Commentary

We Can't Go Back To Normal. Let's Do Something Better

Right now, many of us are operating under the idea that we have a lockdown for some period of time, and then we can “go back to normal.”

But it is a virtual certainty that we will not be going back to normal for some time.

Let’s imagine for a second that the lockdown works. Maybe it takes four weeks, maybe six or eight, but whatever. We emerge from our burrows again, blinking at the unusual sight of humans congregating.

We start to go back to work. Some go straight back. But what about the retailers?

They can open their shops, but where do the clothes come from? How are India, Vietnam, Bangladesh, the Philippines coping with COVID-19?

What about the movie theaters? No movies are being made right now. Even once the writers and directors and actors and crew can go back to work, they still need the sets and props and post-pro and distributors and marketers.

We have grown a blood supply to each other, and it is not so simple to cut off the flow.

We have not even begun to contemplate the scale of the impact on our global economy. We have never shut down the entire machine before.

So what can we be doing now to mitigate the impact?

Nine years ago, my city suffered a devastating earthquake. Seventy percent of the footprint of our central city fell down or had to be demolished. And we learned the hard way that a beautiful thing about a crisis is that it can help us refocus on what is truly important.

What is truly important while we’re going through this?

Equity. Equity in terms of access to care. Equity in terms of access to the Internet. Equity for children and parents. Equity for black people, indigenous people, people of color.

How can kids access education during the pandemic if one in fie American teens don’t have reliable access to the Internet?

How can we eradicate the virus if black Americans can’t get access to COVID-19 tests or see a doctor with early symptoms?

How can people work from home if their kids are also home and need looking after?

How can we escape trauma if people in abusive relationships are quarantined with their abusers?

If we want to come out of this stronger than when we went in…

We will be doing whatever it takes to address inequity of access urgently. The Internet is a basic human right, and lack of access will massively amplify negative impacts down the road.

We will be doing whatever it takes to remove barriers to healthcare for black people, indigenous people, and people of color, and, as New Zealand’s Elana Curtis said, “ensure that [we have] an equity lens at the core of the values behind any decision-making tool you develop.”

We will appreciate that being home with your kids means you cannot contribute to your job in the same way you can when they are at school, and support employers to support employees to look after their children.

And we will fully fund our mental health services, refuges, and organizations working to combat domestic violence. Long after the virus fades, they will be on the front lines of the recovery.

A crisis can help us refocus on what is truly important. Let’s not waste this one.

2 comments about "We Can't Go Back To Normal. Let's Do Something Better".
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  1. Jane Sarasohn-kahn from THINK-Health, April 10, 2020 at 2:31 p.m.

    I couldn't agree with you more, Kaila! Here's my take today on how the CDC update that African-American patients are dying at a higher rate than other Americans -- and how we can do better for health and health care -- including mental health disparities. https://www.healthpopuli.com/2020/04/10/the-unsurprising-surprise-of-social-determinants-in-covid-19-mortality/

  2. Kaila Colbin from Boma Global, April 10, 2020 at 2:44 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing your article, Jane! That's exactly what I'm referring to. If you haven't already, click the link in my column about black Americans being unable to access tests -- it's a fantastic thread by Nikole Hannah Jones about the many unsurprising factors that result in African-Americans being hardest hit. Stay safe and well.

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