A COVID-19 Exercise: What Next?

As we transition from the first phase of COVID-19 into what comes next, I’ve been thinking a lot about what comes next. No, I don’t mean recovery-wise, I mean what do we do next to make sure we are prepared when the next pandemic threat knocks at our nation’s door?

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to do some reading and studying and maybe even ask for your opinions on the subject of “what’s next?” One thing that is 100%, minted in gold, true is we CANNOT respond to the next pandemic disease threat like we responded to this one. As a nation, we got caught with our pants down. We failed to realize the looming threat. We failed to imagine it could happen to us. We failed to respond rapidly and with intent and the virus spread like a wildfire.

We tried to throw cow poo to cover over the problem while telling everyone it was chocolate. The best nation on the planet with the finest people, a great health system, and all the data we needed fell flat on its face. It will take years to recover from the loss in life, health, security, economics, and trust in our elected officials. Years.

The blame falls on everyone. We should have done better. Period.

We can do better. We need to do better. We should demand better from our leaders. We have the plans, the data, the institutions. What we lack is a cooperative system that has a green light to track, analyze, and respond to international, national, state, county, city, and neighborhood threats. This type of system has been bouncing around in my head for weeks. Sound impossible? Maybe. But think about a system you rely on daily and that you really don’t give a second thought to its complexity.

The weather report.

Meteorology relies on data collection, analysis, and modeling to predict what will likely occur in an hour, a day, a week, months, etc. Maybe the weatherman gets a rain shower wrong every now and then but they rarely miss the big threats, like hurricanes, tornadoes, and blizzards.

In public health and infectious disease, we have data, we have analytical tools, and we have computer models. What we need is to make the infectious disease reporting system and response as rapid and as commonplace as our weather service.

I envision a system that can give officials rapid, accurate, point-specific information to help them make decisions about how to best implement responses, resources, and social contact initiatives.

Can we do it? Absolutely!

As they said on the Six Million Dollar Man, “We have the technology.”

It’s a question of do we, as a nation, have the resolve to do it.

Lives are at stake. We cannot accept the loss of 50,000+ Americans to a pandemic again. Never, under any circumstance or political environment or world events.

We need better leadership. We need to use our resources. We need to understand and react.

Nae king! Nae quin! Nae laird! Nae master! We willna’ be fooled again! ― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men.

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