Why Memorial Day is crucial in the Covid-19 fight (opinion)

This came as a shock when the University of Washington's model, which the White House seemed to rely on, predicted deaths in the United States to be almost twice as high as previously estimated, with daily tolls of nearly 3,000 in early June.
Fortunately, President Donald Trump looked to change course Wednesday, tweeting that "the Task Force will continue indefinitely with a focus on SECURITY & OPENING OF OUR COUNTRIES AGAIN."

This tweet is a huge relief to us who appreciate the benefit of having a working group in times of crisis. Removing it would have been a dangerous move that would have made it even more difficult to contain this virus for weeks and months to come.

We fight for fatigue and complacency

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Even though we are far from out in the woods, we are already fighting for fatigue and increasing complacency when it comes to the virus. State and local leaders are under extreme pressure to reopen their communities and some have given concessions to relax the limitations whether they meet criteria suggested by the White House or not.
When the White House Coronavirus Task Force released the National Social Distribution Guidelines expire April 30, and provided only the less stringent state guidance for reopeningit sent an implied message that the situation has improved enough that no further federal direction is needed and the rest is up to the states.

Dismissal of the working group would have completely reinforced this message and left state leaders with even less top coverage. It would also signal that the virus is no longer a top priority, which could make it more difficult for some heads of state to emphasize that the virus is a very real and ongoing threat.

Coordination and decision-making are crucial right now

efficient coordination and communication between federal agencies – and between federal and state agencies – has been an ongoing challenge throughout this crisis.

This is not a new phenomenon. Having served in leadership positions in both federal and state government, I can attest to how difficult it is to achieve seamless collaboration among the most competent and well-meaning public servants even in the best of times. Often agencies will have different ideas on how to solve a problem – and someone at a higher level must quickly make a decision on how to proceed.

That is why, in the event of an emergency or crisis, a working group or similar command structure is often formed to gather different agencies to share information, clarify roles and collaborate for a common purpose. In the absence of this, the agencies tend to work quickly in silos. One of the reasons testing has been so difficult to crack is because it is so dependent collaboration and coordination between Centers for disease control and prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, state and local government, and the private sector. Dissolving the working group would make this even more difficult.

Covid-19 spreads at a frightening rate

The rate of virus spread is one aspect that makes Covid-19 difficult to contain. March 5 it was 12 deaths because of Covid-19 in the United States. Nine weeks later it has now passed 71,000 deaths.
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At every point along the way, the virus has moved faster than our ability to contain it. Speed ​​and agility are not often the strengths of public agencies. Concerns about a lack of resources, such as the personal protective equipment needed by medical personnel, were not taken seriously enough by managers who might have prioritized acquiring the necessary supplies.

As everyone who has worked in government knows, it is a chain of command. Important decisions must often be approved by agency leaders or the White House. These processes are usually slow and it is too easy for key insights or pieces of information to get lost along the way, even accidentally. Therefore, a working group structure that enables subject matter experts to come together, share information and brief political leaders is the most effective way of informing decisions in times of crisis.


The crucial importance of how we observe the day of remembrance

As more states loosen the restrictions, we can enter an even more dangerous phase of this pandemic, potentially facing serious outbreaks across the country.

Hokkaido, Japan, provides a perfect example of what can happen if lockdowns are lifted too soon. According to TIMEAt the end of February, the island had the highest number of Covid-19 cases among all prefectures in Japan.
February 28 the Governor declared state of emergency, closed schools and encouraged people to stay home.

Many restaurants and businesses also closed. By mid-March, the situation had turned the corner; The health crisis stabilized largely and the pressure from companies to reopen began to grow. In response, the governor of Hokkaido lifted the state of emergency March 19, but asked residents to continue social distance and stay home if they felt ill.

Unfortunately, the announcement came just before a three-day long weekend, when many residents ventured to celebrate the lifting of restrictions. As TIME reported, Dr. Kiyoshi Nagase, chairman of the Hokkaido Medical Association, believes this probably started a second wave of infections in Hokkaido. April 14, 26 days later, the Governor announced a other state of emergency and reintroduced restrictions.

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend in the United States is not only a national holiday to honor those who have died in military service, but it is also the start of the summer season. Many Americans are planning travel and leisure activities that weekend, which could lead to further spread of the virus. Then some states will also have relaxed constraints for several weeks, enough time for an outbreak to occur, provided testing is in place to detect fast enough.


It is quite possible that the continuation of the working group will lead to new national guidelines for protection measures when the summer begins. We can only hope this is the case, or we may face a second wave of the pandemic – and countless more deaths to come.


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