The United States has had its hands full over the past few months as it tries to stamp out the COVID-19 virus. While some criticize the federal government’s response to the virus for being unorganized, ineffective or in some cases an overreaction, I disagree. The U.S. government, on all levels, has reacted in a way that would make our founding fathers proud.
Our country was established as a Federalist system, under which power is divided between the federal government and state and local governments. The U.S. government’s approach to tackling the virus has brought a lot of attention to this division of power. Through agencies like the CDC and NIH, the federal government has set broad guidelines to be followed. It is then left up to individual states to devise their own strategy to meet the guidelines. For example, New York has exercised a strict lockdown approach while Florida’s has been laxer, as they reopened sooner than many other states. Despite the varying degree of efforts from states to comply with the federal government’s recommendations, one of the main pillars of the Constitution has been preserved.
The federalist system is one that inspires innovation because it grants states and localities a certain degree of freedom to tailor their own solutions to the problems they face. In turn, this allows private industry the opportunity to create those solutions. The COVID-19 crisis presents a tremendous opportunity for innovation, given that the federal government has not released a proscribed set of rules to follow. One of the best examples of private industry stepping up to fight against the virus are the advancements being developed in the commercial real estate market, more specifically the traditional office workplace.
While it is safe to say that many of the standard office rituals, such as conference room meetings and dining in cafeterias or food courts, will not be practiced in the foreseeable future, companies are working hard to ensure employees’ safety when they return to work. Beyond those changes, there are a variety of new and exciting methods in development that will likely become routine moving forward, once implemented. Technologies such as smartphone apps, wrist bands and key fobs have all been marketed to companies as a way to track contact between employees. These technologies are especially desired by employers as they allow companies to notify employees who were potentially exposed to the virus. According to a study by the International Data Corporation, a market research firm, the market for contact-tracing technologies used by employers has the potential to reach $4 billion annually.
In addition to contact-tracing, security companies are also using apps to minimize the touching of communal surfaces. Whether it be opening office doors or pushing elevator buttons, employees will be able to control many functions traditionally done by hand remotely from their phones. Office designs will also be subject to change as many companies are reconsidering the recent trend towards open offices. With many offices working at only 30 percent capacity to adhere to social distancing guidelines, companies are looking to install partitions and other dividers while removing excess desks and chairs.
Although COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on both our economy and individual lives, the private sector has shown that it has the ability to create solutions that will protect citizens moving forward. Furthermore, through upholding the system of federalism as enshrined in the Constitution, the U.S. government is remaining true to its origins in the fight against COVID-19.
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