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Special Districts Overcome COVID-19 Challenges


Welcome to the latest issue of The Districts, where we chronicle the people, issues and activities impacting special districts across the U.S.

News Staff / April 27, 2020

Welcome to the latest issue of The Districts, where we chronicle the people, issues and activities impacting special districts across the U.S. Special district leaders face an array of challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – from maintaining critical services, to scaling up digital content and transactions, to protecting essential workforces. The Special Districts Program is hosting a series of virtual events designed to help district leaders share insights, ideas and industry best practices as they manage through the crisis.

More than 200 government leaders joined our first summit to hear Bryan Sastokas, CIO of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, discuss his district’s COVID-19 response, and get advice from AT&T security expert DuWayne Aikins on how to address cyber risk in this new environment.

Takeaways from the conversation include:


  • Offer training and support to your employees, many of whom have never worked remotely in the past.
  • Communicate with employees and citizens consistently, and ensure information is vetted and coming from a single source.
  • Contact your vendors to ensure they can offer products and solutions to meet your demands.
  • Practice good cyber hygiene to reduce risk by segmenting your network, using multi-factor authentication and hardening your environment.
  • Take advantage of FirstNet to help prioritize critical communications in an emergency.
  • To prepare for the next disruption, future-proof your infrastructure by moving to the cloud and an IP-based network that would allow you to scale and add advanced features quickly.


Access a recording of the full presentation here to learn more.

Don’t Miss Our Next Virtual Event

We’ll continue this important and timely conversation on May 7 with a virtual summit focused on securely enabling remote work. This session will take a deep dive into how the rapid transition to virtual workforces and workspaces impacts your people, processes and technology. We’ll offer practical insights on operating safely and effectively in remote settings, and we’ll ask audience members to share their own experiences and best practices. Bring your questions, solutions and best practices – and join us for this interactive and informative event.

District Spotlight: Tracking COVID-19 in Wastewater

An analytics startup is working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard to offer low-cost coronavirus testing to wastewater districts. Biobot Analytics, a company launched three years ago by MIT researchers, says it has shipped about 30 test kits to wastewater facilities across the country designed to detect the presence of COVID-19 in sewage.

Newsha Ghaeli, co-founder of the company, says results from the wastewater analysis can be used to help health officials understand the presence of the virus in specific areas and improve predictive models.

“We think wastewater epidemiology can help capture all the other individuals that aren’t being tested because there’s limited access to tests,” she said. “Furthermore, it’s been shown that some patients are asymptomatic … so our technology can also capture those patients.”

The company originally developed its wastewater testing and analysis technology to help communities detect and understand opioid abuse. Read the full story here.

More Articles Worth a Read

Here are more stories from special districts around the country. Share your own news with us for inclusion in the next newsletter.

The Port Authority of Allegheny County, Pa., launched an electric bus service. The first two vehicles hit the road in March, and the authority plans to purchase more for a new bus rapid transit route.

Transit districts are seeing a steep decline in farebox revenue as citizens limit travel to slow coronavirus spread. Ridership at some California transit systems, for instance, has decreased by 50 percent or more.

Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority expects to offer free Wi-Fi to riders across its route network by next year. The authority will add routers to more than 1,700 buses and trains after running a Wi-Fi pilot last year.

GovTech Special Districts Program Report.

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