Some Modest, Hopefully Post- Covid Suggestions
By Jim Mullen
In the spirit of the theme for this month’s Confluence, I thought that I would “volunteer” some thoughts about the situation in which we find ourselves as COVID – hopefully, fingers crossed – has begun to ease into endemic status. And, even if not, the recovery process should be kick-started. Now.
My May 2020 Emergency Management Once Removed blog offered these thoughts, drawing upon the words of one of the subtler “philosophers” of another day Like Yogi, I just wanted us to map out a desirable destination before our journey ended..
Once again, I ask which of our COVID-induced adjustments should be incorporated into our long-term approach to government, business and even toward each other? What social issues, perceptions and practices demand our attention moving forward? Below are the concepts I offered “way back then”…
The Wisdom of Yogi
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll probably wind up somewhere else” – Yogi Berra
What will “recovery” from the coronavirus pandemic look like? Do we know?
While it is unfair to expect those responding to the current crisis to think much farther ahead than their next reporting cycle, preparations for long-term recovery will be even more important to the long – term health of our society. These are some of the sectors of society that will merit special attention (and reserve capacity?)
• How to surge commodities, necessities, and human capital more effectively.
Health and medical services
• Reinforcing hygienic actions for kids and adults in perpetuity (we did it for seat belts!)
• Training, hiring, preparing, equipping and health workers and support personnel.
• Health worker surge measures: assess how early graduation, temporary redeployment from one specialty to a support role, and other measures worked
• What have we learned about tele-medicine as a tool?
• Policy versus political issues: free diagnosis, treatment, and the future
• Altering just – in – time renewal capacity of (some) regular medications for two weeks
• Deferred maintenance on public streets
• Safer (medically) mass transit systems when communities re-open
• Airport and other transportation hub safety inspections (passenger health surveillance)
Community Mental Health
• Delayed bereavement services
• Child counseling
• PTSD counseling support (adults, children)
• International supply chain safety measures
• Remedial /catchup classes – how to minimize interruptions of academic progress in future
• Review of on-line schooling efficacy – can everyone do that?
• Safer, secure voting systems (as a national security matter)
• Medical treatment without legal consequences for undocumented persons (as a national public safety matter)
• Review of false or opportunistic advertising?
• Regulation of Twitter, Facebook, other sources?
Economic Health Inquiry
• In a rushed response, what was gained/lost?
• Who was helped? Hurt? Ignored?
• Do we need to rethink the definition of a small business?
• Telecommuting: where can it work, and not work?
• Acknowledge Interdependencies: Economic recovery links to re-employment which links to reopening schools and child – care requirements
• Who are the essential employees? How can we adjust to acknowledge (and compensate) them for being there when we need them?
Government Emergency Expediting Processes (Grants, Approvals, Regulations) Which should we keep? Codify?
• Which were smart and should be kept?
• Which were abused?
• Protection of those in custody: discernment of those who pose a threat, those who lack resources for bail while awaiting trial, and those seeking legal asylum who are confined to squalid facilities.
Enlist Private Sector and General Population in this Inquiry
• Their buy-in to emergency measures has proved crucial
We should set our course now, during this stage of the pandemic, and not wait until the recovery crisis is upon us. As the feds shrink from responsibility, governors and mayors must expand their reach. Testing for the virus is important, but an even greater test lies before us. We need to define what recovery will look like. In doing so, we will define what we look like going forward.
Yogi’s advice should “catch” our attention.
Some additional thoughts in 2022: the emergence of the anti-vaccination “movement” endangered (likely killed) many of our fellow citizens. The phenomenon of those willing to risk their lives, and the lives of others remains a chilling mental health as well as an educational challenge. As a state emergency management director, I belonged to that population of professional dinosaurs hesitant to embrace social media, finally relenting, primarily to allow us to counter misinformation during a crisis. Social media, though useful, was also the vehicle for much of the anti- government, anti-vaccination “information” that demeaned efforts to curb COVID. We can’t overstate the positive role social media fulfills, but we cannot allow it to be used to destroy our faith in facts, and each other. That duality merits attention.
Finally, emergency managers were among those that bore the burden of this seemingly unending disaster, sometimes managing, often supporting other disciplines, while still balancing other emergencies. Let’s not forget to ask for increased capacity for emergency management programs to sustain the current effort and better prepare for whatever comes next. There will be a “next” – of that there can be no debate.
Jim has spent 3 decades in emergency management, including 12 years at the local level as director of the City of Seattle’s Office of Emergency Management and 8 and a half years as Washington State’s Emergency Management Division Director. Jim retired from state service in March 2013. Jim also served as President of the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) from January 2011 to October 2012. He is currently sole proprietor of “EM Northwest Consulting” based in Seattle.