They say there is nothing like a crisis to make or break a system, and COVID-19 would certainly qualify as a crisis. What lessons have been learned for the City of Coronado, how will these lessons impact your decision making processes as a Coronado City Council member?
Vitally important in handling a crisis is good communication, and this has been proven to be the case with COVID-19. When the virus was first identified, there was a lot of information being conveyed from federal, state, and local officials, some was accurate, some was inaccurate, and much has evolved and been revised as we go along. Coronado, as directed by the state, works closely with the County of San Diego for public health and safety guidelines. To publicize this information, a newsletter was created by city staff and periodically disseminated to Coronado residents. Additionally, COVID updates were also provided via e-mail, social media, the City Manager’s weekly update, etc.
In Coronado, we were also fortunate to have resident initiatives to increase communications. A great example is “Neighbor-to-Neighbor,” also known as N2N, developed and put in place by a team of residents led by Amy and Dan’l Steward. N2N was designed by dividing the entire city into manageable sections, with a volunteer “block captain” assigned to each section. The block captains, in turn, were responsible for engaging with residents, establishing a list of email addresses (if the residents wished to be included), sending out COVID-related information as it became available, and also establishing two-way communication with all participating neighbors. Along these same lines, the city established a “hotline,” staffed by city employees, to answer any resident questions and to help residents connect to individuals and agencies who were in a position to provide that help. By all accounts these processes worked well, and the plan is to maintain N2N for future emergencies, as well as more routine communications. Likewise, we now know how to set up a crisis hotline if we need one in the future.
Another lesson we have learned is that no crisis is static and, as a result, priorities and guidelines are constantly changing. On the plus side, with good communication systems already in place, Coronado residents can stay knowledgeable on the latest and best information. For instance, a recent update issued by the County revised the criteria for requiring quarantine after contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus or tests positive shortly after contact. Up until a week ago, contact was defined as being within six feet of an infected individual for 15 continuous minutes, with or without a face covering. But recently, based on new information and analysis, contact has been redefined as being within six feet of an infected individual for a cumulative 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.
Unfortunately, in dealing with COVID, person-to-person interactions have been severely limited and, as a result, public forums and workshops typically held for City projects have not been allowed. The City has just introduced a community engagement space called Comment Coronado to better facilitate public participation. Stay tuned for more information as we roll out this community engagement space on the City website.