We have decided to implement some measures that will likely affect the remainder of tax season. Please read this newsletter to learn how this may impact you.
Some important notes about coronavirus, as of the morning of March 14, 2020...
- Although symptoms are generally mild, the elderly and those with chronic underlying disease such as diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease at any age are at increased risk if they contract it.
- People who contract COVID-19 infect almost twice as many other people as people who contract the seasonal flu. (The flu has a transmission factor of approximately 1.3, whereas COVID-19 has a transmission factor of about 2.2.)
- The best numbers currently available indicate that COVID-19 appears to be 2-7 times more deadly than the seasonal flu. (1 out of every 1,000 people who contract the flu die each year.)
- To put this in perspective, if every year-round resident of Door County (approximately 27,750 people) contracted COVID-19, somewhere between 55 and 200 of them would die from it---assuming the population of Door County was a perfect bell-curve in terms of age and health.
- Obviously the population of Door County isn't a perfect bell-curve in terms of age and health! If you just look at individuals who are older and have underlying health issues (again, at any age), the deadliness of COVID-19 is higher than that for the entire population.
- Additionally, the deadliness of COVID-19 will increase if the virus spreads so quickly that hospitals run out of capacity to treat patients with the virus or don't have enough time to prepare and gather enough resources for treating patients with the virus. (This is why social distancing is so important: it slows the spread of the virus so that A) not as many patients need treatment all at once and B) hospitals have more time to "gear up.")
- It takes 5 days after contracting the virus to test positive for it---but symptoms usually don't develop for 11 days following exposure. (This means someone could spread the virus for nearly 2 weeks before knowing they are sick!)
- COVID-19 can survive up to 24 hours on cardboard and 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel (and still infect people).
- Because there has been a lack of testing in the Unites States to date, it is highly likely that the virus is more widespread in this country than the official numbers indicate. (By how much isn't clear.)
- There is no current vaccine for COVID-19.
Regardless of your personal feelings on the coronavirus and the danger it does or does not pose to you and your family, we have determined that as a firm whose clients vary in age, come from all walks of life, and travel widely---including many to Europe and Asia---there are steps we should take, starting today, until further notice, to help limit the potential spread of this virus and protect our vulnerable clients:
- We kindly ask all clients who are sick or have a family member who is sick (common cold or not), to please not visit the office.
- We kindly ask all clients: if you have not yet provided your tax documents, please upload all documents electronically (to ShareFile or your encrypted electronic tax prep checklist) or send them by snail mail, rather than dropping them off at our office in person. (We prefer electronic delivery, whenever possible, since the virus can last so long on paper surfaces---but we also realize that this isn't possible for some clients.)
- Unless there are very important reasons to meet with us in person, we will begin holding all meetings over the internet (using Zoom) or by phone. If you already have an in-person meeting scheduled with us, please reach out right away to let us know which alternative method you prefer. If by phone, please call us at the scheduled time. If online, via Zoom, we will send you the meeting login information. (Zoom allows us to share screens with you, which can be a nice way of reviewing the documents together.)
- We will no longer be scheduling in person tax return pick-ups and will instead be providing all completed returns either electronically or by mail. (All physical tax documents will be returned to you by mail as well.) A phone call or online Zoom meeting can be set up to discuss your returns if you have any questions.
We understand that some of you may question the necessity of these steps. After all, we, ourselves, may contract the virus simply by interacting with the world and therefore bring the virus to the office and our clients all by ourselves. Additionally, the virus can last on paper surfaces, and despite being a largely paperless office, it is hard to avoid paper documents at tax time. For those who therefore feel these efforts aren't necessary, please understand: that may be true, but by doing nothing we would be putting our elderly and immunologically compromised clients at increased and avoidable risk.
To put it another way: if all of our clients contracted the virus, a few could die. Are all of our clients likely to contract the virus? No. Even if they did, would it be our fault? Probably not. You could get it from your kids, or going to the grocery store. Will taking the above actions completely prevent the spread of the virus? Of course not---there is simply no realistic way to completely prevent the spread of the virus (outside of hermetically sealed quarantine rooms). People can get the virus in any number of ways that our actions won't have an impact on.
Why don't we take these measures to prevent the seasonal flu each year? How is this different? The flu, although never quite the same, is well-understood, and consistently contained from year to year. COVID-19 is new, and not yet well-understood. People can also vaccinate themselves against the flu each year---so there is an element of personal prevention that people can take to fight the flu individually. This option does not exist for COVID-19. The only defense we have against the virus is to take swift, early actions, as a community, to prevent (or at least slow) its spread.
Why now? Isn't the current risk for COVID-19 in Door County low? Consider this: given that symptoms may take 11 days to develop, how will we know when Door County has reached the "tipping point"? How will we know when it's finally time to act? Although it is true the problem may never seriously manifest itself in Door County, if it does manifest itself, we won't know that it has until it is too late to prevent it, or effectively slow it. Acting early, before it seems to matter, is the key.
At the end of the day, we would rather sleep well at night knowing we did our part by taking small, reasonable measures to avoid unnecessarily spreading the virus.
As always, don't hesitate to call if you have any questions! :)