How Penn, Comcast, Wawa and Vanguard Are Dealing With the Coronavirus
We checked in with ten of Philly's biggest employers.
As the coronavirus continues to spread, we reached out to some of the Philadelphia area’s biggest employers to find out what they are doing to cope.
Following in the footsteps of digital giants like Google and Facebook, Comcast is preparing to test telecommuting options for employees who would normally work from the office. Comcast has also put restrictions on some international corporate travel.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how the coronavirus will affect the Summer Olympics and, therefore, Comcast’s bottom line, since the company owns the broadcast rights for the event. The Olympics are scheduled to begin on July 24th in Tokyo.
The huge Newtown Square-based software firm has canceled all internal events and meetings that are not deemed “business-critical.” Same for business travel.
As for the possibility of working from home, an SAP rep said the following: “SAP employees concerned about coming to the Newtown Square office due to existing medical risk factors, or who may have been exposed to COVID-19-associated risk factors in their private environment, have been encouraged to align with their direct manager on how to best work from home.”
“We have ceased all cross-border business travel between Vanguard sites for the foreseeable future,” says Vanguard spokesperson Amy Lash. “Cross-border business travel to non-Vanguard sites will be permitted only for the most essential needs. Vanguard has also limited all large-group gatherings and has instructed crew to cancel any plans to attend non-client or non-business essential events, such as industry conferences.”
Any Vanguard employee who has recently traveled to China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Taiwan, Macau, Singapore or Iran has been told to work remotely for 14 days.
Just to illustrate how quickly the situation surrounding the coronavirus is changing: On Monday afternoon, a Drexel spokesperson told us that all travel to China, South Korea and Italy must be signed off on by the provost. By the end of Monday, the entire country of Italy had been quarantined.
The school is working with deans, faculty and the IT department to determine the feasibility of moving courses online, if that becomes necessary. As for students, Drexel says that “a small number of students” have been quarantined “out of an abundance of caution” but notes that “there have been no positive diagnoses of the coronavirus at Drexel.”
Independence Blue Cross
Several departments of the Market Street health insurer began working from home last week to “stress test” the technology involved in doing so. And as of Tuesday morning, “the company offered all internal business areas the opportunity to work from home,” according to a press release IBC sent out on Monday.
We asked a spokesperson to clarify if that means that literally every employee of every department has the option to work from home. “Yes, if leaders determine that their area’s business needs can still be met,” replied the spokesperson. “Also, associates who are considered essential to be onsite — or who are unable or ineligible to work from home — will be expected to be in the office.” In other words, no, not every employee of every department.
“We have reinforced our policies around associate health standards as well as providing guidance which includes issuing a temporary policy related to non-essential business travel and an ongoing assessment of both internal and external events,” says Wawa public relations manager Lori Bruce. Wawa has partnered with the American Red Cross to provide safety and prevention tips to employees and customers alike.
We were hoping that the casino formerly known as Sugarhouse would offer some transparency regarding how they are adapting, given that their employees come into such direct contact with large masses of people. Alas, all they would tell us: “We’re monitoring the situation and communicating with our team member accordingly, but have nothing further to add at this time.” When pressed for further details: “We don’t have anything to add at this time.”
On Monday, Jefferson told us that all university-supported air travel has been suspended through May 12th. Jefferson has also “strongly” advised against any gatherings involving 30 or more attendees through that same date.
Though the drug store conglomerate is not based here, CVS employs an estimated 10,000 people in the Philadelphia area — in an environment that naturally welcomes a lot of sick people through its doors. So we wanted to know how the chain is handling the coronavirus.
“We are actively monitoring the current international and domestic environment for coronavirus-related risks and preparing accordingly,” a CVS spokesperson told us. “This includes developing travel, work from home, and other HR-related guidance to help employees stay safe and healthy. We have cancelled non-essential domestic and international business travel. Also, any employees returning from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-designated Level 2 or Level 3 advisory area must observe a mandatory 14-day Work From Home period.”
Of course, none of that applies to your average CVS store employee. For that, CVS sent us to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, which issued this bulletin on Monday evening. Basically, practice good “respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene” and stay home if you’re sick.
University of Pennsylvania
“School and center leadership will consider–on a case-by-case basis–requests from faculty and employees to work from home during this time,” reads a Penn statement. “While not all positions are conducive to telecommuting, those positions with primary job duties that can be effectively performed remotely will be given consideration.” Penn has also asked its teachers to familiarize themselves with online teaching methods in case in-person classes must be canceled.