How State and Local Governments can Enforce Social Distancing Policies and Better Protect Employees in the Community

social distancing covid-19While the U.S. remains behind most of the world in terms of the number of confirmed coronavirus infections per 100,000 citizens, state and local governments have an opportunity to take advantage of communication solutions in order to enforce social distancing policies and better protect employees in the community.

Last Friday, the New York Times published an interactive state-by-state model of how the coronavirus epidemic could spread throughout the United States in three different scenarios - no intervention, some control measures, and severe control measures. The paper claims that even if state and local governments take severe control measures now to contain the virus and reduce the transmission rate by half, the country could see 650,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus COVID-19 before the end of May.

Related Blog: A Guide to Coronavirus Emergency Preparedness When Everyone is  Looking to You for Answers

To put that figure into context, 650,000 cases is eight times the number reported in China - which has a population four times larger than the USA. Furthermore, based on the fatality rates recorded in Europe (~7%), around 45,000 American citizens will die in the next two months - more than three times the number of deaths recorded worldwide in the past two months. If state and local governments fail to take severe control measures now, the death toll will be a lot worse.

Lessons to be Learned from Europe (Part 1)

Europe was generally too slow to respond to the threat of coronavirus COVID-19 and enforced social distancing and self-quarantine policies weeks after it was too late to contain the virus. As a result, countries such as Italy and Spain have infection rates ten times higher than China - where social distancing and self-quarantine policies were quickly and strictly enforced. Indeed, authorities in China are reporting no new domestic cases and life is beginning to return to normal.

Country

Active Cases (*)

Population (millions)

Rate per 100,000

China

81,349

1,386.00

5.87

Italy

53,578

60.48

88.70

USA

26,747

325.70

8.20

Spain

25,496

46.16

55.30

Germany

22,364

82.97

26.90

Iran

20,610

81.16

25.40

(*) According to John Hopkins Coronavirus Center Saturday March 21

 

What is most concerning about these figures is that the active infection rate per 100,000 citizens in the U.S. has already surpassed that of China. It is already beyond the rate at which Italy ordered a lockdown; and, if state and local governments that have not already introduced social distancing policies further delay implementing containment and mitigation measures, the infection rate in the U.S. could quickly catch up - and surpass - European infection rates.

Lessons to be Learned from Europe (Part 2)

In some areas of Europe, early containment and mitigation measures have been shown to be successful in reducing the spread of coronavirus. For example, the local government in the Andalusia region of Spain (approximately the same size as South Carolina), declared a special containment zone five days before the national lockdown. Schools, parks, recreational facilities, and care centers within the zone were closed in order to support social distancing policies, while self-quarantining became the norm.

Emergency mass notifications of the special containment zone were sent by the local government to a network of media, business, and education contacts, along with details of a dedicated coronavirus hotline that was set up to relieve the pressure on emergency services. As a result of the local government's early action and effective communication, Andalusia (in the south of the country) has the lowest infection rate per 100,000 citizens of any mainland region in Spain.

Social Distancing Spain Andalusia

Enforcing Social Distancing and Self-Quarantining Policies

In Europe's worst-hit countries, citizens are mostly following social distancing policies designed to protect them and their loved ones from contracting the virus. However, it has been necessary for law enforcement officers to fine individuals who ignore instructions to stay indoors except for permitted activities. Unfortunately, law enforcements officers cannot be everywhere at once, so coronavirus continues to spread among communities due to individuals violating state and local policies.

One solution to address this problem is anonymous tip texting. Anonymous tip texting services are already used to alert law enforcement agencies to crimes or raise concerns in schools about students displaying unusual behaviors. They could just as effectively be used by concerned citizens to alert law enforcement agencies to social distancing policy violations or to infected individuals who should be self-quarantining, but who are failing to do so.

Local Governments' Obligations to Employees

State and local governments not only have an obligation to protect communities from the threat of coronavirus COVID-19, they also have an obligation to protect employees working in the community. This obligation will become harder to fulfill as more employees start working from home, self-quarantining, or falling seriously ill due to the virus. As this happens, more demands will be placed on a diminishing workforce to carry out important tasks in the community.

Related Blog: What, When, and How to Communicate with Employees about  Coronavirus

The safety of employees in the community has to remain of paramount importance despite the likelihood they will be forced to work in smaller teams - or work alone when team members are unavailable. To more easily monitor the wellbeing of employees in the community, state and local governments should have the workforce download personal safety apps that act as a virtual escort and that can alert safety managers when personal safety alarms are not deactivated.

Communication is the Key to Fighting Coronavirus Effectively

Good communication solutions that notify communities of social distancing and self-quarantine policies, provide information about where individuals can seek medical help, and alert law enforcement agencies to policy violations are key to fighting coronavirus effectively. Similarly, good communication solutions for protecting employees unable to work from home are also important for enhancing the safety of employees while they work to keep communities running.

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Tara Gibson
Tara Gibson

Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12 education, 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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