that you’re accounting for any of the new kind of nuances or new information resources that you might be tracking, that are being made available through the CDC or other agencies around this virus.
Now, certainly this virus here is… You know. There’s not a lot of information there. It’s not quite to the level of global concern that SARS is at, but it’s definitely getting there. You know, the situation is evolving. It’s not yet reached those levels. As I mentioned earlier, the international, or the World Health Organization hasn’t issued anything yet. They probably will tomorrow. But it will be important to kind of make sure that you’re right-sizing the threat of this for folks, too, because there could be a lot of concern as this thing kind of grows, and more people start talking about it. It’s definitely made some headlines here today on Tuesday. But it’s important that you as an organization are right-sizing this, in terms of kind of the severity and threat, as well as reviewing and discussing what you would do now, rather than when it’s having a tangible impact or a real impact on your workforce, on their families, or on your company operations.
Shifting gears a little bit, our next topic is the World Economic Forum is occurring this week in Davos, Switzerland. It’s the forum’s 50th anniversary, where countries, business leaders, thought leaders, international organizations of all different kinds and advocacy levels convene to discuss global economic issues. It tends to trail into some other topic categories, but the Forum is really about kind of bringing as many folks together, with some intense conversation around some of the major global issues that are going on right now, particularly economic issues.
Prominent topics for this year’s forum. Kind of the main one that’s being talked about is just climate change. Australia’s wildfires, rising sea levels, stronger storms, issues in places like Jakarta and California and I mentioned Australia, and others, as well as kind of the sensation that is internationally the Swedish environmental activist, Greta Thunberg, is set to speak. I believe she’s speaking actually today, Tuesday, on the issue of climate change. And so, this issue is really looming large over this year’s forum, of the announcements. Kind of Black Rocks Movement, and some other organizations and things like that. A lot of those attend these forums. There’s a lot more pressure, and a lot of focus on this just as a real issue, because there are some tangible things that organizations and folks are starting to see, even though other organizations have different points of view. Whether or not you believe it’s a real thing that’s happening or not, we don’t tend to get into the politics of it here, but it is the issue that probably will set to kind of take over the primary conversation there.
Other topics that are expected to take some sort of center stage, and most likely will: Rising tensions in the Middle East. Certainly, the recent tensions between the U.S. and Iran, as well as some things that are going on in Yemen and Saudi Arabia and others, will likely have folks talking this week. Income inequality. Rising debt. China’s rising economic power, kind of compared to Western economic frameworks and setups, is definitely a big issue. Brexit, of course, will likely be an issue, as that is coming down the road here.
And then just kind of the forum itself. Its primary ideology is that of globalism, and really taking a focus that the more open borders, the more free trade, the more partnership that’s occurring in the world economically, the less likely there will be conflict or broader issues. But there’s definitely, folks are seeing kind of that counterpoint that’s happening right now to globalism, is that rise of nationalism, authoritarianism, things like that. And so, that’s kind of an undercurrent of a conversation that folks are expecting may be a real topic starter throughout the conference here, or the Forum this week.
Finally this week, the Department of Homeland Security has, over the weekend, on Saturday, January 18th, released a National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin. It’s kind of their lowest level of advisory. But, regarding the potential for Iran-backed terrorism occurring over the next few months. So, there’s been kind of… Certainly, the tensions, as the media has indicated, have kind of started to shift down. However, with Iran’s admission of its downing of the Ukrainian flight, as well as some other conversation things happening between Trump’s administration and Iran in different speeches… You know, those tensions are still very much there, so what DHS has indicated here publicly is that they don’t have any information indicating a specific or credible threat to the homeland.
However, there is concern about Iran’s ability to potentially carry out cyber attacks, as one of kind of the main offshoots here. We heard a lot about that right at the onset of potential responses. Iran ended up responding immediately with those missile strikes off of the U.S. base, which may or may not have injured U.S. military personnel. Initial indications were there were no injuries. There is some indication now that some service members were injured. Regardless of that fact, that was kind of the initial response, but folks kind of expected that there would be some other things that Iran would do in response to this, cyber-attacks being one. So, not really any new information, other than this going in an official bulletin.
However, Iran and its partners and proxies, particularly Hezbollah, have demonstrated their abilities to conduct attacks inside and outside of the United States. Iran has a very global reach. I think we’ve talked about that before. I think Brian’s talked about that a little bit in Managing Uncertainty Podcast. But their ability to kind of, for conventional conflict, is not on par with the U.S. or other world powers. However, their ability to fight proxy wars across the globe… Excuse me… is pretty significant. They are pretty well-positioned to do that. And so, there is a real chance that those things could happen inside or outside of the United States, you know, over the next few months.
So, this bulletin is set to expire on March 18th, 2020. However, DHS often kind of updates or extends these bulletins as appropriate. They may cancel it earlier. I doubt it. They tend to let them either just expire organically, or oftentimes these are updated. And I expect that this one probably will, as well.
But in terms of what organizations can do, the biggest thing for companies and organizations to do right now is to ensure that your cyber and your physical security teams are aware of this potential threat. I’m sure most are. I’m sure most of you get these types of alerts from DHS. But if you don’t already, please, please subscribe to these DHS, NTAS alerts. You can find a link to those in our episode notes. It’ll actually take you straight to this bulletin, and within the bulletin, there’s a link that you can set up to subscribe to these things.
But other opportunities exist for your organization. You know, just in terms of the kind of republishing general preparedness, safety, evacuation reminders. You want to be careful in that messaging, though, to avoid any unnecessary alarm or distraction that may be associated with these reminders, especially if you’re talking about this threat or other threats that you may encounter. You just want to make sure that you’re setting the table appropriately, and that you’re not necessarily referencing it to a specific incident or issue. It’s really just kind of a great time to issue some of those general responses, so that it’s on top of mind for folks, but you’re also not overly alarming folks as they go through about their normal business day.
So, that will do it for this week’s edition of BryghtCast Weekly. You can find links to the topics that we talked about today in the episode notes, as I’ve mentioned before. Thank you for joining us, and we’ll talk to you next week.