The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has yet to reach pandemic stage, but its effects are being felt globally not just in the numbers of people contracting the virus but in the effect the virus is having on economies around the world. How could COVID-19 impact your business? Are you liable if you happen to pass it on to another person? What happens if you travel for work and contract COVID-19?
We asked our personal and commercial insurance advisors to share their expertise with us to cut through the varied messages media outlets are sending so you can better understand how (or even if) COVID-19 could impact you.
Would I be covered if I had people at my home for an event and someone contracted COVID-19?
Generally, personal liability policies exclude the transmission of sickness or disease. Nearly all standard homeowners policies contain a communicable disease exclusion, which means if you are sued for transmitting illness to another person, whether intentional or not, there is no coverage. Personal umbrella policies sometimes cover types of liability that are excluded in a homeowners policy and their terms and conditions can vary widely among insurance carriers. However, nearly all umbrella policies exclude communicable diseases, although some policies only exclude sexually transmitted diseases. You should read your homeowners and umbrella policies to understand how your policies address this.
How could COVID-19 affect my family’s travel?
While some policies exclude epidemics, the larger issue is that policies would probably not respond unless an insured traveler became sick themselves. Travel insurance may not cover you for cancelling travel plans out of fear of contracting the virus. Hotel or airlines may offer no-fee cancellations or rebooking if you are traveling to a city or country experiencing a high number of cases; check with your hotel or airline directly if you have concerns.
What if I travel as part of my job?
If you travel for work and you happened to contract the virus, you might be covered under your employer’s worker’s comp policy. However, repatriation expenses or extended stays due to quarantine are not typically part of a standard policy. Check with your employer to see if contagions, repatriation, or quarantine expenses are included in their worker’s comp or liability policies.
Though COVID-19 is more serious than a typical cold or flu, there are ways you can increase your chances of avoiding it no matter where you live, work, or travel:
Wash your hands. As simple as it sounds, a thorough hand washing (with soap and warm water) can be a big help in stopping the spread of viruses and bacteria.
Use hand sanitizer. Carrying a pocket-sized hand sanitizer spray or gel can work almost as well as a thorough hand washing.
Use your elbow, not your fist. While not scientific, the cable show Mythbusters showed that sneezing or coughing into your elbow can effectively prevent fluids from spreading better than using your hand, a tissue, or a handkerchief.
Don’t be a hero. If you develop a fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, or difficulty breathing, don’t “power through” and go to work, school, or a social engagement. Seek medical help early, because the common cold and any number of strains of the flu share many of these same symptoms with COVID-19.