VIEWPOINT: Act now to reduce economic damages from the COVID-19 recession

As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread across America, the full economic damage came into sharp view, as unemployment claims and small business closures spiked nationwide. 

Our state, local, and community leaders are diligently responding to the urgent public health needs of our community. 

Now is also the time to plan and take necessary steps to counter the economic fall-out and help get our economy back open and running as soon as it is safe.

For our community leaders, getting this rapid response effort right is as important as what they are doing today. 

The pain of the pandemic-fueled recession will likely hit Miami hard.

Even if it is relatively short.

Experts estimate that COVID-19’s economic downturn will hit travel, tourism and hospitality driven cities hardest.

Reducing the damage from the economic fall-out requires that we apply all the lessons we have learned from the last recession and hurricanes. 

We must therefore, prepare our community, economy, and workers for the next phase of this pandemic and get our economy back open. 

This will require mobilizing as we did after Hurricane Andrew.

Rapid response, coordination, leveraging federal funds and cutting through red-tape. 

A key step to take now is to start “pandemic-proofing” our vital public — civic, health and economic infrastructure.

This will entail changes in the way they operate as well as re-designing spacing for social distancing, isolation spaces, and other safety measuresincluding adding temperature screenings stations and dispensers for masks and hand sanitizer. 

First, we must protect the safety and well-being of care-givers and expand capacity to ensure that they can operate safely. 

Jackson Memorial Hospital, UHealth, Community Health Centers, and other health facilities and hospitals, are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19.

Each is already overburdened and is highly vulnerable to secondary waves of infection. 

Second, Miami International Airport and PortMiami are the critical engines of our economy—they cannot remain idle.

Also, our economy is dependent on amenities and attractions in large-scale civic venues. Think convention center, performing arts center, arena, speedway, the museums, art galleries, theaters, and other venues. 

The sooner they can be safely reopened, the faster our economy will rebound.

Then, Metro buses, rail, mover and trolly services may need to retrofit stations and seating to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

And, streets may need “pedestrianizing”, expanded and protected lanes for bike and scooter sharing programs to support our public transit system.

Many of these “pandemic-proofing” improvements to our public — civic, health and economic assets can be done immediately by local workers. 

Qualified, competent and eager local professionals — architects, engineers, contractors and others — are readily available to start this work.  Many are small, minority and women-owned firms with extensive experience. Let’s get them working.

We have fought through crisis before—for as long as we can remember, Miami has been under the threat of a natural or human disaster. 

As Dr. Paul George brilliantly recounts Miami’s iconic moments in history — no pandemic or Zika or hurricane has kept The Magic City down.

Together, we will get through this pandemic, too.

Soon, we will go back to work. Take our kids to school. 

Gather to worship.

Pull up to Starbucks or a cafecito counter.

Enjoy an Arsht Center performance; and cheer our beloved Miami Heat to victory again. 

What we do over the next few weeks can ensure that our economy not only survives, recovers but thrives.

Stay safe and healthy!

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