NLC Cities Speak: Looking Beyond the Crisis: Helping Governments Navigate a COVID-19 Surge

By NLC Partner in Generalon August 28, 2020

Less than two months ago, as communities across America began conversations around a safe reopening of businesses, government, and other public places, Accela prioritized and published our playbook of considerations for local leaders to consider for reopening.

Leap forward to August and we can see many of these same communities reversing or slowing the course of reopening in light of rising infection rates. While these decisions are complicated, local leaders can provide innovative solutions to help their residents, deliver services and meet community need.

Navigating the Surge

While it is extremely frustrating to reverse course and reframe expectations, it can be the most meaningful contribution you can make as a leader. It’s the contribution which will help stem the tide of infection.

Below are five “check-in” points for elected and appointed officials:

#1 Seek, Capture, and Study Updated Guidance

The State Departments of Health, Industry Associations, and your own Health Officer each updated their guidance documents in the past several weeks. It’s time to return to the source, download, print, and study.

Bonus Tip: To quickly focus on just the changes, use one of several free PDF Comparison tools like DiffChecker at

#2 Double Down on Communications

Whether it be public Zoom meetings, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, direct email, or local media outlets, now is the time to increase communications. In addition, it’s a great time to take advantage of industry associations (e.g., the local Restaurant Association can reach all its members very quickly).

#3 Check-In with Your Software Vendors

Many of your technical partners have been turning their resources to COVID-19 response. Find those gems, the ones that fit your needs, and avoid building from scratch. The vendor is seeking success in the same way your agency is seeking success.

#4 Lead with Compassion

Let’s take a breath to appreciate that your sphere of influence spans employees, customers, and citizens. Each have worries and stressors which may prompt unexpected or bad behaviors. This is natural during periods of uncertainty and can be abated with understanding and ample communication.

#5 Celebrate the Good News

Find the good news and amplify. Reserve 10% of your communications channel for the little anecdotes to brighten you readers’ day and to give them something to talk about at the end of their days.

Government Services

The reopening journey differs for every region. States such as California are already re-imposing restrictions on businesses. So, what of the essential government services?

We should take solace in the fact that the underlying plans and accommodations to reopen have not changed. The plans we made in May will still apply, but on an adjusted schedule.

Through the pandemic, technology has been a savior; kids continue to learn, doctors continue to advise their patients, and, thank goodness, many of us can still fill our calendars with (Zoom) meetings. It’s not the same, but it’s more the same than anybody predicted.

And so, the computer systems – the cloud-based software, the computers, and the networks – that enable work-from-home, telemedicine, and our business operations are essential. In fact, the technical capabilities are the deep bedrock supporting millions of ongoing endeavors, including those government services which are, in fact, essential.

While specific timeframes and dates are elusive, we know that the surge will retreat, and restrictions will be lifted. When that time arrives, the good work our state and local governments are doing now will influence the new, more technically in-tune, capabilities of offices nationwide.

Be safe.