COVID-19. The tiny virus who could—and did–upend life as humans knew it prior to 2020, closing businesses, schools, governments, non-profits, communities, and borders in effort to contain the invisible, airborne, potential killer.
By the end of March 2020, every one of the eight U.S. states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York) and the two Canadian provinces (Ontario and Quebec) that form the Great Lakes region had declared a state of emergency against the novel coronavirus, known officially as SARS-CoV-2, as it spread disease around the world.
Adjusting to strict guidelines, Canadians and American responded to the call to halt all but the most essential activities in an effort to ‘flatten the curve,’ and slow the spread of the virus. This included an agreement between the U.S. and Canada to temporarily restrict all non-essential travel across the border, while still allowing trade (the US-Canada land border serves as an economic engine for $1.7 billion (USD) dollars in daily trade) and the flow of workers. Per the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “The United States and Canada recognize it is critical we preserve supply chains between both countries. These supply chains ensure that food, fuel, and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border. Supply chains, including trucking, will not be impacted by this new measure. Americans and Canadians also cross the land border every day to do essential work or for other urgent or essential reasons, and that travel will not be impacted.”
As the summer dawned over the Great Lakes, people slowly emerged from their quarantine, feeling their way to a ‘new normal,’ because there will be no ‘back to normal’ until there is a vaccine. Most experts indicate that is at least a year away, even as scientists and public health officials work as quickly as possible to better understand how to avoid transmission and investigate treatments as well as a vaccine.
The spread of incorrect information has been almost as rife as the spread of the virus itself. In order to aid the Great Lakes Region’s businesses and communities, here is a quick list of the most relevant and reliable information sources:
- The World Health Organization & U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are the two most reliable sources of information globally and in North America, and both have well-developed, easy to access sites devoted to dealing with the virus. The CDC’s site is easy to navigate and highlights all aspects of community and includes a handy 1-page Covid-19 fact-guide, downloadable and printable, for distributing electronically or in hard copy.
- For businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has opened a center of free materials, ‘marshalling all its resources to help companies stay afloat and keep paychecks flowing, mobilize the business community to combat pandemic, and help companies prepare for a safe, successful reopening of the economy.’ In line with that, the Chamber has developed not only the digital center, which includes ‘at-a-glance’ state-by-state guidance, but also a series of free webinars moderated by the U.S. Chamber President Suzanne Clark airing weekly on Thursdays at 3:00 p.m. EST.
- Each state and province in the Great Lakes region also has ready materials to inform business re-opening in their communities: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ontario and Quebec.
Longer term, learning from this global health crisis will require a more holistic and comprehensive approach. Vital Strategies, a leading global public health organization focusing on both prevention and the effective response to pandemics, outlines prevention and then five phases of response: preparedness, containment, mitigation, suppression, and recovery. Their Playbook is a resource to help decision-makers manage and adapt to each predictable phase from preparedness through recovery.