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There is Stupid, Very Stupid, and Then Recklessly Stupid. Will a Defense Claim of “Act of God” Save You?

There is Stupid, Very Stupid, and Then Recklessly Stupid. Will a Defense Claim of “Act of God” Save You from Liability for Being Unprepared for the Next Bioattack?


As a former FDA COO, Harvard faculty member, infectious disease spread expert, and advisor to the CEOs of MGH, Mass General Brigham (formerly Partners HealthCare), Pfizer, and many other critical US and global health and healthcare leaders in business and government, Dr. Norris has worked daily to create advanced, ever more innovative tools and systems to prevent or mitigate the dangers from the significantly harmful effects of the spread of deadly infectious diseases.

Introduction

This article will expand on the article we published yesterday that focused on hospital workers and their families being the likely first targets for bioattack on the US, Israel, or one or more of our other allies by a lone-wolf terrorist, terrorist group like Hamas or a hostile nation such as Iran. The focus of this follow-up article is on the general case of the foolishness of not using lessons learned from the 2019 COVID attack and preparing oneself for the next attack that could happen in months to years.

These diseases of which Dr. Norris is most concerned include the 24 now known to be the most lethal, including the three most deadly, Anthrax, Botulinum Toxin, and Ebola (coming soon). It's the "spread" that kills millions—whether the pathogen or its variant is born of nature or humankind, and its spread comes in the form of an attack by nature, terrorists, or hostile nations. Dr. Norris was a significant investor in the start-up company that invented and developed the first vaccine for Anthrax, the most dangerous bioweapon in the world. When that company was recently sold, he "paid his compensation forward" by investing all the funds he received in a new company, Safely2Prosperity. He plans to invest in other start-ups needed to fill unmet needs in the infectious disease spread danger zone, bioterrorism attacks and biowarfare attacks, which he believes is the most significant current threat to America and its allies rather than nuclear attack or chemical attack.


Dr. Norris said: "War brutalizes people both physically and mentally. It destroys companies, investors, including de facto investors such as insurer and banks, jobs, and the revenue, supplies, and buyers countries require to stay afloat. Bio wars will be especially hazardous and destructive—so much so that they can bring people, families, economies, and entire countries to their knees."


Because of their extreme workplace exposure and critical importance to our nation's survival, hospital workers and their family members, for example, are the ideal targets if an attacker, including nature, but most likely a hostile party, wants to disable or frighten an entire country into submission in one swoop. Since they are so valuable to the country in a crisis, frontline workers in hospitals, such as—physicians, surgeons, physician assistants, nurses, nurse assistants, orderlies, and pharmacists to dietary aids, pharmacy technicians, other technologists and technicians, medical records personnel, therapists, admitting aides, health aides, housekeepers, and the like (it is incredible how many people make up the comprehensive fabric of hospitals and their owned or allied enterprises, such as clinics, and pharmaceutical, medical device and therapeutics companies, and are either essential or critical to its ability to operate at a high level of productivity in a crisis—and their family members. 


Dr. John Norris said. "For national security and national defense reasons, we won't go into here all the reasons why hospital employees and their families will most likely be targeted first (or who else will likely be targeted second) for bio attacks or by what ways and means they will be targeted—or at least be threatened first. We can only say here that we believe they will, and without protections in place, the damage to them and their families and to their hospital’s capacity to serve could be devastating."


The safety of employee family members is also of great importance. These reasons include, first, workers surveyed indicated they consider protecting their families a higher priority than protecting themselves. Second, there is a high risk that a worker infected at work will take the pathogen home and vice versa. The death of their family members by the workers' taking the pathogen home will psychologically, emotionally, and or financially disable many workers, to one degree or another, thereby reducing their willingness to come to work or destroying or largely destroying their productivity if they do.


Dr. Norris said: "Clearly, the most significant question in the minds of some, and possibly most, workers will likely be: "Who will be the first to die? Will it be someone I deeply love? My spouse? My child? My Parent? My sibling? My grandparent? Deadly viruses and bacteria spread. So, to what end could this evil attack go."


Terrorists and hostile nations will target hospital employees and their families "on day one" of their attacks—and will do so most aggressively. That is terrible to say, but it is, with a high degree of certainty, correct. That is bad enough. Worse and even more regrettably, from a strategic planning perspective, many (perhaps most) hospital leaders and their trade association and union heads falsely and recklessly believe their hospitals are already exceptionally well prepared for such an attack. But they are not. Far from it.


Primary Purpose of This Public Service Article


Our primary interest in writing this public service article is to awaken vital concern and create pro-active interest—and essential immediate strategic action—by hospital leaders (and similarly, leaders in other industries that will be close followers) in their (and thereby their hospitals' trade associations, unions, and systems) becoming more thoroughly and thoughtfully prepared now to save staff and family member lives during an attack. Even in a crisis of this magnitude, including death and "overwhelming credible fear of death," it cannot be allowed to hinder the hospital. Fear for self or others can be very disabling; workers can freeze in place. This result can be brought on by a bio attack or even a credible threat. At all costs, the hospital must remain open and highly productive—so it can also save the lives of people who present themselves or are presented by others for emergent, urgent, and ongoing bio-related care or intensive care.


Introduction to the General Problem


As a CEO, government agency head, or nation leader, you can get away with being stupid and very stupid, but you cannot get away with being recklessly stupid. (I am sure that using the word “foolish” is kinder than “stupid,” but we very much want you, for your own benefit, but also the benefit of your employees, family members, investors/de facto investors/constituents, and the nation, to finally, and I mean finally, get the point. Continuing to be unprepared for the next "bioattack" is reckless beyond belief.)


Dr. Norris said: "Claiming or thinking an "Act of God" provision in a legal or social contract will save you today if your team or enterprise is destroyed by the next bioattack is foolish and reckless. If you do not act soon, you should ask yourself: Am I a "recklessly stupid leader? Or at least a highly foolish one?" There is no absolute remedy for totally eliminating your risks, but having a high-quality "Infectious Disease Spread Safety" strategic plan, program, system, and set of relevant tools in place and fully operational will go a long way. Protecting employees, their family members, investors, and de facto investors, such as health, liability, and business interruption insurers, and lenders of all kinds (investors), is the ethical, moral, social, and legal duty of all leaders."


In the latter, a claim of “Act of God” when hundreds or even thousands of your employees and family members or millions of your constituents die from a bio attack, whether nature-made (as we probably but not certainly saw with COVID-19, which killed over one million Americans, may avoidably) or human-manufactured, by a terrorist individual or group, such as Hamas, or nation-state, such as Iran, will not save you when you are recklessly stupid. Let me briefly tell you why and the lessons you will be held accountable for and should have learned from the COVID-19 attack.


“Unpreparedness” for the Next Time Will Not Cut It. Leaders are Now on Notice.


When COVID-19 attacked the US and the world in 2019, virtually no CEO, government agency head, or nation leader was “prepared”—and worse, they never took reasonable steps to improve the situation during the crisis even though there were would help them to do so. Programs, systems, and tools they knew of or should have known of. Tat the very least, that is called “negligence.” Worse still, the vast majority have not taken the next step in preparing themselves and the enterprise or organization (enterprise) for which they are morally, ethically, socially/politically, and legally responsible for protecting the employees, families, and investors/constituents from the next bio attack, or credible threat thereof, whether it occurs in months or years. At the very least, that is called “reckless.” There could, in rare, special cases, also be “personal liability” or even “criminal liability” involved.


Dr. John Norris said: "As a business executive, government agency head, or nation leader, protecting your workforce, their families, and your other constituents (government agency heads have two constituencies, both their employees and the public) and minimizing the impact of infectious disease spread (it's the "spread" that counts) on your business or agency operations and the economy should be a top priority. In today's world, the threat of another pandemic-sized bioattack by a deadly pathogen is a very real possibility, and leaders who are unprepared will face moral, ethical, social/political, and legal condemnation from employees, families, investors, and other constituents (all of whom have a lesser but significant responsibility to press leaders to do their duties to protect them). In this article, we explore the dangers of irresponsible actions and why claiming an "Act of God" will not save you."


Running a business, government agency, or nation without bioattack protection, no matter how limited and whether nature-made or human-manufactured, is irresponsible--some would say insane. It is even more dangerous than "going bare or self-insuring" to cover a failure to have a fully operational, first-class “Fire Safety Program.” No sound leader would do this when aids (not insurance but assurance and comforting coverage of employees) cost as little as 50 cents per employee per month. Failing to provide assurance at this low cost is the definition of "reckless."


Some of the Critical Errors Leaders Made the First Time


The steps they took were archaic and mostly mirrored what was done to fight, poorly, the 1918 Flu pandemic. Most CEOs, out of fear, ignorance, and a thought there were, and could easily have discovered this if they only looked, no alternatives, when though there were, closed workplaces for months and fired “non-compliant” workers. Many government agencies did the same regarding their employees and families and forced “non-compliant” companies to do the same. National leaders didn’t lead. They followed the path that the CEOs and agency heads had laid. In all, it was a blind mess. Over a million Americans died, possibly as many as 40% died avoidably. I have called for well-funded academic studies to determine what this percentage was and why, so we might learn from it. Shamefully, neither governments nor foundations have funded such a study.


Dr. Norris said: "If there were low-cost, good alternatives to closing businesses (some permanently or severely damaged) and firing "non-compliant" workers, which there were, how can CEOs, government agency heads, or national leaders have failed to deploy them instead or highly damaging mass closures or mass firings during the COVID-19 Pandemic? Why do they continue to make the same mistake in the face of the next attack, whether it is months or years agead?"


Closures avoidably hurt the companies, in the aggregate, what we call the economy, to the tune of 14 trillion dollars in the US, yes 14 trillion, and almost 29 trillion dollars worldwide, yes 29 trillion. By any measure, these were huge blunders if negligent, meaning stupid or very stupid, or unforgivable, if they recklessly did so, and there were reasonable alternatives to closing the doors, and they reasonably should have known this if they did the slightest amount of research or were otherwise informed of this fact, which many of them were.

Many Lawsuits or Pre-Filing Settlements the Last Time. Many More the Next Time


 Many (because most such claims are traditionally settled before suits are filed) companies and their health, liability, and business interruption insurers have been sued by employees or family members for compensation for harm—the vast majority this time, the harm was less than death. Next time, the pathogen used by nature, or the terrorist or nation-state, might target workers and their family members, especially their young children. Young children generally are the most vulnerable to infectious diseases. Killing children is the most “disabling” to workers mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and financially. From a terrorist or hostile nation perspective, they might be the best targets of all. We discuss more of the legal consequences of failing to properly prepare below.


Worst of All, Recklessly Harming Our Children


Add to that the unconscionable act of recklessly closing our schools, when there was a “reasonable alternative,” and the leaders of our schools and our teacher unions knew there was. This act harmed children substantially and possibly permanently. We will see. Again, chaos prevailed, and people took advantage of this to line the pockets of their constituents or members, and thereby garner their stronger support so they might keep their leadership jobs post-pandemic and for a longer term, even if it was the wrong thing to do—actually, because it was the wrong thing to do, and they knew it.


Dr. Norris said, "The consequences of failing to protect or at least help to protect your employees, families, investors, and other critical constituents are dire. Your failure to do so brings you up to the boundary of what is "unforgivable," if not well past it."


People, including leaders, often consider the consequences of their actions. But they rarely consider that a "failure to act is an act"—often an extremely harmful act when dealing with infectious disease spread. In this arena, millions of people might die as a consequence of a single failure to act.


The Consequences of Irresponsible Leadership Can Be Dire


Being a CEO, government agency head, or nation leader comes with great responsibility. Your actions and decisions have the power to impact the lives of many, from thousands to millions, and failure to prioritize the well-being of your workforce, the members of their families, and investors/constituents can have devastating consequences. Whether it is disregarding scientific evidence, neglecting the implementation of effective public health measures, ignoring available technological aids costing as little as 50 cents per employee per month, or downplaying the severity of a potential threat, these actions can lead to widespread infection, loss of life, and economic turmoil--as well as various forms of significant punishment for leaders who do so, from civil to rarely, criminal, liability.

The Moral, Ethical, and Social/Political Implications of Poor or Reckless Actions


As a leader, your moral, ethical, and social/political obligations extend beyond just ensuring the financial success of your organization or nation or implementing policies that benefit your constituents, as large or small a group as they might be. In the face of a bio attack--or more likely but also very debilitating, a credible threat thereof--your duty is to protect the health and safety of your entire workforce, especially your poorly paid front-line workers who often have the highest infectious disease spread risk jobs. Failing to take necessary precautions or dismissing the severity of the situation is a breach of trust and legal duties and a betrayal of your responsibilities. Your employees, their families, and your investors/constituents will not easily forgive or forget such actions. And neither will your pocketbook. You will be at risk for various forms of punishment for failing to act with integrity and responsibly. These punishments range from loss of bonus, to loss of job, to loss of reputation or respect, locally, nationally, and internationally, to personal liability for damages, to, in rare circumstances where your acts were particularly egregious and reckless, criminal liability.

The Social/Political Fallout from Failures to Act


Trust in leadership is paramount in a time of crisis. When leaders fail to prioritize the well-being of their communities, they erode employees, families, investors, and the public's confidence and create a sense of significant fear and uncertainty. The consequences of such actions can be far-reaching--leading to social unrest, political upheaval, and a loss of credibility at all levels of society, from businesses to an entire nation. Such loss of trust is difficult to regain. The public, especially employees and their family members, but also investors, expect their leaders to act responsibly and make decisions based on the best available information. Failure to do so will result in severe social and political repercussions for businesses and investors and potentially for the entire nation.

The Legal Consequences of Doing Little to Nothing to Protect Your Employees, Families, Investors, or Constituents


Claiming that irresponsible actions were forced by an "Act of God" will not absolve leaders of their legal obligations. In fact, it may invite even greater scrutiny and legal consequences. Courts will likely assess whether the actions taken were reasonable, given the information and resources available at the time. If it is determined that a leader acted recklessly or negligently and failed to take necessary precautions that they knew or should have known were essential, they may face legal liabilities, such as wrongful death claims, negligence lawsuits, or even criminal charges.

Dr. Norris said: "The dire moral, ethical, social/political, and legal consequences of poor or reckless actions (or non-actions) in the face of a bioattack, or the credible threat of one, are so enormous that words can express them. Only an attack using a many megaton nuclear weapon would be more devasting. A few months ago, the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, predicted that the next pandemic-sized attack by a deadly pathogen could come soon, and if so, it likely would kill 50 million people worldwide, seven times the number that the COVID-19 Pandemic killed, and 100,000 times the number that a single crash of a 747 would kill."


It is unconscionable that we leave the US, the world, and any of our enterprises unprotected at any level or scale within which humans seek their survival and livelihood. Without reasonable protections in place before the bioattack, it is possible, if not likely, that the world as we know it will also not survive. People might, but the social fabric that is the basis of our happiness likely will not. Even if they only care about themselves and their families, our leaders must act now.

A Quick Summary of Critical Steps Needed to Prepare Now for the Next Bioattack


In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic-sized bio attack or a credible threat of the next, leaders who were or are again unprepared will be held accountable. To avoid being labeled as "stupid" or "recklessly stupid," leaders must take proactive measures to protect their workforce and minimize the impact of infectious disease spread on their operations, their people, and their investors/constituents. This includes:

  1. Creating, Installing, implementing, and fully operating a robust infectious disease spread response strategic plans, programs, and systems, including state-of-the-art tools, that cover thoughtful, effective, installed, implemented, fully operational, trained, and tried prevention, mitigation, and control/containment strategies and generate pre- and during-crisis risk management instructions or recommendations. Safely2Prosperity's VirusVigilant product does all of these, but so do three of our competitors. You needn't purchase our product, but it is critical that you purchase a product similar to our product soon. These strategic plans, programs, systems, and tools should be regularly updated based on the latest scientific knowledge and guidance from public health authorities and the latest technologies or versions of those technologies.

  2. Investing in the necessary resources, such as (1) personal protective equipment (PPE), (2) vaccination, testing, therapeutic, isolation (for likely infected employees), quarantine (for exposed employees), contact tracing, facility security, other relevant capabilities, and (3) proper product or tool triaging, administration, and management programs--to ensure the safety and well-being of employees and their families, as well as investors and other constituencies.

  3. Prioritizing communication and transparency with employees, families, investors/constituents, and other stakeholders. In addition, making available regular updates on the current situation, preventive measures, and contingency plans to help maintain trust and confidence in leadership will go a long way toward minimizing the mental, psychological, emotional, and financial harm to employees, families, and investors.

  4. Collaborating with local, national, and international public health agencies to leverage their training, expertise, skills, and expertise, and resources, and guidance. This partnership will enhance the effectiveness of proactive response efforts before and during crises and ensure a coordinated enterprise, local, regional, national, and international approach that will help maximize the chances for success in attaining prevention, mitigation, and control goals in a bioattack-borne crisis or bioattack-threat-borne crisis.

Conclusion

We promised to keep this article brief. You get the point. Claiming that your irresponsible acts as a CEO, government agency head, or national leader were forced by an “Act of God” will not protect you against moral, ethical, social/political, or legal condemnation by employees and constituents if you are not soon prepared for the next pandemic-sized bio attack by a deadly pathogen or credible threat thereof—the latter of which is almost as harmful and disruptive to employees, family members, and investors/constituents because of their mental, psychological, emotional, and financial implications. Beware, leaders who still are unprepared or think you are prepared but are not certain, truthful with yourselves, or poorly informed. Being poorly informed or relying on an “Act-of-God” clause in a legal or social contract will not at all protect you the next time there is a bio attack, whether nature-made or human-manufactured. Because of the COVID-19 attack, you are on notice of the likelihood of the next attack in months or years. You are running even more bare than if you have failed to have a fully operational, first-class “Fire Safety Program.” 


Dr. Norris said: "So what do we do to create action? We have been doing every thing we know how to do. But we need help. We feel we are all alone and no one else sees the obvious deadly situation that we see in large red-colored type. To President Biden's and his OSHA agency's credit, they properly diagnosed the problem and crafted key parts of its solution. They tried to create actions to protect American workers and families, and as derivative, thereby, investors of all kinds, as described earlier. But they got slammed unjustly, shamelessly, and foolishly from every direction. Their opponents were never so wrong."


To put it bluntly, no matter how much you wish it would: Claiming an "Act of God" defense will not save leaders from the moral, ethical, social/political, or legal consequences of their irresponsible actions. As a business executive, government agency head, or nation leader, it is your responsibility to prioritize the well-being of your workforce, families, and investors/constituents and take proactive measures to protect them against infectious disease spread. By being prepared, transparent, and accountable, you can minimize the impact of bio attacks and establish yourself as a responsible and trustworthy leader in the eyes of your employees, families, investors, and other constituents. Do not wait for the next crisis to strike before taking action. The time to act is now.

In conclusion, employees and their family members, as well as investors, insurers, and bankers, are indeed at risk during a nature-made, bioterrorist, or biowarfare bio attack. However, with proper preparedness, training, and resources, especially counter-measures and tools, such as Safely2Prosperity's VirusVigilant infectious disease spread risk management platform system, or a similar system owned by one of our competitors, and communication, enterprises of all kinds can mitigate these risks and help ensure the continued high quality and quantity provision of healthcare and other services to customers/patients. The safety of employees and their families, as well as their investors, insurers, and banks, should be a paramount concern for executives, government agency heads, and nation leaders as they work towards protecting their workforces and minimizing the impact of bioterrorist attacks and biowarfare incidents. Together, we can ensure the resilience and effectiveness of our business, agency, and national safety and operating systems in the face of these complex and hazardous challenges.

A Public Service Announcement by Safely2Prosperity and Dr. John Norris


This article has been a public service announcement by Safely2Prosperity and its Executive Chairman, Dr. John Norris. Safely2Prosperity (S2P) provides a "comprehensive infectious-disease spread risk-management solution," VirusVigilant, for business executives, government-agency heads, and nation leaders. S2P's VirusVigilant "Infectious Disease Safety Program" (like a Fire Safety Program but much more sophisticated and complex) combines a SaaS platform with customized risk management for overseeing add-on packages of vaccinations, testing, therapeutics, and tracking technologies, among many others. It helps these leaders meet their moral, ethical, and legal responsibilities and protect and help enhance workforce (and family) safety and productivity. Thereby, it helps assure (it's not "insurance," but "assurance," at 1,000 times less the cost) business continuity, revenue, profits, investor and insurer protection, and the overall effectiveness of the enterprise. With a focus on proactive measures, S2P offers a cost-effective, low-cost (as low as pennies per employee per month), and intuitive solution for risk-managing infectious disease spread. Dr. John Norris is a former FDA COO and Harvard faculty member who is an expert in preventing, mitigating, and controlling the spread of infectious diseases. He has spoken and published often on this topic.

If you want to learn more about VirusVigilant, please contact Dr. John Norris by text at 617-680-3127 or by email at John.Norris@Safely2Prosperity.com (mailto: John.Norris@Safely2Prosperity.com). S2P's website is safely2prosperity.com (http://safely2prosperity.com/).


(c) 2024 Safely2Prosperity LLC and Dr. John Norris. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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