By Ann Gergen, Executive Director
One sentiment is repeated in almost every conversation happening right now within the public entity pooling community: “It’s hard to plan, because we just don’t know what to expect from the coronavirus.”
We’re all looking for hard data sources to provide clarity regarding COVID-19’s longevity and potential impact to pools and public entities. One perspective you might find useful is this viewpoint from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP).
This report emphasizes a data point now influencing how I perceive the unknowns: Unless there are changes in the availability of a vaccine or the ability to achieve herd immunity, the COVID-19 pandemic will probably last 18 to 24 months.
CIDRAP projects three scenarios for the pandemic’s continuation:
Peaks and Valleys. The current wave is the first of several that gradually diminish over the next one to two years.
Fall Peak. The current wave is dwarfed by a much larger wave this fall (as happened in the 1918–19 and 2009–10 pandemics), followed by smaller waves in 2021.
Slow Burn. The current wave is followed by “ongoing transmission and case occurrence, but without a clear wave pattern.”
Largely focused on public health considerations, CIDRAP recommends planning be based upon the fall peak scenario, with other periodic localized outbreaks expected. This would mean reimplementation of mitigation efforts to slow the spread later this year.
If the fall peak scenario is most accurate of the three, we might anticipate the following impacts to our public entity pooling community:
- Many local public entity services will remain greatly reduced for a year. Core operations like public safety, corrections, public works, water and wastewater, roads, inspections, etc., will be prioritized and maintained (albeit under new operating standards). Parks and recreational programs and other public services that depend upon shared spaces will continue to be affected until spring 2021. The 2020–21 school year will also be significantly impacted.
- Public entity revenues will be cut further. Most public entities are forward-thinking and have already made adjustments in anticipation of revenue shortfalls resulting from current pandemic mitigation strategies. But a time frame of 18 to 24 months suggests a second round of budget discussions and longer-term operational cuts – as well as sustained revenue constriction for several years to come.
- Reduced frequency and cost for liability, workers’ compensation and health claims unrelated to COVID-19 will continue another year for the average pool. However, new COVID-19 health and work comp claims offsetting this reduction should begin to emerge within the next two to three months. This information will be helpful to project the claims impact of a second large pandemic wave in the fall and several smaller waves thereafter.
- A good sense of new COVID-19 liability causes of action won’t emerge until mid-2021. Although we might learn something about possible liability claims over the next few months, another COVID-19 wave in the fall will be more consequential. By next summer, pools will probably begin to see the real effect on public entity liability.
- Reinsurance, excess and stop-loss renewals for all lines of coverage will be impacted through 2022. Expect to have conversations about new exclusions and pricing whenever your pool next renews. In some cases, the changes could be incremental (e.g., a small wording change now and another change next year). In others, the changes might be fast and absolute.
- Remote pool operations and changes to work environments are likely to be necessary for at least another year. Although you may now be reasonably considering options to bring some staff back to the office, you’ll be better able to ride out another outbreak in the fall if you make longer-term adjustments and plans.
I’m curious to know whether you anticipate different or additional impacts based upon a fall peak scenario. Please let me know your thoughts and any plans you’re making that might be useful to share with other public entity pools.
Ann Gergen is AGRiP’s executive director and a former pool administrator. She has worked closely with and for pools, public entities, reinsurers and related service providers throughout her career.
Each week, Ann will offer insight into COVID-19 issues AGRiP members are experiencing and related trends to monitor. For more, access the full series of COVID-19 perspective posts.
Access AGRiP’s COVID-19 Resource Center for coronavirus information, links and news relevant to pools. Email us with questions or comments, or connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.