Pumpkins, apple cider, changing foliage... Fall is a magical time of year, gently ushering the transition from summer to winter. It could also be a time where we see a resurgent Coronavirus push everyone back indoors for a prolonged quarantine.
With states gradually relaxing restrictions, and things seeming to be headed "back to normal," it is might be tempting to breathe a sigh of relief and cross our fingers that in a few months, COVID-19 will be a memory.
However, if history is any indicator, then we could be back under stay-at-home orders in the fall. During the "Spanish Flu" of 1918-1919 the virus had an outbreak in the spring of 1918, seemingly subsided over the summer of 1918, and then had a far more severe spike in the fall. There have been a variety of reasons attributed to this: World War 1 was raging and troops and supplies were being moved around the globe, restrictions and quarantines were lifted prematurely, censorship of the press played down the severity of the illness and its proliferation, etc. Regardless of its specific cause, the virus mutated over the summer and came back with a vengeance over the fall.
There are numerous advantages we have now compared to what was available in 1918 in terms of communication, global cooperation, and scientific advancements. Despite this, until and unless an effective vaccine to COVID-19 is developed and distributed, it presents a looming threat. Some areas around the world relaxed restrictions and were met with a spike in COVID-19 cases. Is it possible that we'll see the same occur this fall?
While we're not in the business of prognosticating, we are in the business of planning: we won't predict whether there will be a spike in the fall, but we will advocate that you make your port ready for one. Now is a good time to capture your learning from this pandemic and update your pandemic influenza plan. Consider the following questions:
Was there any necessary PPE, or any necessary supplies, that you needed and could not obtain? What supplies must be kept on hand to ensure smooth functioning of the port in a pandemic environment?
How will an outbreak at the port be handled should one occur?
What preventative measures would you put in place, and under what circumstances?
What were your largest operational challenges, and how would you handle them differently?
Did the current pandemic highlight any areas for necessary improvement? Any opportunities for increased resiliency?
This summer is a good time to take meaningful action to increase the port's resiliency, incorporating takeaways from the current pandemic. Take the valuable lessons that you and your staff have learned and apply them. In so doing, you will set your port up to be resilient, healthy, and successful.