Juliette Kayyem discusses the ongoing management of COVID-19 pandemic during the Mass. Municipal Management Association’s Fall Conference webinar.

In her opening remarks during the Massachusetts Municipal Management Association’s Fall Conference on Nov. 19, Juliette Kayyem reflected on the current reality: “You’re all crisis managers now.”

Kayyem, a Harvard University professor, CNN national security analyst and former Homeland Security official, discussed the timeline, response and ongoing management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She explained her six-level crisis management spectrum: Protection, Prevention, Boom, Response, “Adaptive” Recovery, and Resiliency. She said we are now to the right of Boom, between Response and “Adaptive” Recovery. This “Now Normal” includes a focus on testing, contract tracing, social distancing and managing until there is a vaccine.

Kayyem believes the pandemic will leave lasting effects on the workplace and workforce, with the greatest impacts felt by women. She said college-educated women will bear the brunt of a “women’s recession.” About 14% of working women now stay home due to day care and schooling needs, she said, while only 2% of men are doing the same.

With so many companies and organizations successfully operating remotely, Kayyem questioned why we would go back to the old way of working. She believes there will be lasting changes regarding work from home policies.

She also expects health care to be restructured, and a rise in the position of “chief health officer” in the corporate world. Kayyem also predicts economic protections for so-called gig and contract workers.

One of the largest shifts during the pandemic, she said, is the country’s acceptance of mask wearing in order to mitigate risk and reduce spread of the coronavirus. She added that mask wearing will become a national mandate. Kayyem referenced a recent National Public Radio poll that showed that about 89% of adults are wearing masks.

“If this was a national war,” she said, “masking has won.”

Asked about “pandemic fatigue” among staff, Kayyem said there is a big difference between “We don’t know” and “until further notice.” Until recently, it was hard to project when the pandemic would be over, which increases weariness. With a vaccine in production and a distribution plan being developed, we are now in the “until further notice” stage.

Kayyem expects hesitancy about receiving the vaccine to diminish as time goes on, but said now is the time for town managers and local leaders to identify their “helpers” in this effort. Who are the community members they can turn to who will advocate for adoption of the vaccine?

Also presenting at the virtual conference was International City/County Management Association President and Lexington Town Manager Jim Malloy and ICMA Vice President Christopher Coleman, the town administrator in Westwood.

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