COVID-19: What should the ‘new normal’ look like?

The authors note that policymakers need to determine their goals in relation to COVID-19 and then communicate them clearly to the public. Local governments can then adapt national recommendations at the local level.

Their piece notes four main components to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Accurate data collection: They recommend that data be as specific and comprehensive as possible and include information at the local, state, and national levels.
  2. A flexible public health workforce: They note that the healthcare system needs to deal with both ongoing problems and be further prepared to respond to emergencies. The workforce should include community healthcare workers and more school nurses who can help with the ongoing treatment of chronic diseases and with health promotion.
  3. Better flow of medical services: States need to implement systems that allow for resources and care to get to affected areas and help deal with surges and declines in COVID-19 cases. For example, states can allow healthcare workers to practice in other states and allow for billing across state lines.
  4. Increased trust in public health institutions and belief in collective action in service of public health: Public health data systems can improve to increase the general public’s faith in public institutions. Governments can also focus on informing the population about the benefits of public health policies. Helping create a workforce that can respond to COVID-19 would also be beneficial.

Public health and infectious disease expert Prof. Katharina Hauck, a professor in health economics at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the paper, identified that these strategies focus on nations being prepared.

And when people have a prepared response, there is less need for mitigation measures, including lockdowns and mask wearing. She thinks these methods may help communities in the long run. She told Medical News Today:

“There is little doubt that the proposed measures prevent pandemic deaths and reduce the need for pandemic mitigation once an outbreak takes hold.”

“The global economic and social costs associated with closures of nonessential businesses and schools are estimated in the trillions; the mental health costs of reduced social contacts are unquantifiable. In comparison to pandemic mitigation, many societies will consider [pandemic preparedness] as bargain investments.”

She noted that COVID-19 has forced society to consider how mitigation factors affect communities, but focusing efforts on being prepared will help minimize the need and impact of mitigation factors. She explained to MNT:

“The pandemic forces us to navigate an agonizing trade-off between competing societal objectives. Society needs to put a price on life, and during a pandemic, the price is measured in terms of economically and socially costly pandemic mitigation and restrictions to personal liberties. [Pandemic preparedness] promises to alleviate that trade-off by reducing the need for pandemic mitigation.”