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Earlier I had written an angry column, berating those politicians who were late to the game, who delayed taking definitive action that would have begun to test people earlier to determine if they had contracted the coronavirus, and those who were timid about shutting down or postponing events, and closing some businesses.

I discarded that column, recognizing that a column like that only feeds into the hysteria, misinformation, and, frankly, serves nothing. I’m sure the politicians, once the crisis passes, will find a way to blame anyone but themselves for the outbreak and how we dealt with it. But I’ll leave that for someone else later.

But for now, we’ve seen Congress and the president come together to take significant first steps. That is Congress like bipartisan. We cannot recover the days, weeks of delay, but we can forge ahead together in unity to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. What is encouraging is this was a bi-partisan action, with the president on board. 

There are those who are hopeful that this action portends a new era in Congress, where bi-partisan cooperation can lead to movement on key issues. We’ll see. 

What’s important now is that not only Congress, but the nation moves together in unison, adhering to the calls from experts that significantly reduces our quality of life for now. If we are diligent, then we’ll be able to take control over this virus that has escalated to a pandemic and is growing worldwide.

The trick for businesses and local communities is how to salvage these lost opportunities into strengths. You know, it’s like the SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. The trick of that SWOT analysis – one by the way that every business should undertake – is to turn weaknesses and threats into opportunities and strengths.

We know the threat – it’s the virus, which is a threat to everyone in our society, but even more so to those who are most vulnerable, with compromised systems and the elderly, who face a more severe response to COVID-19. We see threats to the economy, to American workers, business activities. The challenge will be how to recover.

The weaknesses – the delay in recognizing the magnitude of this crisis, moving from calling it a hoax to finally recognizing its severity. It’s the number of people who aren’t taking this serious enough. A poll on television this morning (Sunday) showed that nearly 80 percent of Democrats and only 40 percent of Republicans believe the worst is yet to come, despite warnings from virtually every medical expert that the worst is yet to come.

Our strengths are obvious. We have a superior quality of life, significant will, robust medical community. We have seen a crisis in leadership, and we can turn that weakness into a strength by supporting and engaging leadership programs, like Leadership Rhode Island, to expand their programs to assure we are teaching our leaders and potential leaders that it is “servant leadership” that matters, meaning our leaders need to be less concerned with self and more concerned with the community around them. Our schools need to recognize that leadership is something that needs to be taught in schools, that civics needs to be more than an accelerated social studies’ program.

Opportunities. So many. To our schools, develop a robust civics curriculum. Voting turnout in the United States is among the lowest among developed nations, and the behavior of many of our leaders is counter to what we hope for from our government leaders. Schools can develop meaningful civics programs so future government leaders can be more proactive when faced with any potential crisis of any significant magnitude. And politicians must accept responsibility for their actions and be totally transparent, leading, hopefully, to greater confidence from constituents.

And to less academic and political opportunities. In Newport, the council revoked the St. Patrick’s parade license. In Mystic, the parade was postponed until October. Newport can do the same, scheduling the parade for a time when the city has no other major events. Let’s say, a halfway to St. Patrick’s Day Parade. 

Businesses can be proactive, like Gansett, with its recommendation that people buy gift certificates to their favorite restaurants to provide the cash flow that will be helpful while those restaurants are struggling.

While it will be difficult to recover the losses quickly, it is through creativity that businesses can recover in time.  “Creativity doesn’t wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones.” — Bruce Garrabrandt

Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal....