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A Road Map of Lessons Learned from the COVID Pandemic

To help ensure that mistakes aren’t repeated and that lessons learned are truly heeded the next time, the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region is developing a Comprehensive Regional Pandemic Resilience Roadmap.

Crowd of people walking down a sidewalk during the COVID-19 pandemic, all wearing face masks.
Going through the COVID-19 crisis was, for most organizations, a unique and challenging experience where mistakes were undoubtedly made but, hopefully, won’t be repeated during the inevitable next pandemic.

To help ensure that lessons learned are truly heeded the next time, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region’s (PNWER) Center for Regional Disaster Resilience (CRDR) is developing a Comprehensive Regional Pandemic Resilience Roadmap.

The road map is in its final stages of development and should be ready for public consumption in February. It will serve as a guide for pandemic planning and response, as well as transitioning to a period of recovery. It targets both the private and public sectors and invites the two, via learned strategies, to collaborate and work toward business continuity solutions.

As part of the process of completing the guide, CRDR held a workshop this week with stakeholders for the purpose of examining strategies recommended in the road map using a scenario-based discussion about a hypothetical future pandemic, one created by Johns Hopkins University.

“What we’ve been doing over the last few months is interviews, surveys, a webinar series, in trying to find best practices from across the region and Canada,” said Betz Mayer, PNWER program manager. PNWER is a nonprofit composed of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Montana and Washington, as well as the Canadian provinces and territories of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and the Yukon.

Those best practices include successful responses to some of the challenges COVID-19 presented and responding in a way that promotes business continuity. “We’re creating this road map by giving a menu of options. Like if you’re thinking about business continuity, how can the public and the private sector work together better so we don’t repeat the same mistakes of COVID and each group can meet its objectives and not get in each other’s way?” Mayer said.

Pandemics do sort of follow a certain path, so lessons from COVID-19 will certainly be valuable next time, Mayer said. “The way we kind of break it up is there are the early days of the pandemic, a period of uncertainty where the scientific community may know a lot about a specific kind of virus but the general population does not.”

The road map will have a lot of information on clarity in public health communication to try and gain the trust of the public earlier next time.

That uncertainty within the public is what creates the fear and anxiety, and lack of trust inhibits the response. “As we learn more and that information gets out to the public and we start to develop measures and vaccines, we’re in a period of knowledge, and then over time we start to transition into this period of recovery,” Mayer said.

The guide also will continue to call attention to the fact that, historically, underserved communities receive very little outreach and there aren’t many safety nets to catch them when they fail, especially from a small business perspective.

The road map is divided into sections, including how to make informed public health decisions, as well as information sharing and relations development. The latter involves facilitating a working relationship between the public and private sectors and coordinating information and regulation.

Part of the struggle in developing the road map, from the standpoint of collecting lessons learned, was that the World Health Organization (WHO) doesn’t have much guidance for what a period of pandemic actually looks like, Mayer said.

“We were a little frustrated with that because [WHO] operates under this assumption that you’re in a pandemic or you’re not, and there’s not a lot of room for how to live your life during the pandemic.”

That’s where the road map intervenes with lessons on adaptations to help organizations and individuals continue operating during the pandemic.

“We learn more about the pandemic, and as information gets out, we start to develop prevention measures and vaccines,” Mayer said. “We’re in this period of knowledge and start to transition into recovery.”