By Rep. Trish Ranson (D-Stillwater)
The governor began implementing his three-phase Open Up and Recover Safely (OURS) plan this past week. Each phase consists of a tentative two-week time period–should things go well, we could be back to work fully in June. I certainly hope all goes well, but I am preparing myself for the phase-in plan to take longer. We all should.
I grew up with the mantra: “Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.” I believe it came from my dad. A survivor of the Great Depression era, he was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. He was the kind of man who kept a toolbox, jumper cables, motor oil, etc. in his trunk to prepare for any type of vehicular malfunction he or anyone else he encountered might incur. I took that same mentality into the classroom. My daily lesson plans were often interrupted by events outside my control, but the one disruption I had to plan for every day was what to do should my lesson plan fail. There were many times my lesson looked great on paper but was not successful in action.
When the OURS plan was announced, it certainly looked great on paper. However, I quickly noticed that it only presented the best-case scenario. How will we know if we need to reinstitute restrictions? What would that entail? I needed to know what procedures were in place for our state’s reopening. So, I asked.
The governor’s task force is tracking pandemic instances, including influenza-like illnesses, COVID-like symptomatic cases, documented COVID cases, positive tests as a percentage of total tests, and patients treated without crisis care. The governor’s team will monitor hospital response–in that COVID-like cases are at a manageable level and that hospitals are providing treatment without the use of alternate care sites. Of course, access to PPE and critical medical equipment to handle a surge and robust testing for our healthcare professionals will also be monitored. Finally, the state will procure and monitor sufficient testing material and the ability to conduct contact tracing for new cases.
It is my understanding that this last piece of the data-tracking puzzle is not solidified. I have seen graphs of “second spikes” in illnesses from other cities worldwide, as well as documentation on the “second wave” of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. These well-documented resurgences would constitute a worst-case scenario. If we were truly preparing for the worst, then contact tracing/testing would be our priority. Instead, we are basing our reopening process on the best-case scenario, as the contact tracing part is being thrown together piecemeal as we go.
Don’t get me wrong: I want to get back to growing our economy, but when it comes to public health, we need to be prepared to “scale back” if things don’t go as planned. Each phase of the OURS plan is based on a 14-day downward trajectory. If we have a surge, we will either have to hold in the phase we are in and begin the 14-day phase anew once illnesses have peaked or we will have to go back to the phase we were in previously. The governor has stressed that the OURS plan is data-based, not calendar-based. Because of that, further inconveniences could occur, should the data require. We must be vigilant in personal protection by wearing masks while out in groups, such as shopping, keeping a social distance from others and practicing good handwashing technique. Remember, we all play a part in reopening our state. Play safely.