The first cases of what would later become known as COVID-19 were first reported in December 2019 by the Chinese government, as a cluster of unusual pneumonia cases in Hubei province, centered around the city of Wuhan. The rapid spread and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted most countries to pursue strategies to try to ensure their healthcare systems are not overwhelmed. The fundamental approach for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic remains the tried and tested tools of public health response: identify affected individuals, monitor them (and isolate or quarantine as necessary, depending on the context), and trace and monitor their contacts. However, the scale of the pandemic has required most countries to adopt substantial additional measures to prevent community transmission, including stay-at-home orders, closing public spaces and recreation areas, reducing or closing public transport, and suspending schools and universities. The intent of these public health measures is to reduce the rate of new infections, and limit the number of severely ill people requiring hospitalization, to ensure the healthcare system has sufficient beds, ventilators, and other critical resources – both for COVID-19 patients as well as all others requiring urgent medical care. Once the number of new cases drops, governments and local authorities can begin to decide whether certain economic or social activities can resume – though such relaxing of measures should be done carefully, deliberately, and only in parallel with sufficient testing capacity to assess any new surges in case numbers.
These efforts require close operational coordination across multiple sectors, and operational response efforts also need to be coordinated with broader policy decision-making processes, managed by national and sub-national political leaders. In all these ways, COVID-19 response efforts can benefit from application of the principles of emergency management, including coordination through structures like emergency operations centers. Georgetown University has collaborated with the CDC to create this website containing training materials, checklists, and other resources for development and strengthening of public health emergency management capacities, with an emphasis on EOCs.
This effort was completed by Georgetown University Center for Global Health Science and Security in collaboration with Talus Analytics, with support from the CDC Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.