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COVID-19: Views From Communities

A collection of stories of community challenges and perseverance in response to COVID-19.



Community Resilience in Plymouth, MI

Academy Fellow Barry G. Rabe ('09), Plymouth, MI

"My home community, Plymouth, MI, is a city of about 10,000 residents lodged between Detroit and Ann Arbor. One of the reasons my family lives here is effective and transparent government and service delivery. All of those skills have been on full display in recent weeks, including very clear and useful electronic updates on all key developments that may have an impact on our community. This ranges from listing of key contacts to particulars on safety from various food purchase options. The City of Plymouth has also encouraged a Plymouth Pulse, a nightly check in among residents that begins with waves from our porches at 7 pm nightly. In our case, this has inspired my block, now known as the RossSt.Rumblers on social media, to celebrate birthdays and the like but also check in and offer support. We see other blocks doing the same and I am not sure that this would have occurred without a nudge and inspiration from our local authorities. I look forward to the day when I can thank all of these great public servants in person."

Socially Distant, But Still Connected

Friend of the Academy Jack Underhill, Fairfax County, VA

"We have had a listserve for many years for anyone in the community who wants to be included on it. People ask for help, for rides to stores, to borrow tools, for the best plumbers, etc. We recently assembled a list of 32 people who are willing to pick up things at the grocery store. Our community, Holmes Run Acres in Fairfax County, is listed on the national trust for Historic Preservation and has a community journal. There is seldom a request for help that no one responds to. The community was created in 1952 and still maintains a strong community spirit. Architecture is modern."

Condo Floor Captains

Academy President and CEO and Fellow, Teresa Gerton ('17), Arlington, VA

"Our condo, whose residents include a number of folks squarely in the most 'at risk' categories for the virus, has established a system of floor captains who check on every resident on their floor (virtually) and who coordinate support for those who can’t shop or get out on their own.  But that doesn’t rise to the level of more complex city/county/state-wide solutions that we might hope to capture."

Social Distancing with Dinosaurs

Academy Fellow Sally Jaggar ('16), Great Falls, VA

"Our neighborhood  of about 30 houses is experiencing one of those "turn overs" that happens periodically: several houses have new families with lots of younger children as older residents have moved away. These new families have brought energy and community spirit with them! Each Tuesday, now, there is a different neighborhood theme (today's is "dinosaurs"). Residents post appropriate drawings on mailboxes and front doors, make chalk drawings on the street, etc. During the day parents and kids walk the neighborhood (social distancing from others) to pick out favorites, admire each others' handiwork, and search out and count the number of dinosaurs. We have different themes for each of the next several weeks. Such a modest idea has generated a lot of smiles -- for all ages."

Keeping Ourselves Safe, Helps All

Academy Fellow Don Bathurst ('16), Fairfax County, VA

"Not much has changed for me personally. After putting social distancing guidance in place at DHS in 2009, I've been aware of touch surfaces and hand hygiene. This was a great basis when I went through, and continue maintenance for a cancer diagnosis. I've been doing the guidance for years! Locally, we've hunkered down and brought my youngest home from school, so she can continue with on-line classes. I continue engagement with the EOM and IGS Standing Panels at NAPA, as well as a study group. I'm also working with committees of AFCEA and SEA. I continue to mentor a few in federal agencies, early, mid, and late career. And, we're trying to patronize local restaurants with carry out orders. We'll need them, and all small businesses, when we emerge from this. My hope is that we can all reflect on what's good in our lives and look out for others. Keeping ourselves safe, helps all." 

Local Communities and Governments Lead the Way

Academy Fellow Robert Bland ('12), Denton, TX

"The COVID-19 crisis has elevated the sense of community among people across the world.  I see it here in my city of Denton, Texas. People are spending more time talking with neighbors (at a safe distance, of course). There is a heightened sense of the needs and vulnerabilities of others. The isolation has elevated the awareness of how much we depend on each other and how much others depend on me.  I am most thrilled by the significant role that local government officials have taken in combating the pandemic. This is an era of local government leadership, and public administrators are at the forefront in leading our communities and the nation out of the crisis and back to a state of safety and normalcy."

Adapting City and State Regulations

Academy Fellow Norton N. Bonaparte, Jr. ('09), Sanford, FL

"One action the City of Sanford took was to relax our sign regulations to allow restaurants that were offering take out or pick up service to put signs in locations that would not normally be allowed. Also, since the our Governor issued an Executive Order stating the municipal meetings did not have to have a physical quorum, our city commission yesterday held it’s first teleconference (virtual) commission meeting."

Daily Governor Briefings

Academy Fellow Jodi Sandfort ('17), Minneapolis, MN

"Daily governor briefings (on conference call) with Cabinet are broadcast live on Minnesota Public Radio - all press members can call in and the public can hear the responses."

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