States Leading: How Business, Nonprofits, Faith and Government Are Fighting COVID-19

I know what it is like to be a COVID-19 patient and to be anxious about my recovery, facing a virus we still know so little about. I was fortunate to be treated by some of the best medical professionals in our country. They provided excellent care and for that, I am unendingly grateful.

The COVID-19 pandemic has tested our nation. In the midst of uncertainty and pain, we’ve seen Americans come together to address the global pandemic. States swiftly responded to the crisis thanks to our talented and compassionate citizens working across government, the private sector, not-for-profits, the faith community and in towns across our nation.

In the throes of a global pandemic there is no time to stop and celebrate victories, but it is necessary to assess what states have done right in our fight against COVID-19. That’s how we learn what works and become better prepared for the challenges ahead.

The COVID-19 crisis presents a host of hurdles not known to states before today.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey faced billions of dollars in property damages, significant loss of income and employment, and a real health and wellness crisis for those who were not able to access the services they needed. We took stock of the management and emergency processes and procedures that worked. Most importantly, we evaluated what did not work.

After Hurricane Sandy, public-private partnerships were key to our recovery. My wife, Mary Pat, ably led a private-sector response to Sandy – raising millions of dollars to put directly into our communities. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Virginians put together an emergency response to get funding to small businesses in need called the Virginia 30 Day Fund. Mary Pat and many generous New Jerseyans assembled to bring this organization to New Jersey. To date, the New Jersey 30 Day Fund has raised and distributed nearly $1 million to hundreds of small businesses across our state.

With each passing day, our nation is better informed and better equipped to handle this pandemic — thanks to specific steps we have taken to get to this point. At the heart of effective state responses are public-private partnerships. Business, industry and health care organizations are central to an effective public-private partnership.

Consider the leadership from Arizona. Arizona responded with one of the most effective management reforms: the Arizona Surge Line. The Surge Line is a public-private partnership that saved hospitals and health care systems from being overwhelmed during the height of COVID-19 cases and helped save lives.

Gov. Doug Ducey stood up the Surge Line in April as a public private partnership to load-balance COVID-19 cases throughout the state. Through the Surge Line, clinicians were able to transfer patients to where they could most efficiently access critical care – routing patients to where they could be immediately treated, rather than overwhelming a single hospital or health care system. It meant patients could get the care they needed, even when capacity across the state peaked.

Other states have implemented technology and business process improvements to get unemployment insurance benefits to those in need faster. Hopefully many of these reforms and process improvements will remain in place after the pandemic is long in our past.

Communities across our nation have assembled relief to address food insecurity, vulnerable children in our foster care system and much more. There is no secret sauce to addressing a crisis. The formula is simple: Combine public-private partnerships and business and management process improvements.

During Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey was put to the test. Our institutions, people and sense of community met the challenge.

The pandemic has put all of us and our institutions to the test, and Americans have risen to the challenge. The spirit of our country and the love and care our fellow citizens have shown for each other has been inspirational at a time where inspiration was needed on a daily basis. Undoubtedly, there will be more trials ahead, but we have proven that we can work to overcome any obstacle, together.


Chris Christie is the former governor of New Jersey.

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