If the White House Isn’t COVID-Free ..

.. how can the Governors, Mayors and Business Owners reliably assure us that it’s safe to go out?

Please don’t misinterpret my statements:

  • I’m all for getting out .. safely.
  • I’m all for the impacted workers to get back to their workplaces and their lives.
  • I’m all for keeping family members safe should we go out and be exposed before it’s safe to do so.

If the White House cannot do it, how do we ensure that the spaces we occupy are also COVID-Free?

Taking lessons from major operational changes we’ve enacted for keeping essential workers safe goes a long way. Think about your last trip to the grocery:

  • All workers wear masks and gloves.
  • Workers are disinfecting the carts and regulating customer density in the store.
  • Carts help to manage the distance between customers.
  • Marks on the floor guide you where to stand when queuing to pay.
  • Cashiers are safely behind plexiglass.
  • When you leave, someone else is allowed in.
  • Shorter hours and nightly disinfection operations.

Consider some options for Restaurants and Retail:

  • 25% of capacity.
  • Mandatory reservations and appointments for dining and shopping.
  • Ordering in advance. Online menus make this easy for restaurants, retailers might have to be creative.
  • “Camping” (restaurant) and “Browsing” (retail) are discouraged .. perhaps even extending to mandated departure times.
  • Everyone wears masks and gloves .. workers and customers.
  • Shorter hours and nightly disinfection operations.

Now, grocery stores are essential businesses and can likely offset the additional labor costs for customer management and cleaning operations through shortened hours and mostly-guaranteed traffic. Restaurants aren’t so lucky, and may be challenged to make a profit with only 25% of capacity. Those with an outside seating option may fare better as we’re into Spring and Summer.

But, what of retailers? Curbside pick-up? Adapt the online ordering model and set up shopping ‘zones’ where selected items could be relocated for a shopper? Mandatory purchase of a gift certificate to be spent this visit or the next?

Economists will do studies on this transition for years .. aided by lots of BI, I’m sure.

Now, as to the offices. How can we trust the person in the next chair? In the next cubicle? On the bus? In the Uber?

We cannot. Americans want to be protected when they get back to work. Assuming we make it into the office (transit aside), our employers must consider:

  • Temperature screening.
  • Testing protocols.
  • A multitude of CDC-defined best practices.
  • New cleaning protocols.
  • Liability insurance.

These challenges are of no fault of our employers .. but as with grocers, restaurants and retailers, there are significant challenges to ensure the workplace is safe. Recall that in “Updated Symptoms for COVID-19” I reference an outbreak that took place in January in a Chicago Contact Center (thanks to the New York Times for this article).

The White House is now testing and contact tracing on a daily basis, so they should be safe (ish). However, on a nationwide level, we are not seeing the same kind of testing and contact tracing.

Note to self: write an article that covers the LOE of contact tracing. The short bit:

  • You test positive.
  • A Contact Tracer (a person) sits down with you, likely referring to your mobile device to see where you’ve been over the past; days that represent your acquisition and incubation period.
  • This person grills you for all the folks with whom you interacted and makes a list.
  • Other Contract Tracers start dialing these people to ascertain their status .. and with whom they interacted.
  • If positive, lather, rinse, repeat. If negative, caution to stay safe and “Behave Like You Have It ..” until they know.

.. it goes on and on. It will take an Army, however, given the current employment environment, we do have folks we could hire and train to do this work.

The States say they’re ‘going slow’ .. but have they acquired the tests and the means to process them? Have they recruited the army of contact tracers? I guess it depends on the state.

Enough on this one .. too many circular references that all end in one conclusion: we don’t have the tests we need. I posted “Testing, Testing, Testing” two months ago, asking exactly the same question.

For now, Follow the Data .. Not the Date.

Stay connected. Stay safe. Stay home when you can.

About Michael Coates
I am a pragmatic evangelist. The products, services and solutions I write about fulfill real-world expectations and use cases. I stay up-to-date on real products I use and review, and share my thoughts here. I apply the same lens when designing an architecture, product or when writing papers. I am always looking for ways that technology can create or enhance a business opportunity .. not just technology for technology's sake. My CV says: Seasoned technology executive, leveraging years of experience with enterprise and integration architectural patterns, executed with healthy doses of business acumen and pragmatism. That's me. My web site says: Technology innovations provide a myriad of opportunities for businesses. That said, having the "latest and greatest" for its own sake isn't always a recipe for success. Business successes gained through exploiting innovation relies on analysis of how the new features will enhance your business followed by effective implementation. Goals vary far and wide: streamlining operations, improving customer experience, extending brand, and many more. In all cases, you must identify and collect the metrics you can apply to measure your success. Analysis must be holistic and balanced: business and operational needs must be considered when capitalizing on a new technology asset or opportunity.

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