National policies have had a massive impact on the spread of coronavirus. But did you know that local governments have also come to play a crucial role when it comes to containing and mitigating the threat of COVID-19?
Indeed, in countries that are ill-prepared on a national level, the steps taken in local communities to manage coronavirus are even more vital in maintaining public health and safety.
What are towns and cities doing to protect residents and visitors? Let’s go over some common measures that public officials are taking at a local level.
But first, it is important to mention that there is a huge spectrum when it comes to responses. Here are some of the factors that influence how one town or city handles COVID-19 compared to another:
- The geographical location of the city or town.
- Various aspects of the community’s economy.
- The infrastructure of the town or city with respect to transportation, healthcare, and communication.
- Local population demographics.
- Inequalities in the town or city.
- What public officials are in power and what their political alignments and goals are.
- Resources and supplies immediately available and access to additional supplies.
- The town or city’s budget.
Now, let’s go over some steps that many towns and cities around the globe have taken to manage COVID-19.
1. Implementing travel restrictions.
Many cities and towns have put travel restrictions into effect—or at least stern warnings. In the US, travel advisories have urged citizens to avoid all but essential movement in and out of cities and towns.
In other cities around the world, travel restrictions have been much stricter. In Wuhan, for example, it was impossible to come or go from the city during the travel lockdown.
2. Sanitization of public transportation systems.
Minimizing the threat of coronavirus spreading through mass transit systems has been a high priority around the globe.
Different cities have taken different steps to fight the virus. New York City invested in hundreds of UV lamps for its subway and bus system. Istanbul mobilized a 40-vehicle fleet to continuously sanitize public transit and other spaces.
3. Support for cycling.
A lot of people don’t want to walk in crowds, but they also don’t want to use public transit to commute anymore. Packing everyone into private automobiles isn’t necessarily a solution though in crowded urban centers. So what are cities doing to help?
Some cities are embracing cycling. In New York City, petitions have circulated to add in more bike lanes, and the mayor himself has encouraged bicycle commuting.
That being said, in other cities, cycling has been frowned upon since the pandemic started to the point where officials have imposed fines.
4. Mobile testing sites and infirmaries.
To make it as safe and easy as possible to get tested, some cities have been setting up mobile testing sites under canopy tents.
These large canopy tents feature openings so that it is possible to drive through. Their pop-up design makes them fast and easy for medical workers to set up where they are needed most. They have walled-off sections where staff can store equipment and work.
We are also seeing pop-up mobile infirmary tents in locations where there is an urgent need for on-site care.
Finally, small pop-up canopy tents are being used as hand-washing stations at a variety of locations.
5. Closing schools.
In many cities and towns, schools have shut down for periods of time during lockdowns to protect students, faculty, and families from the spread of the virus.
Students have attended school online instead of in person in these locales.
6. Support services.
Cities have been providing a wide variety of digital support services to residents during the pandemic.
In Boston and New York City, for example, public schools have been giving free Chromebooks to students who do not own their own devices.
Meanwhile, Helsinki has worked with a variety of organizations to bring personalized food and pharmacy services to residents age 70 and above.
Additionally, as explained by World Bank, Helsinki has “developed digital cultural services for its population in its aim to maintain a stimulating urban life and to reduce the mental health impacts from social distancing and isolation.”
7. Social distancing.
Speaking of isolation, cities, towns and counties have been under different local restrictions during lockdowns this year.
For example, Multnomah County, where Portland is located, has put caps on how many people can eat in restaurants at a time, and has set an 11 pm restaurant and bar curfew.
The county also set a 50% capacity limit for farmers’ markets and retail stores, but closed indoor entertainment facilities.
Additionally, group gatherings were capped at six people and two households maximum.
This is an example of a high-risk county. Residents in smaller, more isolated towns have often faced looser restrictions. But at times, lockdown requirements have applied state-wide, so that even those in lower-risk communities have had to follow similar protocols.
8. Contact tracing.
Depending on the location of outbreaks, county, state and national governments all have played a role in contact tracing. But cities and towns also have contributed to the necessary tracking of coronavirus data.
How Different Cities and Towns Have Responded to COVID-19 Reveals Much
With such varied responses from different towns and cities around the world, coronavirus has offered many lessons in urban infrastructure.
We have had a chance to find out what does and doesn’t work in terms of preparedness and adaptive responses.
We can make the most of a bad situation by taking these lessons to heart. Cities and towns that have struggled to maintain the health and financial well-being of residents can start taking cues from those that have kept residents safe.
Hopefully we will overcome coronavirus, but it is pretty much a guarantee at this point that the future holds more threats in store.
Let us hope that cities and towns will be more robust in the wake of COVID-19, and more prepared for the next pandemic or other wide-scale crisis.