COVID-19: How Cities Encourage and Enforce Social Distancing

COVID-19: How Cities Encourage and Enforce Social Distancing Open Graph

City leaders are balancing the need to preserve the economy and citizen morale with mandatory social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To facilitate knowledge sharing — specifically about COVID-19 — between city leaders, Dr. David S. Ricketts, Innovation Fellow at Harvard TECH, hosts a weekly Zoom call to discuss the challenges cities are facing and how they are being addressed.

This week, participants discussed, in addition to other challenges, how their respective cities decide who works and who stays home.

Coronavirus: Keeping Citizens Safe

As the number of COVID-19 cases tops 1 million worldwide, more and more cities are enacting mandatory lockdowns. This has caused a number of challenges, such as connectivity and limited medical supplies, that leaders must weigh when determining when and how citizens can move freely about the city.

The team in Reno, Nevada is using data to inform decisions on what staff should be working remotely and who is required on site.

Half of L.A.’s ~48,000 employees are working from home, but those working on the frontlines must now wear face masks. That goes for anyone venturing outdoors for essential tasks, under order of Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Springfield, Illinois is using local celebrities and politicians as influencers to reinforce the ‘stay at home’ message. In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot asked athletes, actors, musicians, etc. with ties to the city to post custom messages that encourage citizens to practice social distancing.

New York celebrities shared messages, as well:


Meanwhile, in Dublin, Wifi analytics is being used to detect large gatherings of people in public locations and trigger response units to disperse them.

Weathering the Storm Together

Experts are scrambling to understand the coronavirus in real-time, which means that city leaders must remain agile and prepare for every scenario they can. This means taking care of immediate needs, while planning for the future, whatever may come.

While many cities are planning for the immediate term of the next 30 days, some are looking further. Philadelphia says it is focusing on the 90-day outlook to ensure any plans made can be sustained beyond a month.

Communication is paramount to the success of any well-laid plans.

We Asked: Which Tools Do Cities Use for Both Internal and External Communication?

  • Reno has IT creating Zoom accounts for staff to ensure that the same security settings are applied. A how-to guide has also been created for staff who want to use Zoom.
  • Bloomington is using Google Hangouts
 to communicate.
Indianapolis uses WebEx exclusively.

Philadelphia is using Teams Live for Council meetings and Zoom for daily press conference
  • Miami has provided guidance for public meetings on its website
  • Vienna is using a chatbot on its website called CoronaBot Vienna which answers questions about the coronavirus 24/7. This allows the city to reach different target groups while offering relief to service hotlines.

Discussion: This Week’s Top Questions Cities Asked

  1. How is your city monitoring and enforcing social distancing? Are there examples of ways to enable social distancing for workers that have to report to duty?
  2. Are there any new cybersecurity policies that cities are adopting with their transfer to virtual?
  3. What are cities doing to monitor the economic impact of COVID-19?
  4. How are cities managing the expected increase in demand for medical resources such as hospital beds, ventilators etc.?
  5.  How are you tracking the performance of your employees as they move to virtual?
  6. Are cities managing burn-out in employees that have been in crisis mode for a couple of weeks?

How to Participate in the City Leader COVID-19 Discussion:

If you are a city leader, you can join the discussion by signing up for the forum here.

This will give you access to the:

    • Online Forum
    • City Leaders WhatsApp
    • Weekly Covid19 Zoom Call

Topics we’ve discussed so far include:

  1. Online tools for Public Engagement
  2. Homelessness / Elderly
  3. Connectivity, Wifi, and Access to Computers in Community
  4. International Cooperation
  5. Self-reporting, Records of self-isolation and Use of Data
  6. Search for Volunteers
  7. Supports for Businesses
  8. Tools for Signing Docs
  9. Info on Ventilators and other PPE
  10. How to do department by department lockdown
  11. Guidelines for Protection in a Makerspace
  12. Incentive-Based Pay for City Staff
  13. Strategies for city recover post-pandemic
  14. Contact Tracing

We hope to see you there!

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