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Herd immunity is the only way out

Jean Lowrie-Chin

Monday, February 22, 2021

Herd immunity is the only way out of Jamaica's economic slump, and so the private sector has pledged to partner with the Government to get us back on track. At last Friday's press briefing, Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) Chairman Keith Duncan said that private sector bodies had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to this effect with the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

“Notably,” he added, “private sector bodies and entities have indicated their willingness to fund the vaccination of their employees and dependents and to look at contributing to vaccinating the at-risk population.”

COVID-19 has left us with a 65.2 per cent downturn in tourism and restaurant businesses. However, Duncan noted two “bright spots” — agriculture, forestry and fishing up by 2.5 per cent and construction up by seven per cent. Remittances have also increased by some 30 per cent. I have never seen so much construction activity and enthusiasm for real estate. One colleague opined that people are seeing this as a safe way to protect their assets.

We wait anxiously for the COVID-19 vaccine, concerned that our Caribbean neighbours seem to have stolen the march on us. We are puzzled, because our health ministry was early with prevention promotion, contact tracing, quarantining of communities, and informative press briefings. Our friends in the US were impressed with the national consensus on the importance of mask-wearing, when there were so many mixed messages around it in that country. The reporting website created for travellers was thought to be innovative, but now there are questions about the security of the information.

This pandemic is the most challenging situation that Jamaica has ever faced, but as we have done in other disastrous situations, we will recover and be stronger from the hard lessons we are learning. 

Texas hardship

As we watched the successful landing of National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Perseverance on Mars last Thursday, and saw the first close-ups of the planet's surface, we harked back to futurist Edie Weiner's prediction that in 10 years we will be holidaying on Mars.

It was a thrilling event. However, much less thrilling were the scenes out of the state of Texas where an Arctic blast caused extreme hardship to citizens. Many lost power, water, and met empty shelves as they searched for food in the bitter cold. Over 30 deaths have been attributed to the harsh conditions.

The oft-repeated question, “Who is packing your parachute?” is one that should be a challenge to those leaders on whom citizens depend for their safety and protection. Clearly, that delicate parachute which gave Perseverance a soft landing on Mars was carefully constructed. The Texas power companies cannot claim the same level of performance. Reports of people using their furniture for firewood even brought compliments to oft-insulted Jamaica Public Service (JPS) on Twitter.

Thank goodness the weather in Texas has warmed up over the past weekend, and with US President Joe Biden's declaration on Saturday of the winter storm being a major disaster for many areas of the state, communities in 77 counties will receive federal funding. 

Strategic alliances for non-profits

Representatives of several philanthropic organisations worldwide attended an International Women's Forum Conference last week on strategic alliances for sustainability. Moderator Nike Irvin noted that seven per cent of non-profits in the US may close due to the effects of the pandemic, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs.

The situation is no different in Jamaica. We should examine the suggestion from presenters at the conference that, through sustained collaboration, strategic restructuring and mergers, organisations can ensure their effectiveness and longevity. In considering this move, they should look at others with common success factors, take the time to explore the opportunities, ensure there is clarity in communication, be honest, and engage a third-party consultant.

Speakers were Dana Munson, CEO of the Chicago Child Care Society and Kaile Shilling, coalition director of the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles. Using the metaphor of dance, Munson said it was important to be flexible, nimble, and show grace: “Take your ego off the table.”

The themes identified were clarify why; think bigger; build relationships and trust; show grit and grace; and ensure sound leadership, not motivated by self-gain. Indeed, these apply to not only non-profits but also to any organisation which finds itself in a vulnerable position. 

New PAJ executive

Hearty congratulations to the new Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ) executive, elected earlier this month at its annual general meeting (AGM). Now in its 78th year, the PAJ can pride itself on being the first such body in the Caribbean, with the late legendary The Gleaner Editor Theodore Sealy serving as its first president.

In working towards their mission of upholding high standards in the profession, the PAJ has conducted numerous professional development exercises, and lauds the achievements of its members with its annual National Journalism Awards.

George Davis was returned unopposed as president, and the following nominees also took up their positions unopposed: First Vice-President Gillian Haughton, Second Vice-President Kalilah Reynolds, Secretary Kimberley Hibbert, Treasurer Jovan Johnson, and Assistant Treasurer/Secretary Damion Mitchell. The five directors elected were: Dionne Jackson Miller (a past president), Archibald Gordon, Giovanni Dennis, Sharlene Hendricks (Young Journalist of the Year and staff reporter at the Jamaica Observer), and Khadijah Thomas.

In the Observer report on the AGM, George Davis noted, “There are six women and five men on an executive team that includes an attorney-at-law, a media entrepreneur, and the reigning young journalist of the year. Indeed, with only four of the 11-strong team members aged 40 or older, this is one of the youngest executives ever to be tasked with handling the business of the PAJ.” 

Journalism Icon Ken Allen

As we celebrate the strength of Jamaica's media, we must acknowledge the contribution of the Ken Allen, who passed away earlier this year. Allen moved up the ranks from reporter to editor-in-chief of The Gleaner, completing half a century in media. So brilliant was he at his craft that, in 1955, the young Cornwall College alumnus was offered the first Inter-American Press Association Scholarship to pursue a master's degree at Columbia University although he did not have a first degree.

Allen's colleagues remember him for his excellence, integrity and leadership. On assignment for Flair magazine in the 80s, I discovered that this serious-looking gentleman had a lovely sense of humour and an unforgettable twinkle in his eyes. May his great soul rest in peace. 

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