The threat of a coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak isn’t a point-in-time political exigency; it’s one of what we know will be a series of episodic public health challenges. Responding to these challenges will take more than ad hoc political messaging and emergency funding. It will take professional competence and a continuing commitment of financial resources toward public health.
We can learn about both of these commitments — professional and financial — from how communities like mine in South Florida prepare for hurricane season. We keep supplies in our closets, we check weather forecasts regularly between June and November, and we know exactly what to do when winds and rain start blowing sideways. In South Florida, we are always prepared to handle a hurricane because we have a robust professional hurricane response system in place and because our political leaders are disciplined about it. They stick to the facts and allow the experts, for the most part, to be the communicators.
We can also access national resources and additional expertise through the Federal Emergency Management Agency via the Stafford Act of 1988, which created a system through which a presidential disaster declaration triggers financial and physical assistance.