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COVID-19:Cybersecurity scams and phishing attempts heightened during COVID-19 situation - Think before you click!Prolera Client Site Visit Protocols Learning Track DocumentsUpdates from ShielaEmployee Assistance Program (EAP)FREE Linkedin Courses – Working RemotelyAsk Us About Our COVID-19 Response Back to Top

Cybersecurity scams and phishing attempts heightened during COVID-19 situation - Think before you click!

Your Safety Is Important. All COVID-19 Response Updates Here. Check back regularly for more updates.

Return to Premises Plan – For Associates
Return to Premises Checklist

Prolera Client Site Visit Protocols Learning Track Documents

Harris County COVID19 Guidance: Here

COVID19 FAQ: Here

CDC COVID-19 Guidelines for Prevention: Here

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Informational Poster : Here

FFCRA Q&A: Here

Harris County Stay Home Work Safe Order: Here

Travis Count Stay Home Work Safe Order: Here

Montgomery County Stay Home Work Safe Order: Here

Updates from the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy: Here

To access resources from B&V’s IT Team, navigate to: S:\COVID-19 on the internal S-Drive

Pathway Forensics Response Plan: Here

COVID-19 Intake and Response Procedures: Here

SBA Resource Presentation: Here

Empower Retirement CARES Act Relief: Here

Updates from Shiela

6.5.2020

Good evening,

Despite the current circumstances, we have much to be thankful for! From the beginning, our number one goal was to maintain everyone’s livelihood. We are proud to be able to continue our PEP program and we even have some promotions, with no layoffs or furloughs. Your continued dedication to provide the best client service sustains the firm, and allow us to weather this storm together.

In the coming months, we will continue to plan and execute on how we will return to work safely, with the tentative date still being August 3rd. Below we give you some insights on a few of the tasks we are working on to get us there. Note that we have expedited the roll out of our Diversity & Inclusion program.

Many of you are familiar with Prolaera, B&V’s learning management system which we will use to provide digital training and information along with Zoom meetings and webinars and other online resources and communication tools. We are in the process of developing and procuring these trainings and information and below is a summary of initial topics that we will provide:

Training & Development

  • Visiting client site protocols and Engagement letter addendums
  • Social distancing – Use of PPE, Sanitizing/cleaning, Contact logging
  • Remote work environment – Leading a remote team, Work from home efficiency strategies, On the job training, New staff training and orientation
  • Return to the office protocols
  • Testing and pre-screening
  • Sick protocols
  • Update on revised policies
  • Social distancing – Use of PPE, Sanitizing/cleaning, Contact logging
  • Inclusion
  • Diversity
  • A revamp of the B&V Leadership Series

IT

The IT and Facilities group is hard at work behind the scenes putting new technologies in place for improved performance and security of our enterprise systems and procuring personal protection equipment, products, and signage to ensure our future safe return to premises. With that said we thought we would share some of these things with you in this evening’s update.

Over the past few weeks on the IT front we have been heavily focused on a trend we observed in recent survey results stating that maintaining a stable remote connection to our systems has proven challenging at times. In direct response to your feedback we went out and signed an agreement with CATO Networks to bring you “Cato” our new VPN solution aimed at replacing our current Array, NetExtender, and WatchGuard VPNs. Cato is proven to be faster, more reliable with “always-on functionality,” and more secure. We formally launched Cato on Friday May 29th and in six short days we are excited to say that over 80% of the firm has already adopted our new VPN. For that, a sincere kudos to all of you for making the rapid shift!

Another notable milestone on our road to IT bliss is the introduction and deployment of Multi-Factor Authentication, good old MFA! MFA is critical to our firm because it prevents what we like to call “bad actors” of the world from being able to use your credentials to access our firm’s systems and applications. Microsoft has stated that using a second layer of authentication has proven to thwart 99% of automated cyberattacks and being that we are a CPA and Audit firm, I think we can all agree 99% is a pretty big deal! Thanks to all of you who have worked with us to quickly adopt MFA over the past for weeks, and for those of you that are scheduled to do so in the coming days, we look forward to working with you as well!

Facilities

Jumping over to the Facilities side of the house, where we have been quite busy also, our next big change will be our future return to premises. Our associates are our most important asset and to ensure we all have a safe return we have been actively researching and sourcing PPE items such as B&V branded washable cloth face masks (safe & stylish!), stand-mounted automated hand sanitizer dispensers with plentiful hand sanitizer for all, disinfectant sprays and paper towels, infrared thermometers, and plexiglass bio-screens for reception and admin areas throughout our office spaces. We are committed to maintaining our health and safety, therefore these items along with informational signage and related procedures will all be in place prior to our return to the premises.

Thank you for your continued support and feedback as we work to keep our firm the Best Accounting Firm to Work for in 2020 and beyond!

Thank you,

The COVID-19 Response Team

5.4.2020

Happy Monday everyone,

Texas is officially open to a certain degree and the COVID-19 Response Team continues to monitor any orders and guidelines that become available.

What does this mean for us as a firm? In short, there will be no change in the way we are working now. It is our position to take a conservative approach, with your health and safety at the forefront. We continue to emphasize practicing individual safety measures and virtual meetings. Should you have a client that would like to meet in person, we have a policy in place and ask that you report this request to your department chair.

The Response Team has set a date of 5/31/2020 to reassess the COVID-19 environment at large against the “Return to Premises” (RTP) plan we have drafted.  We will use the next few weeks to carefully put in place the procedures and protocols to allow us to implement a phased approach to our RTP plan. Please be assured that individual needs and circumstances are being considered and mutual flexibility on the part of the firm and each individual is a component of the plan.  We will also continue to keep you informed as our plans are solidified.

That said and in consideration of a return to premises, the team has taken this opportunity to reimagine the “new normal” and the “future of work.” The way in which we will all interact and the way business will be conducted have changed, and we are looking at how we can evolve and improve upon how things have been in the past. We’ve already gotten great input from you in the recent survey that was sent out and an overwhelming majority would like some kind of “new normal.” More on the survey results will be shared in Thursday’s email.

Our firm is very fortunate in that we have been able to continue to work during this time with little interruption. Everyone has stepped up to be more accountable, flexible and patient—we thank you for that! Thank you for all your individual contributions and together making our firm as wonderful as it is. Please continue to come to us with any questions or concerns you may have.

Thank you,

The COVID-19 Response Team

4.27.2020

Good afternoon,

We hope you had a great weekend enjoying the beautiful weather.

Harris County Mandatory Face Coverings

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo signed a new order last week mandating that everyone over the age of 10 wear a face covering when outside their home. This order will be in effect at 12:01AM on Monday, April 27, 2020 and will continue until May 26, 2020 at 11:59PM. The CDC’s guidelines on face coverings can be found here.

Governor Gregg Abbott “Open Texas” Order

Governor Abbott just announced Phase 1 of a three phase plan to open up businesses in Texas. More information can be found at www.gov.texas.gov/opentexas and a summary is below:

  • Stay at home order will expire on April 30th
  • Businesses that are allowed to open on May 1st at 25% occupancy and following safety guidelines include:
    • Museums, libraries, movie theaters, retail establishments,
  • Businesses that cannot open for now
    • Bars, gyms, salons
  • Supersedes all local orders

When Will We Be Allowed Back in the Office?

Given that the State of Texas is beginning to lift restrictions on businesses, we’ve heard some of you ask when we are expected to “go back to the office.” We have been fortunate enough to be able to work remotely, and what we will go back to is likely to be a “new” normal and may look quite different than the one we left. The COVID-19 Response Team has already drafted a “return to premises” plan, but we will continue to take a conservative approach.  Hence, we are looking at May 31st as a target date to re-evaluate whether or not to start phasing in our return to premises plan and what that will look like.  In making our decision, we will always put your health and safety, as well as those of our clients, first.  Rest assured, we will give you plenty of time to make any arrangements necessary and will give you as much flexibility as possible to accommodate your unique situations.

INSIDE Public Accounting COVID-19 Workplace Pulse Survey

SURVEY ENDS TONIGHT at 7PM! We would like to get your feedback on how things are going, especially given we have now been working remotely for a month. To that end, we are launching a firm-wide COVID-19 Workplace Pulse Survey.

This survey is confidential and will be compiled by INSIDE Public Accounting, our third-party provider. All responses and feedback will be reported in the aggregate.

The last question provides space for you to write any comments you may want to share. We request your feedback on how you see the future of work post-COVID-19, specifically your thoughts regarding:

  • Working entirely remote with occasional meetings/trainings in the office;
  • Working entirely from the office;
  • Working around a hybrid schedule of days worked remotely and from the office;
  • Other thoughts on the future workplace.

Firm-wide participation is critical to provide leadership with honest and confidential feedback. The survey should take no more than 5-minutes to complete. Once you have completed the survey, please confirm your responses by hitting the “FINISH” button at the bottom of the survey screen. The survey will remain open until April 27 at 7 p.m. CST, and you will receive periodic reminders throughout the survey period.

You can access the Briggs & Veselka Co. COVID-19 Workplace Pulse Survey at: http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07eh1fdf8nk92u2rsi/start

4.23.2020

Good evening,

Main Street Lending Webinar

The Main Street Lending Webinar will be held tomorrow at 11am, and we hope that our clients and prospects will find the information helpful in getting their companies ready for this stimulus program. Please be sure to follow up with your clients who have signed up in case they need assistance.  Registration information can be found here.

SBA PPP Loan Update

The Senate and the House has  approved an additional $310B of funding for the popular Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for small-business owners, and the President is expected to sign it as early as tonight.  This is great news for our clients who were foreclosed from the first round of funding.  Please reach out to your clients and prospects to see how we can help them prepare for applying as well as documenting its use once funded in order to receive forgiveness.

Don’t forget, we have an SBA Task Force who is available to assist you or clients with any questions, email sbaassistance@bvccpa.com. They will be sending out an email with a FAQ document tomorrow answering questions around “forgiveness” such as:

  1. How can I use the PPP loan proceeds if I want the loan to be forgiven?
  2. When can I use my PPP loan proceeds?
  3. How do I apply for loan forgiveness?
  4. When do I apply for forgiveness?
  5. What documentation will I need to support my forgiveness application?

Your B&V Health Benefits for COVID Testing and Treatment

As more and more municipalities ease their shelter-in-place restrictions, we want to make sure we all continue to observe the highest levels of safety. The CDC’s preventative guidelines were updated Friday to offer more direction and solutions to many common situations during this pandemic.

If by chance you do need COVID testing or treatment, the Department of Labor (DOL) also recently released coverage mandates (see Q73 from Alliant’s FAQ website). Many of you may be wondering how our provider, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX), is responding to those mandates. The great news is they are not only compliant but proactive: they put the following “no cost testing” in place on March 7th, a week and a half before the President signed the FFCRA.

As of Friday, COVID-19 testing and treatment is now being treated as preventive care and will be covered completely, even if you haven’t met your deductible. Specifically, if you are covered through our BCBSTX insurance, you won’t pay copays, deductibles or coinsurance through May 31, 2020, for:

  • Testing: medically necessary lab tests to diagnose COVID-19.
  • Testing-related visits: in-network provider visits related to COVID-19 (whether it’s the emergency room, your doctor’s office, an urgent care clinic or even telehealth).
    • In fact, telehealth visits are covered at no cost regardless of the diagnosis.
  • Treatment: at in-network facilities or for out-of-network emergencies.

Of course, we always recommend you use in-network providers for your health care. The Blues have also temporarily lifted restrictions on getting early prescription fills. Additionally, the May 31st deadline is subject to reassessment as the pandemic continues, so that date may be extended further. Please visit the BCBSTX site to get more details on what’s covered if you are a member.

Lastly, please remember that we have our confidential EAP (800.316.2796) services available as well. Our hope is that through all these resources, you know we genuinely care about your well-being.

Again, thank you for your dedication to your safety and those around you.

Thank you,

The COVID-19 Response Team

4.20.2020

As many of you have already heard or read, the White House issued guidelines for getting America back to work and Governor Abbott issued three new Executive Orders last Friday. The COVID-19 Response Team went over the guidelines and will closely monitor them as we continue to work on the firm’s Return To Work Plan.  Rest assured that as we take federal, state or local orders into account, our main priority will always be your health and safety, along with your families and our clients.  Hence, we will lean towards taking a conservative approach and it is the firm’s position at this time that we will continue to work remotely until further notice.

We are very fortunate in that we can effectively serve our clients remotely, so there is no need to rush to return to the office.  Schools will not be opened for the remainder of the school year and some of us are, or are taking care of, high-risk individuals. We just need to sit tight, be patient and continue to provide excellent service to our clients.

INSIDE Public Accounting COVID-19 Workplace Pulse Survey [PLEASE COMPLETE]

We would like to get your feedback on how things are going, especially given we have now been working remotely for a month.  To that end, we are launching a firm-wide COVID-19 Workplace Pulse Survey today, April 20th.  You can access the Briggs & Veselka Co. COVID-19 Workplace Pulse Survey at: 

http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07eh1fdf8nk92u2rsi/start

This survey is confidential and will be compiled by INSIDE Public Accounting, our third-party provider. All responses and feedback will be reported in the aggregate.

The last question provides space for you to write any comments you may want to share.  We request your feedback on how you see the future of work post-COVID-19, specifically your thoughts regarding:

  • Working entirely remote with occasional meetings/trainings in the office;
  • Working entirely from the office;
  • Working around a hybrid schedule of days worked remotely and from the office;
  • Other thoughts on the future workplace.

Firm-wide participation is critical to provide leadership with honest and confidential feedback. The survey should take no more than 5-minutes to complete. Once you have completed the survey, please confirm your responses by hitting the “FINISH” button at the bottom of the survey screen. The survey will remain open until April 27 at 7 p.m. CST, and you will receive periodic reminders throughout the survey period.

Community Giving Update

Thank you for giving compassionately!

Our associates have really stepped up and contributed $7,440 to our chosen non-profits. The firm’s match brings the average amount we’re giving to each organization to over $2,000!  Many in the community will be very blessed by your generosity.

We realize Venmo was one way of giving and want to make sure everyone has an opportunity to give through other means as well. Feel free to use your credit card on any of these non-profits’ website to further showcase our collective compassion and giving.

Thank you for your generosity in giving back to our communities.

As always, stay well and have a great week!

Thank you,

The COVID-19 Response Team

4.7.2020

Hello everyone,

Another productive day to start the week!

Marketing

The Marketing Team is doing a phenomenal job pivoting to digital marketing. We’ve greatly increased our social media presence and followers and the team continues to put out great trainings and webinars (some with 1000+ attendees) while fine-tuning back end optimizations. The next webinar is below. Please get with the team for more details.

Training on Writing for Social Media and Publications

The Marketing Team is hosting a webinar training on writing marketable content, an extremely valuable skill for any professional on April 16, 2020 at 10am.

Convergence Ventures + Greffex

Convergence Ventures (a BVCA client) has announced an $18 million follow on investment offering in its first fund, which is currently invested in in Greffex, Inc., a Houston, Texas based genetic engineering company that recently announced the completion of a coronavirus vaccine and the creator of the world’s first universal vaccine platform. (see attached.) The funds will be used to advance the vaccine candidate to clinical trials. Convergence Ventures is hosting the webinar for “institutional investors” this Thursday, April 9, 2020 at 10am, and attached is the invitation. Please share widely with your clients who fit the “institutional investor” requirements and may be interested in learning more about Greffex’s initiatives. It’s truly a great privilege for the firm through BVCA to represent a client who is actively working to solve the COVID-19 crisis. For more information, contact Sid Shaver or Eric Diehl. 

Don’t forget, we have our resources for the coronavirus here: https://www.bvccpa.com/covid19/ and stress relief here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/241157893944806/

We continue to be appreciative of all your hard work and flexibility. You make a difference in the lives of our clients, the community and to each other every day!

Thank you,

The COVID-19 Response Team

4.3.2020

Good evening everyone,

Today proved to be a very good day as we received overwhelmingly positive feedback on our SBA Loan Resources webinars that took place this past Tuesday and Wednesday. We have heard from clients, prospects, and referral sources telling us how helpful and informative the webinars were, and they were very complimentary of the firm’s proactiveness in understanding the law and sharing that information with them in a clear and concise manner. We have already generated numerous inquiries and request for assistance from our clients. If today is any indication, we can expect to hear more from many of them in the coming days. We are truly making a difference! 

The SBA Taskforce has been fielding an unbelievable amount of questions since the webinars, so to facilitate addressing these questions we have created an SBA Assistance Team, whose role is to primarily respond to questions such as “what qualifies as payroll expense,” or specifics related to the SBA loans.  Please direct your questions to this SBA Assistance Team going forward. 

<IMPORTANT>  As you respond to clients asking you to look at their payroll calculations, please make sure you are NOT telling them definitively that their calculations are correct.  The SBA has yet to provide definitive guidance, so the situation is changing rapidly and we do not want to give clients the wrong information that they end up relying on.  Always coordinate your responses with the SBA Assistance Team.

The SBA Taskforce is also in the process of updating the SBA Loan Intake Procedures, so continue to check it out on our COVID 19 Website.

Thank you,

The COVID-19 Response Team

3.31.2020

Good evening,

As you may have already heard, Governor Greg Abbott extended social distancing for Texas through the end of April and schools are ordered to stay closed until May 4th. Additionally, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo extended the “Stay Home, Work Safe” order to continue until April 30th.  As we fight this terrible scourge, the best chance is to continue staying at home. Please know that we care about you and your families. Be patient with yourself and with others. Take care of yourselves and your families.

We are happy to report that we had a record 540 viewers attend the COVID-19 Legislative Impact and SBA Resources Webinar today that covered SBA Loans, FFCRA and the CARES Act.  A big shout out to the speakers Jason Sharp, Eric Diehl, and Kevin Stewart!  They were supported by Rick Westerfield, who worked behind the scenes to feverishly respond to the countless questions that were coming in.  You all made B&V look good!  Huge thank you as well to the other members of the B&V team who worked hard to understand the law and to help put this together in two (2) days:  Sid Shaver, David Phelps, David Munn, Debra Seefeld, Jana Kelly, Lincoln McKinnon, Rubik Yeriazarian, Sonny Brandtner, Jason Sanders, Michelle Mullen, Ilse Rew and Thao Griepp.  Special thanks to Gillian Siemelink, Ryan Gore and Catherine Loftis who took care of the logistics and made it all possible. The next webinar will be tomorrow at 10am and we again expect good attendance.

We can’t emphasize enough how important these programs are to our clients.  We believe all of our clients, with few exceptions, will be eligible and can benefit from these programs.  However, time is of the essence given how quickly these funds will be used up.  Hence, we needed to educate them quickly and help them PREPARE so that they are in the best position possible to avail of the benefits.  What appeared to be a herculean task was accomplished in a very short time because everyone involved was committed to helping our clients.

A few years ago, we were challenged to ask ourselves WHY we do what we do. What makes us get up in the morning and go to work?  It is in these difficult times that our WHY shines through and becomes clear – because we can all make a significant difference to the lives of our clients, their employees, their families, and the community.

There is no better time than this to fulfill our purpose as CPAs and business consultants.

Thank you,

The COVID-19 Response Team

3.27.2020

Good evening,

As a reminder, if you need to go to any of our offices you will need to obtain permission from your Response Team Lead before going into an office so we can track entry to the various offices.  This applies to everyone, including partners, and across all locations. 

As mentioned in last night’s email, attached is the updated Intake and Response Procedures for your reference. This will also be posted in our COVID19 web page.  We are required to track and report any cases of contact with COVID19, therefore, please notify Claudio Diaz and Thao Griepp (designated Intake Response Team members), in accordance with the attached procedures.  Rest assured that your privacy will be protected and the information will be kept confidential.

In these difficult times, there is no doubt that some of us are affected personally or know people who are, by the economic downturn the virus is inflicting in our nation.  The firm is working on identifying and compiling resources, whether internally or from outside sources, to help you.  We will be posting identified resources to www.bvccpa.com/covid19 .  For our CPA associates, the AICPA Benevolent Fund is also another resource.

We also recognize that two weeks in, we are feeling the effects of not seeing our fellow B&V associates.  There were a few Zoom events across departments this week that were very well received by the participants.  To foster even more much-needed interactions across the firm, and including the various locations, our Employee Activity Committee is planning fun group events.  Additionally, our marketing team is in the process of setting up a private Facebook group for us to connect. 

Finally, some of you have asked how you and B&V can help our community, especially our healthcare professionals, first responders, and other essential people that are risking their lives every day to assist those affected by the virus, and protect and serve the general public.  We are so fortunate that even as an essential business we have the ability to work from the safety of our home.  Let’s show our appreciation by reaching out to those in need and extend a hand (virtually).  To that end, our Employee Activity Committee will also identify organized ways we, the collective B&V team, can help the community.

Be on the lookout for emails from the Employee Activity Committee in the upcoming days for more information.

Thank you for your service and have a wonderful weekend,

The COVID-19 Response Team

3.27.2020

Good evening,

As we continue to face unprecedented times in the U.S. and around the globe, the wellbeing of our people remains our number one priority.  The spread of COVID-19 has created an increasingly changing, unsettling and uncertain environment.  At this time, we encourage you to continue to focus on taking care of yourselves, your families, and each other. 

Updated guidance for Reporting Exposure for all B&V associates:

For the past two weeks all associates were required to work remotely, with the exception of a few designated essential personnel rotating duties at various offices.  It is our hope that by going to a remote workforce, we are helping slow the spread of COVID-19, as well as adhering to the current “Stay at Home, Work Safe Order.” 

On our March 17, 2020 Daily Update, we provided guidance on “Reporting Exposure” by utilizing the COVID19 Communication Center.  The Response Team has been continually evaluating our process as the situation around us is rapidly evolving.  Hence, we will be sharing with you an updated Intake and Response Procedures tomorrow, and will also post the information in our COVID19 web page.

We are continually taking steps to protect all employees following guidance from the CDC and local authorities, while maintaining data privacy and individual health confidentiality.  In an effort to better inform and educate us on the facts about COVID19, we have pulled out excerpts from the CDC’s Risk Assessment and Management Guidance that we are relying on when assessing and managing the risk of potential exposures to COVID-19 and recommended actions based on a person’s risk level and clinical presentation:

Table 1. Risk Categories for Exposures Associated with Travel or Identified during Contact Investigations of Laboratory-confirmed Cases

Table 1: Risk Categories for Exposures Associated with International Travel or Identified during Contact Investigations of Laboratory-confirmed Cases

Risk Level

Travel-associated Exposures*

Exposures Identified through Contact Investigation

High

Not applicable

Living in the same household as, being an intimate partner of, or providing care in a nonhealthcare setting (such as a home) for a person with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection without using recommended precautions for home care and home isolation

Medium

(assumes no exposures in the high-risk category)

  • Travel from a country with widespread sustained transmission
  • Travel from a country with sustained community transmission
  • Travel on a cruise ship or river boat
  • Close contact with a person with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19
  • On an aircraft, being seated within 6 feet (two meters) of a traveler with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection; this distance correlates approximately with 2 seats in each direction
  • Living in the same household as, an intimate partner of, or caring for a person in a nonhealthcare setting (such as a home) to a person with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection while consistently using recommended precautions for home care and home isolation

Low

(assumes no exposures in the high-risk category)

Not applicable

Being in the same indoor environment (e.g., a classroom, a hospital waiting room) as a person with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time but not meeting the definition of close contact

No identifiable risk

Not applicable

Interactions with a person with symptomatic laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection that do not meet any of the high-, medium- or low-risk conditions above, such as walking by the person or being briefly in the same room.

*In general, geographic exposure categories do not apply to travelers who only transit through an airport.

Close contact is defined as:

a) being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time; close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a healthcare waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case

– or –

b) having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on)

Table 2. Summary of CDC Recommendations for Management of Exposed Persons by Risk Level and Presence of Symptoms

The public health actions recommended in the table below apply to people who have been determined to have at least some risk for COVID-19. People who are being managed as asymptomatic in a particular risk level who develop signs or symptoms compatible with COVID-19 should be moved immediately into the symptomatic category in the same risk level and be managed accordingly. The risk level does not change if symptoms develop.

Table 2: Risk Level

Risk Level

Management if Asymptomatic

Management if Symptomatic1

High risk

  • Quarantine (voluntary or under public health orders) in a location to be determined by public health authorities.
  • No public activities.
  • Daily active monitoring, if possible based on local priorities
  • Controlled travel
  • Immediate isolation with consideration of public health orders
  • Public health assessment to determine the need for medical evaluation; if medical evaluation warranted, diagnostic testing should be guided by CDC’s PUI definition
  • If medical evaluation is needed, it should occur with pre-notification to the receiving HCF and EMS, if EMS transport indicated, and with all recommended infection control precautions in place.
  • Controlled travel: Air travel only via air medical transport. Local travel is only allowed by medical transport (e.g., ambulance) or private vehicle while symptomatic person is wearing a face mask.

Medium risk

Close contacts in this category:

  • Recommendation to remain at home or in a comparable setting
  • Practice social distancing
  • Active monitoring as determined by local priorities
  • Recommendation to postpone long-distance travel on commercial conveyances
  • Self-isolation
  • Public health assessment to determine the need for medical evaluation; if medical evaluation warranted, diagnostic testing should be guided by CDC’s PUI definition
  • If medical evaluation is needed, it should ideally occur with pre-notification to the receiving HCF and EMS, if EMS transport indicated, and with all recommended infection control precautions in place.
  • Controlled travel: Air travel only via air medical transport. Local travel is only allowed by medical transport (e.g., ambulance) or private vehicle while symptomatic person is wearing a face mask.

Travelers from a country with widespread sustained transmission or travel on cruise ship or river boat

  • Recommendation to remain at home or in a comparable setting,
  • Practice social distancing
  • Self-monitoring
  • Recommendation to postpone additional long-distance travel on commercial conveyances after they reach their final destination

Travelers from country with sustained community transmission

  • Practice social distancing
  • Self-observation

Low risk

Not applicable

  • Self-isolation, social distancing
  • Person should seek health advice to determine if medical evaluation is needed.
  • If sought, medical evaluation and care should be guided by clinical presentation; diagnostic testing for COVID-19 should be guided by CDC’s PUI definition.
  • Travel on commercial conveyances should be postponed until no longer symptomatic.

No identifiable risk

Not applicable

  • Self-isolation, social distancing
  • Person should seek health advice to determine if medical evaluation is needed.
  • If sought, medical evaluation and care should be guided by clinical presentation; diagnostic testing for COVID-19 should be guided by CDC’s PUI definition.
  • Travel on commercial conveyances should be postponed until no longer symptomatic.

EMS = emergency medical services;

HCF = healthcare facility;

PUI = Person Under Investigation for COVID-19

1For the purpose of this document: subjective or measured fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.

Source:

Center for Disease Controls and Prevention 2020, Interim US Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Persons with Potential Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Exposures: Geographic Risk and Contacts of Laboratory-confirmed Cases, viewed 26 March 2020, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html

We hope you find this information helpful as you navigate through these unchartered waters we find ourselves in. We encourage you to read the full CDC guidance here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html. Note that the CDC’s guidance will be updated based on the evolving circumstances of the epidemic and we will stay on top of the updates to ensure we are following the most recent guidance.

Thank you for everything that you are doing to continue serving our clients and each other during these difficult times.

Stay safe and stay healthy,

The COVID-19 Response Team

3.25.2020

Good evening everyone,

As we get into the groove of working remotely and learning the ways we can continue to connect with each other, please let us know if you have any comments/suggestions to make these daily communications helpful and relevant to you.  We are in the process of developing a platform to receive your feedback, and in the meantime, please direct them to Claudio Diaz.  Other ways that we will soon be offering to stay in touch will be a closed Facebook Group (for employees only) and a LinkedIn Group page (for touching base with clients).

Speaking of keeping in touch (digitally), please make an effort to attend Gillian’s LinkedIn training class tomorrow! This will help with your business development efforts. The Harvard Business Review recently came out with an excellent article about communicating through this crisis that might be helpful to you as well.

Coronavirus Stimulus Package

Legislation to provide an estimated $2 trillion stimulus package is currently in the works, and we are waiting for the bill to be enacted.  As soon as that is signed, Jason Sharp will be writing a summary to help decipher its major points that we will share with you and our clients.  We are optimistic that there will be provisions in this package that our clients may qualify for, and it’s important for us to understand them so we can help educate our clients on those benefits.  Stay tuned!

Managing Remote Work

We recognize that working from home can vary by person.  To help you out, we have compiled various short courses on how to manage remote work and other helpful information, which are found on our LinkedIn resource hub (https://business.linkedin.com/cx/resource-hub). 

As always, please stay safe and healthy.

Thank you,

The COVID-19 Response Team

 

3.24.2020

Hello Everyone,

Things are certainly changing every day!  Most of you are likely aware of the different variations of “shelter-in-place,” and “stay home, work safe” orders enacted by local officials in various counties across Texas. In fact, Houston and Austin county officials have made the orders effective in these counties as of midnight tonight and others are likely to follow in the upcoming days.

The orders also reflect the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in and the importance of staying home and exercising social distancing when around other people to flatten the curve, so as to not inundate our medical system and mitigate the damage from this unprecedented event.

The Houston order, which largely mirror other counties’ orders, generally provides that:

  • People should stay home except for essential needs and those with jobs that are essential to the health and safety of the community.
  • Businesses, except for essential business, will be required to cease all activities. Essential businesses must maintain six-foot social distancing as best as possible.
  • The order exempts essential workers covered in the 16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors outlined by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency: Chemical; Commercial Facilities; Communications; Critical Manufacturing; Dams; Defense Industrial Base; Emergency Services; Energy; Financial Services; Food and Agriculture; Government Facilities; Healthcare and Public Health; Information Technology; Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste; Transportation Systems; Water and Wastewater Systems.
  • Restaurants will be allowed to continue takeout, delivery and drive-thru service, but restaurants must keep customers six feet apart.
  • Daycares that provide support for essential employees will be open.
  • All public and private gatherings outside of a single household or living unit will be prohibited, except for essential activities. That includes gathering essential supplies like groceries and pet food.
  • Residents can leave their homes to care for a family member or pet in another household.
  • Parks will remain open as long as visitors maintain social distancing and stay six feet apart. No benches, playground equipment or anything that can be touched should be used.
  • Religious and worship services will be only via video and live stream, but faith leaders can minister one-on-one as long as social distancing is maintained.
  • If someone in a household has tested positive for COVID-19, the household will be required to isolate and will not be allowed to go to work. (Please follow the firm’s guidelines of letting your Response Team know.)

What does this mean for us?  Both B&V (Financial Services) and Pathway (Information Technology) are considered “essential businesses” that are included in the federal list of organizations that are part of the “Essential Critical Infrastructure” and, therefore, allowed to remain open.  However, since we have become a remote workforce already, that means little change in the day-to-day of your workday or the firm’s business operations.

There are, however, some changes to our access of the various office buildings and as a result,   we will now be tracking individuals who will be accessing all offices. Please obtain permission from your Response Team Lead before coming in and only come in if absolutely necessary.  Here is a summary of where the offices currently stand as of today:

  • Greenway – The building will be closed to the public starting March 25, 2020. We will need to inform building management of anyone who will be coming in. Your badge will still give you access.
  • Pathway – The building is still open to the public.
  • The Woodlands – The building is still open to the public.
  • Austin – The building will be closed to the public starting March 25, 2020. We will need to inform building management of anyone who will be coming in.
  • El Campo – The building is still open to the public.

We recognize this situation is beyond difficult, but we can all be thankful that we have the ability to continue working and still remain safe, and most importantly, able to continue helping our clients.  As essential businesses,” we have the ability to make a difference in our clients’ businesses as we continue to work with them on complying with federal, state tax, and financial reporting requirements.  What we do is essential in preparing taxes, audits, and financial reports for business financing, business planning, and continuity.  So, let’s all take a moment each day to see how we can reach out and help both our “internal clients, i.e., fellow associates,” and our external clients, as well as the community at large.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out.

Stay safe and healthy,

 

The COVID-19 Response Team

 

3.23.2020

Good evening,

By now, we’re hopefully all settled into our new remote work environment and pretty soon can claim to be pros at it! As a friendly reminder, all of our offices are closed and only those authorized by the Response Team are allowed in the building. Please heed this reminder given several counties, including Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, all declared “shelter-in-place” orders, and we anticipate that Houston will not be far behind. If you need to come to the office for an urgent reason, please get approval from one of the Response Team members.

The theme today is the importance of maintaining your well-being, both physically and mentally, in these trying times. No doubt, we are all under a lot of stress right now and perhaps feeling isolated due to the social distancing we have to exercise. These are extraordinary times and we want you to know that it’s ok and very appropriate to feel anxiety or stress about what’s going on and that you are not alone.

To help manage your stress and remain healthy, please commit to self-care during this time. Here are some basic tips to consider:

  • Adopt an attitude of gratitude and be intentional in noting even the smallest things you are grateful for.
  • Eat a well-balanced meal, take your vitamins, and drink plenty of fluids daily.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Read that book that you’ve had on your list!
  • Start a journal.
  • Spend quality time with your family.
  • Reach out to friends and family you have not spoken to in a long time.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Practice meditation or yoga
  • Perhaps even start a garden!

Below are other helpful links:

https://www.nami.org/getattachment/About-NAMI/NAMI-News/2020/NAMI-Updates-on-the-Coronavirus/COVID-19-Updated-Guide-1.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html

Additionally, please feel free to reach out to the team with any concerns you may have. We appreciate you and all that you do!

Thank you,

The COVID-19 Response Team

 

3.17.2020

Dear All,

We want to take this opportunity to acknowledge everyone’s diligence during this time – our planning and teamwork to get us remote in a matter of days has been unbelievable and something we should all be proud of!

Communication to Clients

As noted in the update last night, the firm’s COVID-19 communication to our clients went out today.  You are still highly encouraged to contact your clients personally if you haven’t done so already. The landing pages of our websites will also be updated to let the public know of our office closure.

Resources

Our amazing marketing team has set up a stand-alone page (unavailable to the public and accessible only to those with the link) for us as a repository of information.  We are in the process of updating the page, so please be sure to check this page for updates daily and bookmark this page for easy access. www.bvccpa.com/covid19/

Reporting Exposure – COVID19 Communication Center

To ensure the health and safety of everyone and to better manage a remote workforce, we are setting up a COVID19 Communication Center. Anyone who feels that they have been affected are encouraged to report to Mary Matte and Claudio Diaz who will coordinate a response plan on a case by case basis. We want to make sure that you are supported should you be affected and this also allows us to know where to reallocate work as necessary. If we become aware of an exposure, potential connection, or even remote or theoretical risk, we will immediately investigate and take follow-up action, as needed.

Some important matters to consider:

  • Your privacy is important to us and all health information will be held confidential and will be handled on a need to know basis; for those that may be in receipt of a communication from an associate, please ensure that you are maintaining confidentiality at all times and reporting the incident only through the proper channels.
  • We do have a duty to provide a safe work environment, therefore, any risk to others will be communicated as necessary while maintaining confidentiality. As a general rule, we should NOT disclose the identity of an employee diagnosed with (or suspected of having) coronavirus. This means you may get a notice that may seem vague (with no names). 
  • We ask that everyone, in order to prevent rumors and misinformation from starting, operate with a compassionate frame of mind and report any potential exposures in this manner.

Please feel free to reach out to your direct supervisor, mentor, department chair or anyone on the Response Team if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you once again for your patience and flexibility during this time!

The COVID-19 Response Team

COVID19 Response Team:

  • Sheila Enriquez – Houston Lead, CEO
  • Ilse Rew – COO
  • Jim Herrmann – IT Director
  • Claudio Diaz – Chief People Officer
  • Jason Sanders – Tax Department Chair
  • Adam Dimmick – Audit Department Chair
  • David Phelps – BAS Department Chair (includes all consulting)
  • Beverly Hensley – El Campo Lead, Partner
  • Debra Seefeld – The Woodlands Lead, Partner
  • Noel Kersh – Pathway Lead, Principal
  • Hal Miller – Austin Lead, Partner
  • Sid Shaver – BVCA Director
  • Mary Matte – Executive Affairs Administrator
  • Thao Griepp – FVLS Director, Privacy Officer
3.16.2020

Dear All,

As we prepare to move towards a remote workforce (with the exception of a few essential functions requiring onsite presence and will be rotated by a dedicated select staff), we have been getting a lot of positive feedback from you and believe that we are well positioned to make this move.  

Hopefully, your preparations are going well and you have communicated with your direct supervisor and/or mentors by now. Those of us with client contacts should be working through contacting them personally before our firm email goes out to them.  We plan on sending that client communication tomorrow rather than Wednesday given the fluid nature of the situation, and the sooner clients are notified the better.

Here are some additional guidelines/reminders to aid you in your preparation:

Taking Firm Equipment and Setting Up at Home

  1. Please take an inventory of everything that is firm-owned so that you do not forget something when it’s time to bring it back.
  2. Take a picture of your setup (where the wires go, etc.) so that when you are home, you can remember what goes where.
  3. Test your connection, software and applications so that any hiccups can be address ahead of you going fully remote.
  4. Before calling IT or sending a service ticket for trouble-shooting setup, contact your supervisor/mentor on how you can get things working in order to reduce the amount of tickets that IT will be receiving.
  5. Scan things that you think you may need now to decrease the likelihood of needing it later. Remember that we still need to keep our client and any individual data private.
  6. As always, please protect firm owned equipment secure so that they are not lost, stolen or damaged.

Building Access

  1. You will still have access to the various offices with your badge, but only come in if absolutely necessary or are designated as part of a key team that is on rotation.
  2. Be prepared in the event that the building is closed to any access at all.

IT

  1. Our diligent IT department has increased the number of VPN licenses to 300, but please continue to be cognizant of its usage. Only log in to grab what you need, work off-line, then log back in to store the information. You do not need the VPN for Zoom or Email.
  2. Don’t forget that we can use Remote App. https://remoteapp.bvccpa.com/RDWeb/Pages/en-US/Default.aspx (Also found on the lower right hand side of your screen.)
  3. Resources from IT on working remotely will be stored on the S:\COVID-19 for you to refer to.

Client Data Intake

  1. In some cases where clients would like to drop off their information, secure drop boxes will be placed in the elevator banks at the Greenway location on Floors 16 and 17.  They will be checked daily and scanned to the person they are addressed to.  Keep in mind that this will not be an option should the building be closed to the public.  For other locations, please take direction from your respective leads.
  2. Continue to encourage clients to use the portal.
  3. Use this time to contact clients in advance to get information sent in and address how working remotely will affect accessing information, timelines and project management.

Helpful Links for Managing Remote Work

I continue to ask for your patience, as I expect things will come up that we previously had not considered as we go through this unprecedented process.  As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to any member of the response team for questions or concerns.

Stay safe and healthy,

Sheila

3.14.2020

Dear All,

COVID19 changes are happening fast, and our COVID19 Response Team has been and will continue to stay on top of any developments. Please rest assured that the firm has you and your family’s health as our number one priority. To that end, our COVID19 Response Team will be communicating with you daily.

Also, out of an abundance of caution, as of Wednesday, March 18th, we will be moving to a remote workforce until further notice.  I emphasize that this is NOT a reaction to a specific Coronavirus exposure at the firm, but rather a proactive effort to limit the possibility of our community being impacted.  Your respective department heads and location leads will follow up with additional communication to provide specific guidelines on how this will be applied to your departments/locations.

We are extremely fortunate to be able to work remotely and have the tools already in place to communicate effectively. It will take all of us working together to continue providing our clients with the service they have come to expect. Exceeding their expectations is still our goal, and by doing so, we ensure the sustainability of our firm.

Things to Remember

  • Patience
    • IT associates will be working remotely as well and already have hundreds of service tickets each day. Let’s continue to be compassionate as they help us work excellently.
    • Many schools are closed, causing you and your peers to take care of family members. Extra time may be needed in these situations.
  • Flexibility
    • Flexibility is needed from everyone as we temporarily move to a remote workforce. Some associates will not have childcare, forcing us all to be creative in integrating work and life. For instance, work hours may not be 8am to 5pm for everyone. This work/life integration has been exercised in some cases already with great success. Talk with your family to work out a schedule that works for everyone, and communicate with your direct supervisor frequently.
  • Communication
    • Over-communication is of the utmost importance now more than ever. Update your supervisors on a daily basis regarding your work output. Please do not hesitate to contact them or your department chair with any concerns you may have.
    • Furthermore, make sure you keep your clients informed. An initial personal contact will be made with our clients, followed by a firm-wide email blast on March 18th. Your department chair will provide further guidance on this.
    • Encourage clients to use our portal instead of coming in to the office.
  • Accountability
    • We have a duty to our clients to provide the best level of service possible. For our audit, tax and consulting departments, that means being diligent and efficient with our time and communicating amongst ourselves and to the client effectively. Our Strategic Services teams have the firm as their client. They will continue to prioritize effective business operations so our client-facing associates can be successful in their role.
    • Project management will become important as well, especially for our managers and above. Therefore, expect them to request more frequent status updates. Please help them by being diligent and proactive in your work and communications.

 Preparing to Work Remotely

  1. Prepare well for working from home. Take any necessary tools from your workspace to remain effective.
  2. Test your connection, software and applications so that any issues can be resolved or scheduled to be fixed by March 18th.
  3. Your department chairs will have further guidance on department specific functions and communicating with clients between now and March 18th.
  4. The IT Department will be sending out frequent informative emails to support you while working remotely. Most questions can be addressed through these emails to alleviate the number of ticket requests we create.
  5. Use the days leading up to March 18th as transition dates to adjust to your temporary new work environment.
  6. Your badge will still give you access to the office, but only come in if absolutely necessary.
  7. In the event the building closes, we will keep you informed.

Time Entry

  • It is now more imperative than ever that we each comply to daily time entry. Your leaders will be monitoring time entry to assist you in managing your workload effectively.
  • Please use your PTO time for any downtime in excess of 2-3 hours or to care for family members, just as you would if you were working in the office.

Traveling

  • If you plan to travel, please inform your supervisor.
  • Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Specific travel information for travelers going to and returning from China, and information for aircrew, can be found at on the CDC website.
  • Associates are advised to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel.

Illness

  • If you become ill, please inform your supervisor immediately and commit to self-quarantine procedures for your safety as well as those around you.

Response Team:

  • Sheila Enriquez – Houston Lead, CEO
  • Ilse Rew – COO
  • Jim Herrmann – IT Director
  • Claudio Diaz – Chief People Officer
  • Jason Sanders – Tax Department Chair
  • Adam Dimmick – Audit Department Chair
  • David Phelps – BAS Department Chair
  • Beverly Hensley – El Campo Lead, Partner
  • Debra Seefeld – The Woodlands Lead, Partner
  • Noel Kersh – Pathway Lead, Principal
  • Hal Miller – Austin Lead, Partner
  • Sid Shaver – B&V Capital Advisors Lead
  • Mary Matte – Executive Affairs Admin

I am confident that we will get through this challenge. To facilitate the experience, let’s make sure we are over-communicating with our leaders and fellow teammates. By living our values of Excellence, Dedication and Compassion in every transaction, we will grow from this experience and have successfully tested our ability to work remotely!

Lastly, yet just as importantly, I’d like to mention our community. As we prioritize our safety and that of our immediate families. let’s also keep in mind our most vulnerable citizens (who may even be your fellow associates). Please do what you can to mitigate the transmission of this virus. Spread positivity and facts. Offer a helping (but clean) hand. Sooth fears and share with those in need. We are all in this together.

If you have any questions or concerns please contact your department chair, location lead, or a member of the response team. 

Sheila

3.11.2020

Dear All,

In light of recent events re: COVID-19, we want to validate that your safety as an associate is the most important goal during this time. The following simple protocols will ensure we prioritize our safety and also meet our client obligations. If you choose to work remotely, please keep all lines of communication open with your leaders and teams. Technology is here to help us, and at the same time, its capacity may be tested, so please be patient if you experience different output than expected. IT will be communicating to us with more details soon to ensure we’re as effective as we can be.

What to do starting today:

  1. Bring laptops home every day while this virus is an issue.
  2. Have patience with the VPN since many more people may be using it.
  3. Use Zoom to its fullest extent.
  4. Know that IT member support may be required to work remotely as well and have hundreds of service tickets per day.
  • Sick employees are encouraged to stay home:
    • Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness are recommended to stay home and not come to work until they are free of fever (100.4° F [37.8° C] or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing or other symptom-altering medicines (e.g. cough suppressants). Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
    • A healthcare provider’s note for employees who are sick with acute respiratory illness to validate their illness or to return to work is not necessary, as healthcare provider offices and medical facilities may be extremely busy and not able to provide such documentation in a timely way.
    • Employees may stay home to care for a sick family member to care for sick children or other sick family members.
    • Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work or become sick during the day will be sent home immediately. Sick employees should cover their noses and mouths with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or an elbow or shoulder if no tissue is available).
  • Emphasize staying home when sick, respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene by all employees:
  • Routine environmental cleaning:
    • Building maintenance is routinely cleaning all frequently touched surfaces in the workplace, such as workstations, countertops, and doorknobs.
  • Employees traveling:
    • Check the CDC’s Traveler’s Health Notices for the latest guidance and recommendations for each country to which you will travel. Specific travel information for travelers going to and returning from China, and information for aircrew, can be found at on the CDC website.
    • Employees are advised to check themselves for symptoms of acute respiratory illness before starting travel and notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick.
    • Employees who become sick while traveling should notify their supervisor and should promptly call a healthcare provider for advice if needed.
    • If outside the United States, sick employees should obtain medical care or contact a healthcare provider or overseas medical assistance company to assist them with finding an appropriate healthcare provider in that country. A U.S. consular officer can help locate healthcare services. However, U.S. embassies, consulates, and military facilities do not have the legal authority, capability, and resources to evacuate or give medicines, vaccines, or medical care to private U.S. citizens overseas.
  • Additional Measures in Response to Currently Occurring Sporadic Importations of the COVID-19:
    • Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.
    • If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, the firm will inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure.

Remember that you are the reason why our clients are successful. Please take care of yourself first and then your client and team needs in a way that models our values of compassion, dedication and excellence. Thank you.

Sheila 

Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Mutual of Omaha - mutualofomaha.com/eap - 800-316-2796

Life's not always easy. Sometimes a personal or professional issue can get in the way of maintaining a healthy, productive life. Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can be the answer for you and your family 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Up to 5 confidential sessions with a counselor, financial planner, or attorney are available to you and your eligible family members each calendar year.

We're Here to Help

Mutual Omaha's EAP assists employees and their eligible dependents with personal or job-related concerns, including:

  • Emotional Well-Being
  • Family and Relationships
  • Legal and Financial
  • Healthy Life Styles
  • Work and Life Transitions

Don't delay if you need help. Visit mutualofomaha.com/eap or call 800-316-2796 for confidential consultation and resource services.

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