If you haven’t heard of COVID, then chances are you were on a thru-hike and just returned, but even that is a stretch. There are a lot of questions being asked by the media, politicians and public agencies alike. Answers and recommendations to those questions are plentiful. Most of the questions revolve around predictions, normalcy and getting our economy running again. Those are valid and urgent questions. Unfortunately, trying to answer them is a shot in the dark.
We are experiencing an Age of Reckoning. A time where we are being forced to stop, think and implement some serious change. At this moment, there are a lot of people struggling. A lot more are facing an existential crisis. The real question that needs to be asked is “but for just how long?”
I have witnessed this time and time again, as many of you have. Columbine, 9-11, Crash of 2008 and so on. The changes in human behavior are sudden and knee jerk. But it doesn’t last. Not long anyway. Certainly, not on the first go around.
Good change is rarely learned the first time around
It took several mass shootings at schools (Sandy Hook, Parkland, and countless others since 2000) before America started taking the emergency seriously. To this day, schools still refuse to participate in the drills or even discuss the issue with any sense of authority. Viruses on the verge of and turning into pandemics were no different (Swine, Avian, SARS, MERS, H1N1). Even with COVID-19, the world is calling it a Black Swan event.
But COVID-19 is different and we will see changes, but not for the reasons risk managers and safety managers would cheer. Instead, the world will see the general public resume daily life with a modicum of personal lifestyle and health choices to make them personally safer. The real change will come at the doorstep of public agencies.
Changes for public agencies
Public agencies seem to receive the blunt end of the publics’ beatings far more than their fair share. Especially after a crisis. COVID is the Age of Reckoning and the general public is going to force a major change in public agencies first and foremost. We are already seeing it in private sector with the McDonald employees strike
I predict we will see an increase in legislation requiring:
- Options for video conferencing into board meetings
- Options for video conferencing with staff members, teachers, and administrators
- New requirements for social distancing in school classrooms
- New requirements for cue lines and waiting areas for public services
- Better sanitation in public restrooms, including automatic doors and frequent cleaning checks
- Better sanitation on public transit and at subway, bus and other stations
- Better air filtration (requiring HEPA) on public transportation
- N95 masks available upon request for users of public transportation
- Better and more frequent cleaning by the custodial staff of all facilities
- Better PPE and equipment stocking for employees of public agencies
- OSHA will implement more stringent regulations regarding the use of PPE
- The Department of Labor will require more sick time, work from home policies and payroll protection for anyone suffering flu and other temporary illnesses
These changes won’t be immediate as they will need to make their way through California’s Assembly and Senate processes. However, be on the lookout for burdensome bills to hit the floor and work their way into the CCR.
What to do next
There’s only one thing to do. Realize that public agencies will be the target of the public’s outrage and animosity. The best you can do is start to prepare for some of these changes. Look at your budgets, look at your staffing and start planning.