Keep One Eye On Today, And One Eye On The Future

I really like this quote by Wayne Gretzky, arguable the greatest hockey play of all time. As I have been watching the news and accompanying debates about how best to craft public and economic policies to address the cornavirus, I believe Gretzky’s thoughts apply in a significant way.

There is a delicate balance that you may be noticing between public health officials and political leaders – it is the balance between shutting the economy versus reopening it. The reality is, these two issues are not actually separate at all – but different sides of the same “coin”. The coin, in this case, is a healthy and vibrant citizenry.

Task Forces For The Response AND The Recovery

The task forces that our federal and state governments have assembled to respond to the pandemic are filled with brilliant, dedicated and amazing people from all disciplines – doctors, politicians, business leaders, military officers, etc… While it’s easy to find some small fault with an aspect of their decisions or statements, realistically these dedicated men and women have prevented multiple hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths and suffering by applying sound science in how to mitigate a pandemic. In short, they have done an amazing job and we owe them all our thanks and praise.

At the same time, however, another critical issue looms – how to restart society again. Please don’t misunderstand – nobody is advocating an irresponsible reopening of our economy before it is scientifically justified to do so. That being said, we know at some point, society will reopen again -hence the Gretzky notion of looking forward to anticipating how to handle this reopening in an equally responsible way. The reality is, we can’t just “flip a switch” and turn the economy back on. There are many issues which need to be considered – like how to ramp up the supply chains to restock shelves, how employees will need to transition their children back to day care, how to deal with the fact that many businesses will have to alter process and policy based on continued social distancing requirements, etc… The list is endless. So, as Dana Perino, former White House Press Secretary identified recently, some type of task force needs to be assembled now in anticipation of where we are going. Nobody benefits if the reopen is chaotic.

So what can we do as a nation to continue to be part of the solution? On one hand, governments can begin creating these “reopening tasks forces” to begin planning for the transition back to an appropriate reopening of our society. We need not bring this work front and center yet – this would be “tone deaf”, as the main focus of our public messaging to communities should be to continuing adhering to the “stay-at-home” directives that are vital to preventing continued spread of the virus. But certainly we can work on both sides of the coin at the same time. As far as what the everyday person can do, consider the following…

  • Learn new skills – what can you learn while at home to increase your value to your employer and community at large? For example, maybe you can learn how to design a website for the small businesses in your community that perhaps suffered during the shutdown because they never created a “bricks and clicks” strategy.
  • Identify the needs of America 2.0 – Marc Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, coined the 2.0 concept as a way to describe how society will look post-pandemic. Will we need more home delivery companies, more wellness programs to reduce those pre-existing conditions plaguing so many Americans, more work-from-home tools, etc…? Whole new businesses and industries will be born from this experience.
  • Get connected in community– the best way to help your neighbor is to get to know them in the first place. Consider regular volunteer work, become involved in a faith-based worship group, support companies that provide community based services, etc… Then, during the next crises, you will know who to help before they even ask.

One last thought – consider reading up on a concept called the “social determinants of health”. According to cdc.gov, “We know that poverty limits access to healthy foods and safe neighborhoods and that more education is a predictor of better health. We also know that differences in health are striking in communities with poor SDOH such as unstable housing, low income, unsafe neighborhoods, or substandard education.” In what ways post-pandemic can we work toward improving the SDOH for our communities? The more success we have, the better positioned we will be to withstand the next crisis.

 

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