By Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt, PMP, CLTD
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics, American Military University
Shut it down. Start over. Do it right.
That’s the recommendation of more than 150 health professionals who have joined with the U.S. Public Interests Group (PIRG) in an open letter to America’s leaders to address record-setting COVID-19 positive cases in over 18 states. The letter states that “Economists have gone on record saying that the only way to ‘restore the economy is to address the pandemic itself,’ pointing out that until we find a way to boost testing and develop and distribute a vaccine, open or not, people will not be in the mood to participate.”
Shut it down means that non-essential business should close, indoor dining should cease, and face masks should be mandatory for both indoor and outdoor situations.
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There Are Conflicting COVID-19 Guidelines at State and Local Levels
Mitigating policies at the state and local level has led to over 100 different policies regarding social distancing and wearing facemasks across 50 states. In several cases, local and state guidelines are not in alignment and provide conflicting regulations, according to Melissa Quinn of CBS News.
For instance, Quinn says that Keisha Lance Bottoms, the Mayor of Atlanta, dismissed efforts by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to challenge orders mandating masks and enforcing social distancing measures amid a spike in coronavirus cases as “simply bizarre,” saying the Republican governor has mounted an “unusual” game of finger-pointing.
Lance Bottoms states, “The governor has done many things as of late and said many things as of late that, quite frankly, are simply bizarre. He filed a 124-plus-page lawsuit against me this week calling for an emergency injunction to stop me from speaking about his orders. If the governor of this state had his way, I would not be allowed to speak with you today. And so this blame game is most unusual.”
According to Quinn, “Governor Kemp last week banned cities and counties in Georgia from ordering residents to wear masks or face coverings in public. More than a dozen local governments, including Atlanta, have issued mask mandates, while Kemp has pushed for the wearing of face coverings to be voluntary.” This action is confusing, especially since other Georgia cities have imposed the same restrictions.
COVID-19 Cases are Skyrocketing in Many States
As of July 25, 2020, the number of U.S. coronavirus cases is 4.25 million.
Five states have reported a record number of daily coronavirus cases — Alabama, Hawaii, Indiana, Missouri, and New Mexico, and several states have paused or revamped reopening guidelines. According to NBC’s Today show, more businesses are mandating face masks in all locations, such as McDonald’s and Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
Dr. Deborah Birx, a world-renowned global health official and physician from the Department of State, said in the NBC Today interview, the pandemic is “very serious and very real.” Calling for Americans to wear masks and avoid large gatherings, Birx said, “It’s hard for people to understand how deeply you have to clamp down … we have to change our behavior now before this virus completely moves back up through the north.”
How The Coronavirus Will Impact Emergency Management for Weather-Related Disasters
In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are three hurricanes/tropical storms threatening Texas, Hawaii, and Venezuela and Hurricane Hanna made landfall near Corpus Christi, Texas. Texas is one of three states that has been deemed “another New York” in terms of the daily new cases and fatalities.
COVID-19 protective measures are complicating emergency management before and during severe weather. For instance, citizens may be hesitant to leave a devastated area because it would be unsafe for them to travel to a shelter. Pets may not be able to enter a shelter, which further complicates evacuations. These problems, coupled with the facts that unemployment rates continue to rise and unemployment benefits have ended, have prompted many citizens to shelter in place.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s important to pay attention to state/local officials and to follow the following guidelines:
- Understand that your planning may be different this year because of the need to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
- Give yourself more time than usual to prepare your emergency food, water and medical supplies. Home delivery is the safest choice for buying disaster supplies; however, that may not be an option for everyone. If in-person shopping is your only choice, take steps to protect your and others’ health when running essential errands.
- Protect yourself and others when filling prescriptions by limiting in-person visits to the pharmacy. Sign up for mail order delivery or call in your prescription ahead of time. Use drive-through windows or curbside pickup, if those services are available.
- Pay attention to local guidance about updated plans for evacuations and shelters, including shelters for your pets.
- When you check on neighbors and friends, be sure to follow social distancing recommendations (staying at least six feet from others) and other CDC recommendations to protect yourself and others.
Regardless of whether or not you are in the path of a hurricane, you will likely experience a severe weather event (heat wave, wildfires, tornadoes or severe thunderstorms) during the next few weeks. The CDC recommends that you take these five actions to remain protected in the midst of this global pandemic:
1. Wear a mask.
2. Stop congregating indoors — especially in bars and other areas where large groups of people are likely to gather in close quarters.
3. Continue social distancing measures.
4. Limit indoor seating in restaurants.
5. Prioritize personal hygiene – wash your hands and use sanitizer regularly.
There Is Still Hope That This Pandemic Will Eventually End
Dr. Anthony Fauci, an infectious disease expert, emphasizes that there is still hope that this pandemic will eventually come to an end. In an Eat This! Not That article, Fauci warns that the biggest mistake we can make is to give up on our efforts to combat this pandemic. “The thing I don't want people to think, that we should just throw our hands up and say, it's [a] funeral,” he points out. “There is a pathway.”
The pathway, Fauci explains, boils down to what he calls “fundamentals,” the things “we know from experience in our own country, as well as experience in other countries” that can stop COVID-19 surges and help get us recover from this epidemic.
Doing the right thing may not be popular, but it is necessary to reset the economy and to address the COVID-19 pandemic. There is still hope if every American does his/her part to stay informed, listen to data and science, and take appropriate action.
So shut it down. Start over. Do it right.
About the Author
Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Military University and has 20 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.