Since declared a global pandemic in 2020, the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus has claimed the lives of millions of people around the world, including hundreds of thousands of lives here in the United States. Through the initial lockdowns to the present, COVID-19 has exposed the many fissures in the system regarding disease containment/treatment, social safety nets, and access to reliable information. Vaccine rollouts have helped move us closer to a possible end of the pandemic, but new variants of the disease continue to create significant challenges in ensuring communities have what they need to stay safe and healthy.
Our team at Civic Operations Group maintain a frontline against the virus by providing people with trusted information and access to resources to help them navigate this ongoing crisis. We continue to adapt our efforts to the constantly-changing situation to reduce and prevent harm caused by the virus.
Income inequality has long been a significant barrier for many communities in the United States, but has worsened over the years and as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Economic Forum, COVID has increased the number of American families living below the poverty line and caused soaring unemployment. As such, people who are already low-income have a great difficulty overcoming times of crisis and getting back on their feet. While assistance is available for struggling community members, — in the forms of rent relief, SNAP benefits, and tax credits, among other programs — bureaucratic hurdles can make navigating application processes difficult, especially for people who may be raising children and/or working several jobs to get by. One of the most effective ways to plug people into resources that alleviate the worst impacts of poverty is to outreach to them directly, and make communication lines clear and simple to make the process as inclusive as possible to all residents.
Like we have seen throughout United States history, assistance and relief programs can be critical tools in helping families succeed despite times of adversity. Our programming seeks to connect with people in a way that is accessible and effective for them and the conditions they already exist under, and make sure they are aware of available resources they can receive.
There is no greater threat to humanity than that of global climate change, and we’re already seeing its impact on communities on national, statewide, and local levels. High carbon emissions and the warming effect of methane have increased the likelihood and intensity of extreme weather events and climate-related emergencies. With hurricanes, floods, wildfires, heatwaves, and other catastrophes becoming more common, the climate crisis poses significant threats to communities and will disproportionately impact those who are most historically vulnerable to disaster. Estimates of widespread food/supply chain disruptions, health risks, and displacement make the need for relief more urgent. For governments across the globe and here in the U.S., the clock is ticking to prevent, mitigate, and adapt as quickly as possible to avoid a devastating human toll.
Scientists tell us that we still have a small window to change course to prevent or lessen the worst impacts of runaway climate change. It is essential that leaders invest in renewable energy and climate resilient infrastructure, combat misconceptions about the reality of climate change, and urge industries to shift to more sustainable models for the sake of the future of our planet. At COG, we understand what is at stake in an era of climate destabilization. Thus, our operations are focused on responding to the increasing threat of climate-related emergencies by advocating for prevention strategies, implementing measures to create deep resilience in communities, and deploying relief operations when needed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how vulnerable communities are to viruses and diseases, across continents and borders, regardless of demographics, culture, and socioeconomic status. We’ve seen the domino effect of a health emergency cripple individuals, local businesses, the national economy, and the world as we know it. Overlapping crises, like climate change, threaten to increase the chance of outbreak of disease and other deadly public health emergencies. The unfortunate reality is that COVID is not the first nor the last public health emergency we will face in our lifetime, and the time is now to prepare to face these threats and provide the relief needed to get society back on its feet.
Our team at COG is continually learning new lessons from our “new normal” and thinking ahead about how to efficiently and adequately respond to the next public health crisis at any societal level. We analyze the intersections of health-related outreach and response — from vaccine sign-ups to access to resources — to properly handle such emergencies in a smart, data-driven way.
“Fake news,” unverified viral claims, or stories deliberately made to sow public discord: mis- and dis- information is in itself a significant public emergency, and one that requires deliberate and careful response. An increasing number of Americans now reside in what are called “news deserts,” communities with limited access to high-quality, local news. A result of the downsizing and/or consolidation of local outlets, this trend began predominantly in poor and/or rural communities, but is now spreading to urban and even economically-prosperous zones. The consequences of this lack of local news are serious: decreasing civic engagement, no governmental oversight by the press, and an inability or lack of interest in staying informed about current events. Similarly, the information crisis can be compounded by the prevalence of social media, where extreme bias or false information can circulate and inform perspectives on society-wide issues like public health or climate change. The term “infodemic” was coined to describe the far-reaching spread of false or misleading information during the pandemic, which can cause confusion, encourage outbreak-lengthening behaviors, and undermine trust in public officials’ health response.
As more people rely on digital or social interactions for updates on world, national, or local news, we at COG believe direct connection can aid in helping community members consider facts in their personal or social decision-making process. Dispersing fact-checked information, combatting provenly false narratives, and whenever possible, engaging in direct human-to-human communication can help break through the noise and build trust through verified information.