Garrett looks ahead: 3 keys when preparing for next pandemic

Instead of just looking back on the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed COVID-19 case in New Jersey, we asked Bob Garrett, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, to look forward — with this question.

On the 15th anniversary of the pandemic, what are three lessons learned from 2020 that you hope will have been the basis for all pandemic preparation moving forward?

Here are his thoughts:

  1. Communication and transparency are key

“That’s really important in a time of emergency,” he said. “You need to get out there and communicate. We’re still doing daily command center updates for all of our team members, all our board members and our community. Information and accuracy of data is so important in times of crisis.”

  1. A strong public health system is in place

“To be prepared for another crisis like we faced, there has to be a strong public health system, whether it’s at the state level or at the federal level or both,” he said. “There needs to be collaboration on all levels. We need to have contact tracers and adequate testing in place. And we need to make sure there’s a good a plan in place for rolling out vaccines on a massive level.”

  1. Collaboration among science community

“The collaboration when it came to research and discovery made a huge difference and was a game-changer in this pandemic,” he said. “Think about how much worse this pandemic would have been if these vaccines weren’t developed within a year. At first, people were predicting three years, four years, five years for a vaccine to be developed.

“The fact that that there was great collaboration, and sharing of information, in terms of technology, in terms of science, was really important.”