Pandemic Planning - corona-5073359_960_720

I don’t know what is ahead, but the Covid-19 variants are not done with us.”~ Dr. Michael Osterholm, co-author of Getting to and Sustaining the Next Normal: A Roadmap for Living With Covid

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”~ Attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche

“The same way the U.S. invests in and prepares for national defense, it must also prepare for another pandemic. Though the next viral outbreak cannot be prevented, the next pandemic can — but only with better preparation.”~ Dr. Andrew Plump, STAT

Welcome back to my series on Pandemic Lessons Learned. This is the last installment. If you missed any of the previous Parts, you can access them here: Part Five: The Worldwide Worker Walkout Firestorm, Part Four: The Economic Impact Of CovidPart Three: Working / Schooling From Home, Part Two: The Lifesaving Brilliance of WWW-IQ, Part One: Vaccines, Testing and Treatments


We’ve come a long way from when COVID-19 first gob-smacked us. And as noted in the previous five Parts of this series, we’ve learned a lot about this virus. But, as the experts point out, we’ve a lot more to learn as we cope with transition and change. Most importantly, we’ve learned how to prepare for future pandemics.

We’ll deal with both the coping and the preparing in this final Part.

Coping With The Next Normal

There will be many “new normals” in our lives. That’s the reason I like the term, “next normal,” because as we emerge from the pandemic we must continually cope with what’s next. 

At this point, COVID-19 has killed more than one million Americans and an additional five-plus million people worldwide. But while the pandemic continues globally, in the U.S. we’re slowly and somewhat erratically resuming next normal activities. As Dr. Fauci explained, and clarified in The Washington Post, “We are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase…we’re really in a transitional phase.” So, what’s next?

Well, COVID-19 still poses a threat and is on the rise in nearly every state, in particular due to the Omicron variants. One of the tragedies is the long-term effects. These have included quality-of-life issues such as loss of taste and smell to more serious and possibly life-threatening conditions such as Goodpasture’s Syndrome and lung damage. Even mild symptoms can produce so-called long COVID. So, even the fully vaxxed and boosted who feel some level of security need to continue being cautious. Washing hands, using hand sanitizers as well as masks in certain situations are important for everyone, but especially for older and / or immunocompromised individuals. 

Hence, our next normal might continue to evolve in to multiple states as COVID variants struggle to take on new lives at our expense. Here are challenges we face now and in the future:

Preparing For The Next Pandemic

If we have learned anything from this pandemic, it’s that we must be much, much better prepared for future pandemics. As Ben Franklin is supposed to have famously said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Please tack that quote up somewhere — on your fridge, bulletin board, mirror, wherever — so you see it every day and never forget it.

While COVID-19 was the first global pandemic of its kind in a century, the next one might not be so far off. A virus known as Monkeypox has recently appeared in the U.S. It’s related to smallpox (which was eradicated decades ago through vaccination). Monkeypox is a serious disease, and protocols, including isolation, might be required to stop it. Right now, it does not seem to be widespread, but stay tuned.

The silver lining is that after what we’ve been through we should be fully prepared  for the next epidemic or pandemic. 


Employers and employees learned that in most cases working from home can be just as productive — and in some instances even more so — as working at the office. WFH can help employees achieve work-life balance more easily and save money on meals, commutation, gas, clothes and other expenses as well as have more personal time. Employers can reduce overhead by implementing either full or part-time WFH and eliminating some office space in favor of office-sharing. Employers might also be able to eliminate some office equipment and supplies and reimburse employees for using their own equipment and supplies, or the latter can declare them as expenses on their tax returns. Seems like a win-win to me. 

Because WFH and schooling from home became the mainstays for business and education continuity during the pandemic, this is where the bulk of future pandemic planning should be for individuals. Ensure that your home remains ready with work and school space. This makes sense in normal times, as well, because on a regular basis grownups are taking work home and kids need to do homework.

And because we have learned that shortages quickly occur in times of emergency, having a cache of emergency supplies on hand is wise. That should include office and school supplies, bottled water, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, liquid hand soap, etc. Everyone should have a good supply of masks by now; hang on to them for continued and future use.

Many households have multiple computers and Internet connectivity, but those that don’t should invest in a spare laptop to have on hand, and sign up for Internet service when it becomes available.  

If you do not have adequate health insurance coverage for yourself and your family, look into fixing that now.  

If at all possible, put aside a pandemic savings fund — AKA a rainy-day fund. Just in case.

Perhaps most importantly, be an informed and active citizen and contact your elected representatives with your opinions, and vote for candidates that can best deliver for you with regard to managing this and future pandemics.

And They…

They…being our government and medical and scientific sectors and the business community. Clearly, they were all caught short by this pandemic. So how do they prepare for future pandemics and other national health emergencies?

The Government and Medical and Scientific Communities

According to the NIH- National Library of Medicine, “We have an ethical obligation to learn as much as possible quickly to develop effective health policies, drugs and vaccines. Clinicians, researchers, administrators, ethics committees, regulators and sponsors have a duty to ensure that this is done without delay.” Add to that a ramp up in production of PPE for healthcare workers to ensure adequate supplies in an emergency. And, of course, scientists must continue to modify existing vaccines and develop new ones quickly.

Congress has an obligation to pass universal healthcare. Because I prefer to have more than fewer choices, I like the public option version that would provide all Americans and residents with a choice of government-run healthcare coverage or private coverage. In addition, Congress should make telehealth without restrictions a permanent option.  In any case, our healthcare system needs improvement without further delay.

Our elected officials must also ensure now that enough money is put aside in an emergency fund to provide relief during the next pandemic efficiently, and to avoid unproductive squabbles as to how such relief will be paid for (let me count the ways!).  

As for the medical community, it has a duty to develop a decent, workable plan to attract and retain top-notch clinical workers by establishing DEI policies that are supported and enforced, establishing reasonable schedules, and creating teams that engage rather than divide and discourage workers. 

The Business Community

As someone who has some experience in this area, I was shocked that so many American-based businesses lacked preparedness for this pandemic. One of the hats I wore at my company was that of  disaster recovery coordinator and liaison; as such, I have first-hand knowledge of what business continuity and disaster recovery preparedness looks like. Under the guidance of the corporate team, I oversaw the planning and training for the home-office sector staff as well as the sector regional and international offices.  

This Forbes article offers a broad-stroke approach: How To Prepare Your Business For Another Pandemic. Large corporations and mid-size businesses should have a department or team dedicated to disaster recovery and business continuity planning and training. Small businesses should have an outside consultant to help them set up and update their plan periodically, and assign the appropriate staff member to act as coordinator. 

Businesses owe it to their employees, customers, consumers, shareholders, suppliers and other business partners and relationships to keep them safe physically, emotionally and financially during an emergency. 

People Who Need People 

There is no doubt that we need more etiquette, ethics and empathy in our lives. Because there are so many times when we — as individuals, couples, families, employees, employers, front-line workers, citizens and members of various groups — cannot go it alone. We need to pull together to help — and sometimes save — each other. A pandemic is one of those times. Just as the practice of etiquette is about the comfort of others and creating a pleasant environment for all, pulling together in a pandemic is about the survival and wellbeing of others as well as ourselves and creating a good outcome for all. Division over masking and vaccinating and clearing store shelves of stock that everyone needs — remember the toilet paper and sanitizing wipes shortages at the beginning of the pandemic?!  — and hoarding baby formula now, are not helpful — and some question if they are even ethical — in managing an emergency. The approach should not be everyone for themselves but rather the all-for-one-and-one-for-all principle.   

Many years ago, my husband and I — city folks born and bred — were visiting my country cousins when one afternoon, left on our own, we decided to take a rowboat out on the river. We were inexperienced and soon realized our mistake, and for a while struggled with uncoordinated rowing, spinning around and getting nowhere. Once we regrouped and began rowing in tandem, however, we were a powerful team and our little boat sliced through the fast-moving waters to shore. Lesson learned: when you are in the same boat, row together in rhythm and in the same direction if you want to make progress! 

In business, the military and other organizations where there is a mission to be accomplished it is imperative that everyone work together as a unit. In society, however, where democracy allows each individual to make choices (well, in most cases, but more about that later), it can get messy. Unless a law is passed or an executive order issued, people make their own individual decisions on how to behave and the result in an emergency is often counterproductive.

In that light, perhaps the most important lesson we have learned is that we need each other for our own survival and that of our nation. As poet Richard Blanco so eloquently put it, “We’re the promise of one people, one breath declaring to one another: I see you. I need you. I am you.” 

Therefore, survival depends on being united in our missions and in our processes. Because we have not been united during this pandemic, COVID-19 is still with us and restoration of our economy has stalled. We can blame our government, the medical community, other countries and each other; but when the dust clears, it is we American citizens who determine how we will behave and through our invaluable right to vote we select who will represent us and make decisions for us. In doing so, it is the responsibility of each of us to choose whether to advance solutions or worsen problems. Let’s hope for both the present and the future, those choices will be thoughtful and wise. 

Until next time,


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