Preparing For The New Normal

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With so much time on our hands, it is only natural that many have turned to social platforms to offer their two cents on how our governments are responding to the COVID – 19 crisis.
So let me chime in, with my nickels worth of observations.

I have nothing but praise for the way our governments has handled this difficult, unprecedented situation. In fact, I believe Canadian leaders of all political stripes have done an admirable job of maintaining a balance between trying to protect public health and the economy.  This is evident if you dare enter the arena of social media. Here you have people posting that governments are overreacting, causing too much economic damage to our economy and impoverished. While the other side believes government is not doing enough to protect the public health of the most vulnerable.  To tick both sides off governments have obviously achieved some sort of a middle ground.

Unfortunately, right now the biggest challenge to our governments is that they are playing a zero sum game, where one option chosen to protect some is at the expense of exposing others.  The crux of this pandemic is trying to make sure we are able to slow down the spread of the disease so we don't overwhelm the finite resources of our health care system. To do so we have employed social distancing as our main weapon of choice.  How effective this measure will be has yet to be determined.   What we do know is that the more we restrict the movement of people – the more damage we do to the economy.

It doesn't have to be, nor should it be the way going forward. With globalization, another new virus will blow our way. This is not a question of if, but when. So what have we learned thus far, that we can do to prepare for this new normal?

What we will need to address is the ability of our healthcare system to be scaled up quickly to face an onslaught of patients.  Healthcare must be thought of as our new military, ready and prepared to act when called upon.   Fully stacked hospitals must be built that far outnumber the demand needed in normal times.  If this is indeed a war, we need an arsenal of resources that can be brought on-line quickly to meet demand.    

Building excess capacity is not enough of course, if you don’t have enough trained soldiers – our front line healthcare providers.  Going forward we should follow the military model, and provide free education to anyone that chooses study in a variety of medical fields.  Since there are only so many jobs to go around during normal times, we would need them on call like the army reserves.  In order to qualify for free tuition and other financial support they would need to submit to on – going training to keep their skills up to date.   

With a stockpile of health care resources in place the need to flatten curve is not as paramount and the economic damage of social distancing can be lessened.  That said, the need to shut down regions or sectors of our economy will still be a valuable tool in stopping the spread of contagious diseases.

To alleviate the pain caused by these necessary shut downs guaranteed income programs must be adopted.  Before COVID – 19 this idea was beginning to gain traction.  What the program does is replace all the various social assistance and government payment programs into one consistent income stream for Canadians.  No need to apply for EI, loans and assistance when the next pandemic hits.  With guaranteed income in place pockets won’t be empty when workers are laid off for social distancing.

Paying for these programs will require a revamping of our tax system. If more revenue is needed we must ensure it is done equitably. Taxing of financial transactions as currently proposed in the European Union, would be an excellent way to meet both objectives.

Depending on how long social distance restrictions are kept in place, many organic changes will take place that will deter future contagion.   E-commerce – already taking over will become the norm with more deliveries as we move to a cashless society.   E-learning once shunned by educators, will be embraced as practical way to achieve distance learning.  Many employees now working at home will maintain that arrangement.  We will still get together, but to socialize, not to work as we once did.

Our leaders right now are trying to do their best to handle this crisis, with the hand they’ve been dealt – limited healthcare resources, and a society unprepared to deal with the financial loss it is causing.  They are doing an admirable job!

Instead of critiquing the current response, let’s get behind it and come together. When this is over and it will be over in time we can then push for needed reforms to prepare for the next pandemic.

If we don’t do this, then that will be something to tweet about.


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