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What’s New in Civic Tech: Dr. Fauci Addresses Mayors Cohort

Plus, the National Conference of State Legislatures’ COVID-19 bill tracker now records more than 1,300 bills, Code for Philly civic tech group looks to fill open leadership positions, and more.

by / May 22, 2020
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Dr. Anthony Fauci — the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as well as one of the most visible scientific experts on America’s governmental response to COVID-19 — spoke to a digital meeting of mayors from across the globe Thursday.

Fauci did so as the latest expert to participate in a weekly Zoom meeting convened by the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative. The idea behind the meetings, as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out during an introduction to the session, is to help fill in information gaps, doing so by including experts on science and governance. This was the 10th such meeting of the cohort, with past sessions involving a range of guest speakers, including former Presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama. 

Bloomberg went on to say in his remarks that the biggest question facing mayors right now was how best to reopen safely, and that was, in large part, the topic that Fauci addressed. 

Fauci emphasized to the mayors that reopening would mean data indicating increases in infections, or as he called them, "blips," and that that was part of the process.

“Invariably there will be blips of infections that you did not see before,” he said. “It is almost unreasonable to think that’s not going to happen. The critical issue is to respond to these blips with effective identification, isolation of cases, and contact tracing.”

Essentially, the key for government, Fauci added, was to work to ensure they were prepared for these blips. That means expecting the blips, not getting discouraged by them, and — most importantly — putting in place a testing program complete with the staff to ID infections, isolate infections and engage in contact tracing.

Fauci said too that there currently some reasons to be encouraged that a COVID-19 vaccine will become a reality, potentially by December or January.

“The end game for us is if we do get an effective and safe vaccine,” Fauci said. “That would, at the end of the day, ultimately get us back to normal and leave us with a lesson on the kind of preparedness we’re going to need for future outbreaks, which inevitably will come.”

One thing that local government in particular can do is use leadership positions to marshal volunteers and ensure that communities have the staff it takes to respond to the all-but-inevitable increase in infections that reopening brings. A workforce is needed, and assembling that workforce is best accomplished at the local level, with cross-government as a safety net across the board, especially with financial challenges.

“When you do need help at the state and federal level,” Fauci said, “don’t be shy in asking for it, because it is owed to you.”

National Conference of State Legislatures Launches Database Tracking COVID-19 Bills

The National Conference of State Legislatures released a new database tracking legislation related to COVID-19, and it includes more than 1,300 bills introduced in 42 state legislatures and the District of Columbia.

In a press release unveiling the database this week, the group also noted that more than 240 of these bills have been enacted or adopted since the pandemic erupted earlier this year. The idea behind the database — dubbed the COVID-19 State Legislation Database — is to capture real-time information about this type of crisis response lawmaking. 

As the group also noted in its press release, topics in the database include “budgeting and revenue, child welfare, commerce, criminal justice, education, elections, employment, finance, health access and coverage, housing and homelessness, labor and retirement, legislative operations, public health, workforce and more.”

Code for Philly Looks to Fill Open Leadership Positions

The Philadelphia-based civic technology group Code for Philly is currently looking to fill open leadership positions.

More information can be found on this page, but there are three open roles in total. Those roles are communications lead, events co-lead, and projects co-lead. As the group notes on the page, applicants do not need to be regular participants in Code for Philly, nor do they need to know how to code.

“Instead,” the posting reads, “you should have a demonstrable interest in improving civic outcomes and at least some interest in technology. You should be able to think creatively about civic and strategic issues.”

Applications for these roles can be submitted via this form.

Code for America Hires Will Pfeffer as Senior Program Manager for its Brigade Network

Code for America has hired Will Pfeffer as one of its senior program managers for its Brigade Network of volunteer civic tech groups across the country.

Pfeffer was formerly of the Boston Area Research Initiative. Code for America also recently welcomed Amanda Renteria as its new executive director, and one of the areas that Renteria stressed during a recent conversation with Government Technology was the importance of the Brigade Network.

The COVID-19 crisis has also spurred an uptick in need for more volunteer technologists to put their skills toward projects that benefit communities.

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Zack Quaintance Associate Editor

Zack Quaintance is the associate editor for Government Technology. His background includes writing for daily newspapers across the country and developing content for a software company in Austin, Texas. He is now based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached via email.

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