April 1, 2020

State of Colorado COVID-19 Innovation Response Team, Part III – Hitting Our Stride, Days 4-6

(This is the third post in a series documenting the work I did in Colorado on the Governor’s COVID-19 Innovation Response Team – IRT.  First two posts are here and here.)

Friday, March 20, Day 4

  • Morning pilates going pretty well, a good daily routine here
  • Wellness Screening on the way in for the first time.  Uniformed National Guard guys taking temperature on surface of face/temples.  Can’t get it to work – takes 6x
  • Leadership and prioritization of important over urgent – staff the team
  • Strategic National Stockpile failure – they send us 60,000 masks and Colorado is using 68,000/day.  They send us ZERO ventilators. Seems like it’s neither strategic nor a stockpile. Guess it really is every state for itself
  • Unclear sometimes what the actual role of the state is – sometimes procuring, sometimes getting private sector to procure with some coordination, etc.
  • Getting out in front of the parade – the private sector is swarming all over this, how can we help coordinate and channel the energy?
  • State gov seems incredibly nimble here – seconding people from departments all over to the crisis, etc.  Bureaucracy is real, but it can melt away in an emergency, or when the governor wants it to. Really impressive
  • Going to try DoorDash and see if it’s any different than UberEats.  (It’s not.) Big night.

Saturday, March 21, Day 5

  • Saturday but office still 75%
  • Wellness Screening again.  Still can’t get thermometer to work for quite a while
  • Mike Willis asked for feedback and observations (good) – they are
    • Atmosphere in EOC calm, focused, integrated, SMART, nimble, fast – opposite of “government”
    • Opening meeting on Tuesday morning – calm, focused, caring, quiet urgency
    • Didn’t realize he was military
    • Mentioned yesterday’s “not vetted, not integrated, not helpful” moment, poignant but respectful
  • Team pull up, drowning in emails, plan to get organized
  • Governor briefing
  • Working on replacing me…
  • Seamless prioritization of things that are gateway items and enablers.  We have a project tracker, but it’s almost useless. Mostly we are just doing prioritization in the moment.  No choice. Crisis mode
  • Gov call – carefully weighing isolation strategy (economic as well as risk of civil disobedience) with number of projected deaths – sounds like the same conversation I’m reading about in the papers at the national level, but really interesting to see it up close and personal. Asked for plan around making food and services safer – super thoughtful “it’s not the economic activity that causes problems, it’s social proximity, are there ways we can keep one and minimize the other?”
  • Colorado still has around 500 cases statewide – about ¼ of Westchester County.  Denver has less than 100. Still, feels like we are watching the tsunami coming at us in slow motion
  • Dinner at a very close friend’s house who lives in town – elbow bumps and sat at the other end of the table.  Fun and social, but feels like even things like this are about to come to an end. Got to do laundry

Sunday, March 22, Day 6

  • Sunday but office still 75%
  • Multiple failures again with wellness screen, then we figure it out – on the walk over from the hotel, it’s cold enough that my skin temperature is out of range for the contact thermometers they have.  Since I am coming in early when there is no line, my face is too cold when I get to the front
  • Adding staff, nowhere to put them, no organized email lists, working on org charts, have to retool O/S for meetings/tasks.  A little chaotic, but at least I know how to do this stuff
  • Finally got connection to NY State to do some benchmarking on testing – doesn’t seem like states coordinate or share info a lot, but the team there was happy to 
  • Finally have a few minutes to do planning on major swim lanes
  • More working on replacing me
  • This is the problem with statistics.  Models are only as good as the inputs, and the inputs here seem like they’re all over the place…not just here in CO, but everywhere.  It’s not like we have a pandemic every year to refine our math
  • Interviewing Sarah Tuneberg (came in via Brad) to replace me with Lisa and Stan – she’s AWESOME and she’s hired – starts on the spot by coming in to stand with us behind the Governor at a press conference.  Talk about a rapid recruiting process!
  • Seems like she will be awesome.  Probably way better than me – has a ton of public health and emergency/disaster response experience in addition to some private sector/startup/tech experience
  • Her first worry never even occurred to me – Fatality Management – morgue surge capacity.  “Gift to the living” – so awesome
  • Lameness of Trump press conference – self praise followed by sycophants in the midst of a typhoon
  • Gov press conference (here) – authentic and well received.  “Grim reaper” was quite poignant. He worked in the key messages we asked him to about public misinformation of testing, talking points was Google Doc with 30+ people in it – good example of collaboration and control, seamless, last minute but still came out great.  Announces social distancing and lots of good examples about groceries, jogging, still no lockdown
  • Lots of RP Colorado people seeing press conference…phone buzzing like mad in my pocket!  So many awesome notes from friends and former colleagues thanking me for being there to help, only one or two snarky comments about my orange tee shirt while others were in blazers (hey, it was a Sunday and the presser was called last minute!)

Stay tuned for more tomorrow…