5 “New Normal”​ Things I Hope Won’t Change When the “Old Normal”​ Returns

Generosity on a Grand Scale –

Bill Gates has committed to spending billions of dollars building factories for the seven makers of the most-promising COVID-19 vaccines to take them from development to market. “Our early money can accelerate things,” he said. “Even though we’ll end up picking at most two of them, we’re going to fund factories for all seven, just so that we don’t waste time in serially saying which vaccine works and then building the factory.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed to providing immunizations. According to Vox, since providing the $750 million in seed funding – and $4 billion overall – to Gavi, a nonprofit that specialized in providing vaccines in poor countries, WHO estimated that in just three years Gavi provided 440 million immunizations and averted six million deaths worldwide. Over the past 20 years, since forming the Foundation, the Gateses have learned to leverage the $53 billion-plus they have invested in making the world a healthier place. Fortunately, they still have assets worth over $46 billion to keep doing it. All of a sudden, I feel much better about purchasing all those Microsoft licenses over the years.

Generosity on a Human Scale –

On March 30th, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the formation of the California Health Corp, and sounded the call “to expand California’s health care workforce and recruit health care professionals to address the COVID-19 surge.” This Executive Order anticipated that California would need the medical workforce to allow health care facilities to staff at least an additional 50,000 hospital beds. Those who were called to respond were doctors, NPs, PAs, nurses – including nursing students, CNAs, respiratory therapists, behavioral health providers, pharmacists, dentists, paramedics and EMTs, medical and administrative assistants.

What wasn’t expected was how many responded to the call: 25,000 signed up the first day the healthcorps.ca.gov site went live. A week later, over 81,000 – active and retired healthcare workers – have signed up. While these clinicians and administrators won’t be volunteering in the literal sense of the word – they will be paid and given malpractice insurance, they are indeed volunteering to face the enemy on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. They’ll be putting their own lives in danger to help save those of their fellow Californians who may be located hundreds of miles away from their own homes and families. Truly, this is bravery to equal any soldier who went off to battle in the last century.

Breaking the Tape That Binds –

Between Executive Orders streaming from the White House and Governors’ desks, CMS regulatory waivers, and the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorizations, seemingly miles of red tape have been cut, in the wake of COVID-19, catapulting America’s healthcare system into the 21st century. On March 30th alone, temporary changes “made possible by President Trump’s recent emergency declaration and emergency rule making” took effect immediately across the entire U.S. healthcare system “for the duration of the emergency declaration.”

These massive changes for 140 million CMS beneficiaries included:
  • Providers were enabled to provide and bill for telehealth visits at the same rate as in-person visits, using apps with AV capability or just audio.
  • Ambulances could transport patients to a wider range of locations (than just hospitals), including community mental health centers, FQHCs, ASCs, physician’s offices, urgent care facilities, and locations providing dialysis services.
  • Hospitals and healthcare systems could hire licensed physicians, nurses, and other clinicians from other states.
    Hospitals could use Physicians Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists to the fullest extent possible.
  • And, on April 2nd, HHS announced it wouldn’t enforce HIPAA privacy rules against providers and their business associates, granting them “the freedom to cooperate and exchange information with public health and oversight agencies that can help flatten the curve and potentially save lives.”

To quote The Boston Globe’s columnist, Jeff Jacoby, “It goes without saying that many government regulations are sensible, prudent, and eminently defensible. But far too many reflect less good judgment than special interest pleading, a desire to keep out competitors, or the age-old hunger of politicians and bureaucrats for power.” Jeff concludes his column with, “It is one of the silver linings of this awful pandemic that rules and regulations, most of which were never needed in the first place, have been swept to the curb. When the crisis ends, let’s make sure they stay there.” Well, maybe not all, but most, would be a good place to start.

Tighter Family Connections –

As an only child with only two first cousins, I grew up thinking I came from a very small family. But thanks to the Internet and Don Long, a 4th cousin in New Zealand, who is an avid genealogist, we’re now holding bi-weekly Zoom meetings with two generations of extended family members in six countries. One relative not on the call is my 5th cousin Matt, about whom Don just wrote, “Things are horrific for my sister’s son, Matt Fisher, in New York. His wife (Emily) is a young hospital doctor not long out of medical school. They have a four-month-old daughter, Clara. Emily caught the virus first and then Matt did. Matt got so ill that Emily seriously considered taking him to hospital. He is only just out of bed after two weeks, and she is still quite weak. None-the-less, given what’s going on there, today she did the first of seven 12-hour shifts at a hospital in the Bronx. My sister prays she’ll have the stamina to get through this and be able to face the life-and-death decisions she will no doubt have to make.”

As Stalin reportedly said, “a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic.” Fortunately Emily is still among the living, but her sacrifice in leaving her sick husband and baby alone to fend for themselves brought home to me the personal sacrifice of everyone on the front lines in this battle against our most significant enemy of the 21st century.

Expanded Ways of Working Together –

It took Governor Newsom’s state mandate to “shelter at home” for the leadership of the Adaptive Business Leaders Organization (namely, moi) to finally adapt to holding Zoom Tables. But, starting March 19th, we held our first ABL.Tech Zoom Table, and on the 20th, our first ABL.Healthcare Zoom Table. Last week we held three more, and this week two more. We’re almost getting pretty good at it! Thanks to the fact that all the Members know each other and are building on the comradery established in the heretofore Round Tables themselves, that esprit and candor has permeated the Zoom Tables as well. Which is particularly gratifying since the Tables have rarely had as many participants! Of course, it helps that most of our Members are “sheltering” with their “travel wings” clipped.

Nonetheless, even internally – within our ABL staff of six, Zoom has truly been a game-changer. Meetings needed to get consensus on a new procedure, for example, that used to be held in the office in person – or worse, wait until our Monday morning Staff Meeting, are now just a Zoom call away. Same thing with calls to prospective ABL Members. For me at least, the whole process of trying to be as efficient, seems to have morphed into being more efficient. So, if it’s happened for me, I suspect others are experiencing this too, and that we may all come to embrace the greater flexibility and “light commutes” that working from home provides – and that we continually hear that our millennial workers crave. I think they may be onto something!

And I hope all five of these silver linings won’t change when the “old normal” returns, m