Reopening America

As America gradually reopens, the importance of effective coronavirus COVID-19 emergency management cannot be understated. The failure to engage the public, employees, and students in health and safety best practices could potentially result in a second wave more personally and economically devastating than the first.

Between March and May 2020, most of the United States was under a state of emergency due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. During this period 1.7 million Americans contracted the disease and over 100,000 citizens died. Tragically, the final death toll due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic may be considerably higher due to people being unable to obtain medical treatment for unrelated conditions or being too frightened of the risk of infection to attend a medical facility.

The American economy also suffered badly during the state of emergency. Mandatory stay-at-home orders in 43 states resulted in the closure of thousands of businesses and the loss of millions of jobs. Industrial production fell by 12% in March alone, prompting Bank of America analysts to predict a 30% contraction of GDP and economists to forecast it will cost the country up to $19.9 trillion over the next five years to recover from the pandemic if the short term recession evolves into a long term depression.

How State and Local Governments Managed the Coronavirus COVID-19 Emergency

Coronavirus COVID-19 emergency management at state and local government level varied by area according to the rate of infection, the speed at which local authorities acted, and the processes that had been put in place to prepare for a pandemic. Consequently while some areas were able to get ahead of the curve with stay-at-home orders, school closures, and the cancellation of elective surgeries, others struggled to contain the virus and subsequently experienced higher than average fatality rates.

One event consistent throughout the country was an increasing number of registrations for emergency notification services run by local governments and public health agencies. Emergency notification services are valuable tools for guiding communities through the react, respond, and recovery phases of an emergency; and, while at the time everybody was looking for answers, the services will be important for providing residents and businesses with reliable and local information as America gradually reopens.

How America gradually reopens will also be a measure of state and local government coronavirus COVID-19 emergency management. Safely reopening communities requires a fine balancing act to prevent subsequent waves of infection while encouraging consumer confidence; and effective communication will again be pivotal, as state and local governments will be reliant on contact tracing and crowdsourced data to transition from the react and response phases into the recovery phase.

 

Businesses and Coronavirus COVID-19 Emergency Management

For many businesses, coronavirus COVID-19 emergency management was taken out of their hands by stay-at-home orders - not withstanding that many experienced high levels of employee illness and self-quarantine. For those that were able to continue operating, the majority already had a plan in place that helped guide their response, while many others adapted existing emergency preparedness plans or developed specific coronavirus COVID-19 emergency management plans to factor in remote working.

Most businesses accept operations will not suddenly go back to normal and have planned - or are in the process of planning - back to work checklists that include revised workplace health and safety policies and workplace controls to manage office density. However, although some businesses will be able to claim grants or apply for loans in order to cover COVID-19 response costs, many will be relying on the safe reopening of communities by state and local governments to ensure financial survival.

One industry that has been more impacted than most by the coronavirus pandemic is the healthcare industry. Although many medical facilities had emergency preparedness plans that could be adapted for coronavirus COVID-19 emergency management due to CMS previously updating emergency preparedness guidelines for Emerging Infectious Diseases, many have only been able to execute these plans due to a relaxation of HIPAA enforcement and telemedicine communication guidelines.

How Schools, Colleges, and Universities Managed

As state and local governments responded to the spreading pandemic, all public K-12 schools, colleges, and universities were closed until the fall, and face-to-face lessons replaced with remote learning. Some schools also resorted to other remote learning tools such as digital report card distribution to maintain consistency. Due to the reliance of remote learning technologies to continue students' education, communication played a pivotal role in operation continuity - although in many different ways, according to a survey of school superintendents conducted in mid-March.

Due to the limitations of remote learning, most schools, colleges, and universities are planning on reopening after the summer recess subject to fulfilling the CDC's guidelines for reopening. Many will encounter the same operational challenges as businesses with regards to social distancing and hygiene requirements, and additional burdens will be placed on teachers - who will be responsible for enforcing coronavirus COVID-19 emergency management plans in the classroom.

Other challenges for K-12 schools will include managing students on school buses, preparing for short term closures due to localized outbreaks of the virus, and convincing parents it is safe to return their children to school. To best manage these challenges, one option is to implement a school mass notification system similar to the emergency notification services utilized by state and local governments to guide communities through the react, respond, and recovery phases of the emergency. 

Related Blog: Are Safety Solutions Considered Essential Services While Schools  Are Closed?

Solutions to Assist with Coronavirus COVID-19 Emergency Management

While mass notification systems can get the right messages to the right people at the right times, bulk messaging is not always appropriate in every circumstance. There may be cases in which government officials need to send targeted messages, businesses need to communicate with specific teams, or school administrators need to communicate with parents of children in a specific class if, for example, a child has been diagnosed with the virus and the school wants to prioritize how news is released.

Related Blog: How has Citizen Engagement in Public Safety Changed Over Time?

In these circumstances a mass notification system with unlimited database segmentation and geo-targeting capabilities offer more granular communication options. Government agencies, businesses, and educational institutions can also take advantage of anonymous tip-texting services to be alerted anonymously of individuals displaying symptoms of infection, while teachers should be issued with mobile panic button apps to seek assistance with conduct issues in the classroom.

For further information about solutions to assist with coronavirus COVID-19 emergency management, do not hesitate to get in touch. Our team of communication experts will be happy to organize a demonstration of those most appropriate to your requirements so you can make an informed decision about how best to engage the public, employees, and students in health and safety best practices to help avoid a second wave more personally and economically devastating than the first.