Director’s Log | April 2020

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
–Winston Churchill, 1942

Dear Friends:

None of us likes being in the middle. The beginning of a crisis, for all the fear it brings with it, keeps us busy. There are 100 emergency details to take care of, with little time to reflect. The end is exciting because, even though we are exhausted and beaten up, we can see clear light at the end of the tunnel.

We’re in the middle right now, with no clear end in sight, no firm timeline, still facing plenty of danger. We’re a little sick of our homes, a little testy with our immediate family, struggling to help kids with school, work from home. Some 700,000 people across the state are looking for work, with more worried about jobs. As I write this the third rally of ReOpen NC is underway outside the General Assembly building. Meanwhile the number of cases continues to climb: 9,415 people have officially been diagnosed with COVID-19; 336 people have died.

We see our job at the Institute for Emerging Issues as trying to help make sense of this “emerging” issue, even as we are in the middle of it.

For the past six weeks, we’ve appreciated your joining us for the series of Zoom webinars/Facebook Lives we’ve been doing on key topics related to the virus. Thanks to the hard work of Greg Hedgepeth and our communication team, more than 2,700 of you have joined us for our discussions about food and hunger during the pandemic; getting K-12, community college and university students online; small business in crisis; the impact of COVID-19 on religious life; strategies to reach those least likely to hear the message. On this past week’s webinar we heard from US Rep. G.K. Butterfield, NC Rep. Josh Dobson, Amy Huffman of the state Broadband Infrastructure Office and Angela Siefer of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, all wrestling with the question of how we can get every household in North Carolina online.

We’ll keep going. In the coming weeks we’ll hear from the state Supreme Court Chief Justice about the impact of COVID-19 on our courts, the head of the state Highway Patrol about impacts on law enforcement, mental health leaders about emerging strategies to help those in crisis, and  entrepreneurs struggling and innovating to find a way forward.

The focus of each of these webinars is to provide solid information about where we are and ideas about where we can go from here. We hope you will continue to tell us your ideas for how we move forward.

If you go to our special COVID-19 page, you’ll find up to the minute reports on key public policy developments from Alicia James, links to resources for child care and religious life, and news from innovative communities across the state.

You’ll also find details of our special focus on digital inclusion, the effort to make it possible for every North Carolina household to get online – for school, for jobs or job search, for telemedicine. This work, led by Sarah Hall and Maggie Woods, should be your go-to site for the latest in these efforts.

Yes, we are still a long way from done with this pandemic, but I don’t think we are “stuck in the middle.” Instead, as you look through this month’s Digest, I hope you will find reasons for hope and emerge with a new commitment to see this as the end of the beginning, with inspirational light around the corner.

Stay safe.