Eradicate the Pandemic
Amp up our efforts on all fronts.
Make Plano a safe place.
The city has already gone extra miles in addressing the pandemic. We can and should do more to reduce then eliminate the COVID-19 illnesses and deaths in our city.
Plano is unfortunately in a state and county that has not had the resources, political will or both to adequately respond to the pandemic. As in other areas, if Plano is to be a City of Excellence, we must step up to do more. Some ideas:
1. Compliance with CDC guidelines and state mandates – use of city inspectors. We have inspectors who regularly visit restaurants to limit the spread of food-borne disease. Can those inspectors also work to limit the spread of air-borne disease? We have fire marshals who visit restaurants and other buildings to ensure various safety requirements are met. Can they also evaluate compliance with the newer COVID-19 requirements, as fire marshals have done in our neighboring city of Allen? Note, as in other areas, the goal is compliance. You do not hear about people going to jail because they did not use a new plate when getting seconds at the salad bar. Similarly, city staff should be able to use their skills to gain compliance with masking, distancing and capacity mandates without draconian enforcement.
2. Compliance with CDC guidelines and state mandates – partnership with the Chamber of Commerce. Our Chamber of Commerce can be a great resource in counseling business owners and managers in how best to gain compliance in their buildings. Many businesses are not asking customers to wear masks because some customers get mad. There are non-confrontational ways to get compliance. The city may be able to apply some CARES Act or other funds towards measures, such as masks that each business can provide free of charge, that can help.
3. Compliance with CDC guidelines and state mandates – use of volunteers. The Volunteers in Plano program can recruit and provide volunteers who can supplement the aforementioned city inspectors and provide the field force for the Chamber of Commerce. Retired citizens who are among the group currently receiving vaccinations may be particularly amenable to assisting.
4. Testing – Distribute better information and expand. While a fair number of testing locations have emerged in our city, not enough testing is taking place. There is confusion about how and where to get tests. Cost is a barrier for both the insured and uninsured. There are myriad businesses offering tests of different types with different result turnarounds and different costs. Some require payment up front, which may include charges for a doctor visit or other fees other than the test. Some of these simply collect the upfront fees without later seeking insurance reimbursement. Others do file with insurance companies who may or may not reimburse for all the fees. Some offer free tests, but they are actually free only if you have insurance who will reimburse for all the fees.
For expanded contact tracing to work to limit community spread (see next item), there must be more testing readily available at no out-of-pocket consumer cost. Some of this is currently available if one knows how to find it. The city can assist through providing concise easy-to-understand information about what is available. Then the city needs to use CARES Act or other funding to acquire or facilitate the provision of free testing for those without insurance (or without insurance that will pay for testing).
5. Contact tracing – limited use of city staff and lots of use of volunteers. Unfortunately, Collin County stopped doing contact tracing early in the pandemic; and limited state resources have been overwhelmed by the high volume of cases. To get the pandemic under control then eradicated in our city, we must have comprehensive contact tracing for each and every case. We need to gear up a small army that will supplement the state program to accomplish this.
6. Vaccinations – establish city-operated hubs. Recent progress has included city assistance with a hub on school district property operated by Collin County contractor. We may soon open the Plano Senior Center for vaccinations. These have limited capacity, and making reservations through the county system is daunting. Generally, one must be tech-savvy and have a lot of disposable time to become successful in getting a vaccination. We need to deploy our firefighters and other city personnel to establish one or more additional hubs. With increased capacity, we can receive increased vaccine doses. We should also look at eliminating the current pre-vaccination hurdles. As was done with the polio vaccine rollout, the number of eligible people in, say, a square mile can be ascertained then everyone in that area can be invited to come to a particular place at a particular time without the need to find and navigate waiting lists and reservations.
Vision: With high compliance with CDC guidelines and state mandates, low community spread (as a result of contact tracing) and a high vaccination rate, Plano can gain a reputation as a safe place to come to shop or dine. Ideally, all our surrounding cities and counties would also amp up their efforts. Given many will not, Plano can be a city that will earlier see an upswing in commerce and other activity.