P/C Insurers Face Workforce, Risk, Policy Challenges as Pandemic Continues

Given that business-as-usual is unlikely to return soon due to the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. property/casualty insurers will continue to face challenges related to virus-related insurance losses and premium volume declines in 2021, according to Fitch Ratings.

The operational and risk management challenges of managing workforce flexibility, limiting risk aggregations and reducing claims exposure through clarity of policy terms will endure beyond the pandemic and become “new normal” longer-term drivers of the industry, contend analysts James Auden and Christopher Grimes, authors of “The Next Phase: U.S. Property/ Casualty Insurers.”

1,000 Volunteers Enrolling at Stanford for COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

Nov. 3—Stanford Medicine has begun enrolling volunteers to participate in a clinical trial for a coronavirus vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson — one of a handful of efforts considered front-runners in the global race for a vaccine.

Enrollment for Phase 3 of the trial began Friday, marking the final stage before potential authorization in which tens of thousands of people receive the vaccine to see if it is effective. Stanford plans to enroll 1,000 volunteers as part of the global trial that will include 60,000 people at 180 sites around the world.

Winds Fanned California Fires and Kept Thousands of Evacuees Away

Crews tried to beat back two out-of-control wildfires in Southern California on Tuesday that have kept tens of thousands of people out of their homes.

Fierce winds that drove twin fires through brushy hills near cities in Orange County a day earlier were expected to pick back up, although not to the earlier extremes, according to the National Weather Service.

Southern California Edison reported to regulators that it was investigating whether its equipment might have sparked the Silverado Fire near the city of Irvine. The utility said a wire that lashed a telecommunications line to a supporting cable may have struck a 12,000-volt conducting line above it.

Power Outages in California as Winds Boost Fire Danger

Large swaths of California had no electricity Monday as utilities tried to prevent the chance of their equipment sparking wildfires while the fire-weary state was buffeted by powerful winds and dangerously dry weather conditions.

About 300,000 power customers, more than 1 million people, were in the dark as officials issued warnings for what could be the strongest winds for California this year.

North of San Francisco, a Mount St. Helena weather station recorded a hurricane-force gust of 89 mph late Sunday and sustained winds of 76 mph.

Monitor: PG&E in California Prioritized Targets Over Reducing Wildfire Risk

PG&E Corp. prioritized meeting inspection targets over meaningful reduction of wildfire risk, according to a monitor overseeing the utility’s program of trimming trees and vegetation that pose a threat of igniting devastating blazes in California.

Among the court-appointed compliance monitor’s findings: The company failed to conduct detailed climbing inspections of 967 transmission structures located in high-fire risk areas before the start of peak wildfire season. Wind damage to one such tower was the cause of the state’s deadliest fire, which killed 85 people and destroyed the town of Paradise.

California Could See More Fire-Prevention Power Shutoffs

Electricity may be shut off to 50,000 Northern California utility customers this week to try to prevent power lines from sparking and igniting new wildfires during a predicted new round of gusty, hot and dry weather.

Customers in parts of 19 counties and in two tribal communities were notified Monday of a potential public safety power shutoff starting as early as Wednesday evening, Pacific Gas & Electric said.

Disneyland Unions Tell California Governor Resort Can Be Reopened Safely Despite Virus

Unions representing over 10,000 Disney theme park workers have told California Gov. Gavin Newsom that the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Calif., can safely reopen when its location moves into the state’s “orange tier” of COVID-19 test positivity and adjusted case rate.

“We wrote you in June 2020 to tell you that we were not yet convinced that it was safe to reopen the parks on Disney’s timetable,” the unions wrote in a letter dated Oct. 17. “Since then, Disney has taken safety measures we advocated, and engaged with their workers’ representatives, (such that) our original position has changed.”

California Heat Wave Prompts Power Shutdowns, Wildfire Danger

More than 50,000 California utility customers were without power and others around the state were urged to conserve electricity Thursday amid a fall heat wave that brought another round of extreme wildfire danger.

The National Weather Service issued heat advisories through Friday for temperatures in the 90s and even triple digits in many parts of the state.

Red-flag warnings for extreme fire danger were in place for much of the San Francisco Bay Area where winds bringing hot, dry gusts of up to 55 mph (88.5 kph) were expected to pose a threat of sparking new blazes in a region that already has seen some of the worst wildfires in state history.

California Wildfire is State’s First to hit 1 Million Acres

(TNS) - A monster fire the likes of which has never been seen before in California has emerged out of the dystopian pall of wildfire and smoke that has blanketed the state.

The August Complex wildfire, which started out as 37 different fires in Mendocino National Forest, surpassed 1 million acres Monday, by far the largest conflagration in recorded state history, and it is still burning.

The ignominious milestone comes during a year that has already seen more flames than ever in the state. Thousands of homes have been destroyed, at least 31 people have been killed and choking smoke has darkened the skies from Eureka to San Diego.

Maps and Resources to Stay up on California’s Record Wildfire Season

(TNS) - The Bay Area and California are suffering a record-shattering wildfire season this year. Most recently, the Glass Fire burning in Sonoma and Napa counties has burned more than 40,000 acres and forced the evacuation of more than 80,000 people.

If you have not yet assembled an emergency plan, now is the time. No matter where you are in California, it’s important to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

When a wildfire evacuation is ordered, departing immediately and efficiently is paramount. If the crisis has already struck and you’re scrambling to respond, it can be hard to get the evacuation information you need. A matter of minutes can make a huge difference to your safe escape from a fire zone.

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