By Tara Gibson - July 8, 2020
If recent history has shown us anything, it is that pandemics are not short-term or one-off events. For example, prior to COVID-19, the most recent pandemic to significantly affect the United States was the H1N1 “Swine Flu” pandemic. That pandemic ran from January 2009 to August 2010 and was responsible for approximately 275,000 hospitalizations and 12,500 deaths.
However, since the official end of the H1N1 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates a further 62,500 residents of the U.S. have died due to the cumulative burden of the disease recirculating. It has also been estimated around 40% of confirmed cases in the U.S. have been diagnosed since the official end of the pandemic, resulting in more than 600,000 hospitalizations.
If we cast our minds back further, the AIDS/HIV pandemic of the 1980s and 1990s was responsible for almost 450,000 deaths before the turn of the century, and even today the most recent CDC HIV Surveillance Report estimates 37,968 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in the United States in 2018. In the same year, 15,820 people diagnosed with HIV in the U.S. tragically died.
While both of these pandemics were - and continue to be - extremely serious, the current COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to be catastrophic. In six months, the virus has killed more people than in ten years of H1N1 flu, overwhelmed healthcare systems throughout the country (which H1N1 never did), and sparked a recession forecast to be more than twice as deep as the financial crisis of 2008.
Furthermore, it is not likely to end soon. With the rate of infection increasing due to the relaxation of lockdown regulations, the virus will certainly be affecting the ways in which we work, rest, and play for the remainder of the summer. Even if infection rates decline over the coming months, a second - potentially more devastating - wave of COVID-19 has been forecast for the fall by the CDC.
Claims that public health authorities were unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic are mostly unjust. While some responses may have been slower than ideal, hospitals and public health agencies had been running Ebola emergency drills for some months in preparation for a highly contagious viral disease. Unfortunately the aggressive nature of the COVID-19 pandemic took many by surprise.
As a result, vulnerable communities were left unnecessarily exposed to the virus, slow responses led to residents obtaining their news from less-than-reliable social media sources, and - when federal, state, and local public health authorities did eventually take decisive action - much of the information was communicated in an unclear or conflicting manner.
There are many lessons public health authorities can learn from the past six months that will help agencies better react, respond, and recover if a second, more devastating, second wave of COVID-19 arrives in the fall. And, if there is no second wave of COVID-19, the lessons will still be worth learning for future pandemics attributable to antibiotic resistance.
We have compiled these lessons in a free-to-download eBook - “A Crisis Communications Guide for Catastrophic Public Health Emergencies” - and distributed them among the following sections:
The reason why everybody should read our crisis communications guide for public health authorities is that the points raised in the eBook are equally applicable to business and education safety leaders; plus it is a good idea for members of the community to have benchmarks against which they can compare the actions of community leaders.
Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12, State & Local, Higher Ed, Corporate, and Healthcare, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!
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