It is natural to think about recovery in the middle of a pandemic response as it takes our minds off of the tremendous uncertainty around us and gives us hope for a brighter future than today. Emergency managers and public health experts have long feared a massive public health emergency, specifically a global health pandemic, recognizing that an event of this magnitude would undermine the normal ways we interact and move through the world—and unfortunately, we were proven correct.
Given the large-scale disruptions we are facing, it is critical that we carefully consider now how best to rebuild the world that is being rapidly disrupted and partially dismantled by this virus rather than wait until we’re on the other side of this crisis when we could be faced with other disasters such as active hurricane or tornado seasons.
Thinking towards a time of return to a sense of normalcy, I am hopeful that our recovery will reinforce basic social cohesion and that the creative uses of technology and other tools we’ve been engaging to stay connected and in tune with our communities will continue to serve us well long after “stay at home” orders are revoked. The community organizations and innovative groups who have used creative ways to further their mission while providing comfort now have additional resources in their arsenal, and I hope they can continue to be used to bolster the way we show up and support impacted communities in their times of dire need.
Thinking towards a time of return to a sense of normalcy, I am hopeful that our recovery will reinforce basic social cohesion and that the creative uses of technology and other tools we’ve been engaging to stay connected and in tune with our communities will continue to serve us well long after ‘stay at home’ orders are revoked.
From my vantage point, health preparedness and response are deeply connected to the types of community linkages we grow and sustain. For reasons both good and not so good, never before has the linkage between the supply chain and public health been made so clear to the average citizen. The public/private partnerships that are required to maintain a resilient supply chain require an “all hands on deck” approach. As we move toward rebuilding, it is my hope that we don’t lose sight of that.
Further, the investments we must make in preparedness should no longer be seen as discretionary. The urgent need for countries to build and sustain strong health systems should be evident for decades to come. The pervasive impact of COVID-19 has shown us that preparedness is not just an option for some nations but a requirement for the entire world in order to effectively uphold the safety and well-being of all of the citizens throughout our highly globalized society.
As I write this, I continue to feel tension between the notion of rebuilding and the recognition that we will, even with the best of luck, be in a constant state of response and recovery for the foreseeable future. In the US and its territories, many cities and counties have been in some stage of recovery over the last two years, with a number of communities still recovering from serious or catastrophic events that struck their regions. As I mentioned, I’m concerned about the current projections for the upcoming tornado, flooding, and hurricane seasons, which are predicted to be above average or highly active seasons, with the temperature of the Gulf of Mexico trending more than two degrees warmer than normal for this time of year.
These are hard truths that reinforce the reality that though we can and should imagine a steady climb in recovery, it will more likely be fraught with more challenges and further setbacks—albeit at the regional level—that will hinder our nation’s ability to fully recover from this global health pandemic. To me, this is our generation’s greatest challenge; but I am confident that if we let it be, it can also be our greatest opportunity.
In this era, it is vital that we learn to build resiliency into our recovery from catastrophic events like COVID-19, which has swept through our country at a dizzying pace, in ways that make us better, more resilient, and more prepared to face future events to come. Our nation’s citizens deserve nothing less.