To see the person who is the catalyst for preventing COVID-19 in your city, you need only look in the mirror.
If not you, who? If not now, when?
COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020 by the World Health Organization. That was almost nine long, grueling, confusing and deadly months ago. In March, every elected leader in the country, including our mayors, city council members, county commissioners, school board members, state senators and representatives and all member of congress, should have been focused on answering the following ten questions in order to develop a national, state, county and city strategic plan to prevent the pandemic.
- How do we collect, analyze and publish the most timely data to guide prevention strategies?
- How do we ensure enough COVID-19 tests and testing sites?
- How do we ensure providers have the protective equipment required to be safe?
- How do we ensure enough contact tracing?
- How do we prevent homelessness and hunger if people in lock down or quarantine lose their job?
- How do we strengthen mask-wearing and social distancing?
- How do we ensure treatment, both hospital beds and providers?
- How do we distribute the vaccine with buy-in from the public?
- How do we address depression, suicidal ideation and trauma by ensuring access to behavioral health care?
- How are vital family services for surviving and thriving made accessible to 100% of residents?
These ten questions were not asked in any public forums or in any publication or media. Mainstream journalism, streaming into our mobiles, reports on infection rates, hospitalizations and fatalities. Yet so many questions remain about who is getting infected and dying, and all the reasons why. Ten questions remain unanswered in your city and town. If you go to your city and county government websites to see how they are reporting the pandemic and their comprehensive plans to address it, you won’t find answers to the ten questions above.
Few elected officials in office today, except for perhaps those who were living in major cities during the outbreak of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s, were prepared for a pandemic of this scale. However, no elected official could have been prepared for the physical isolation and the instant disappearance of public schooling, small businesses, and jobs. At least not nine months ago.
As we slowly approach the year anniversary of lockdowns in the USA, we can see that new thinking on how we survive and thrive is urgently needed.
Where does this leave you and your community? It leaves you with the biggest homework assignment of your life. You need to educate your elected officials about data-driven prevention and creating a local plan. Waiting for the federal government to design and fund a local solution is not advisable. From personal experience living in the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco, I can tell you the federal and state responses will be slow — as in half a decade if history repeats itself.
With the internet, local mobilizing can happen much quicker. City and county governments do have the capacity to ask fast if they are motivated to do so. This is where your homework comes in. Clear an hour, grab a cup of joe, construct the following email, then send it to all your local leaders. This can start a dialogue that can lead, if followed up with a sense of urgency, to the development of a county and city plan to finally prevent infection and treat the sick.
If we hold our politicians accountable, we won’t be returning to that “normal” where so many were vulnerable. We can work to create a far fairer “new normal” where everyone has the services to survive and thrive.
Let me very clear, as lives hang in the balance, the ten questions presented above require answers from those elected to lead. The answer should be public and shared widely, in addition to being posted on the city and county websites.
I will leave you to your activism with your keyboard. I look forward to hearing of the responses you receive.
(DRAFT EMAIL TO ALL YOUR LOCAL ELECTED LEADERS)
Dear Mayor, City Council members and County Commissioners:
Thank you for your public service in this time of unprecedented crisis impacting all our children and families. As a resident of the city and county, I wanted to share my concerns for our children and families during this phase of the pandemic and economic downturn. We don’t know in our county to what degree our children and families have access to medical care which includes COVID-19 testing and treatment.
We also don’t know to what degree our parents struggle to access local behavioral health care, food security programs, housing security programs and transportation to vital services. I fear that significant barriers to vital local city and county services exist.
I also fear that the level of child abuse, neglect and trauma may be rising due to lack of vital services. There are many questions requiring answers.
As you may know, the New Mexico counties of Rio Arriba, Dona Ana, and Socorro, along with Taos Pueblo, have surveyed their parents and found gaps in not only what can be described as five services for surviving, but also in the five services for thriving that include: parent supports, early childhood learning programs, fully-resourced community schools, youth mentors and job training. These localities, along with the counties of San Miguel, Otero and Valencia, are mobilizing to address barriers to vital services.
I would like to ask what strategies the city and county are taking to measure barriers to services which include timely medical care? Once we know the barriers, the next logical question would be what data-driven strategies can be implemented to ensure access for 100% of residents.
Thank you for your timely attention in what I would call a matter of life and death for families struggling to endure the pandemic, school disruptions, business closures, joblessness and trauma.
I am writing to you as a resident of the city and county.
— YOUR NAME
PS. I have attached the Rio Arriba County, New Mexico survey to document barriers to vital services. This is the survey we need to implement in order to identify our local gaps.
PPS. The op-ed by New Mexico State Senator Bill Soules, PhD provides to all New Mexicans the way forward, highlighting the model to ensure that all families have timely access to medical and mental health care, along with the other vital services for surviving and thriving in a pandemic.
Fight! Survive! Thrive!
Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Questions? The groundbreaking graphic novel and manifesto Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras awaits you here: www.tenvitalservices.org.
For those data-driven prevention types: Potential lessons from the Taiwan and New Zealand health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic