More life changes coming when Covid-19 passes - “The Sunday Political Brunch” April 26, 2020

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CHARLESTON, W. Va. – More changes coming. I got a lot of buzz from my column last week, “Corona virus will fade; life-changes will not” - https://patch.com/us/white-house/coronavirus-will-fade-life-changes-will... I just scratched the surface of the possibilities in that column, but this week we are finding the technical possibilities are endless! Let’s “brunch” on that this week!

“Comin’ in on a Wing and a Prayer” – We are in a month with three major religious observances, Easter, Passover and Ramadan. How did you practice your faith with most physical places of worship closed? For weeks my church, and so many others have been streaming their services online. And it’s not just Sunday services. Now, many are doing Bible study, too. Our service is at 10am Eastern Time. Join us at: https://www.facebook.com/FirstPresbySA/ and there will be a video link to our worship. So many former members from all over the country are tuning in! All are welcome!

“The Doctor is In (in Your Inbox!)” – I had two medical appointments scheduled in the next week and guess what? The doctors’ officers called me and said they aren’t doing in-person visits, but would I like to do my appointment by FaceTime or Skype? Look, at age 60, I have my share of medical issues, including the normal wear and tear from the daily grind. At first, I was hesitant, but I have been wanting to talk to my doctors, nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants about a host of issues and questions. So, I’m all in! I’ll report back on how it went.

“Surgeries Are Back On” – Speaking of medicine, many states including West Virginia and Ohio are taking steps to resume non-emergency, elective surgeries. It’s being done for health care, but also as way to help restart the economy. Thousands of health care workers across the nation have been furloughed, because so many elective procedures are cancelled. If they can be done safely, with proper preventive equipment in use, why not let these employees return, the surgeries be done, and the payments start flowing in?

“Congress Needs to Modernize” – Do you realize that the only way for Members of Congress to vote, is to be physically present on the House and Senate floor? In my career in DC I can remember times when an ambulance rushed a lawmaker from the hospital to the capitol just to cast a vote. That’s silly given modern technology. The latest economic stimulus bill approved this week, could have passed three weeks ago, but Congress was in its district recess with members at home. Given the secure Zoom technology and other platforms, why not let them just vote from back in their states? What if the nation was under a physical terrorist attack, but they were all at home? We’d still need to have them cast critical votes. The time is NOW to change!

“States, Counties and Cities, Join the Parade!” – The same is true for most state and local governments. It’s just antiquated. You can conduct an entire legislative meeting at the state, county and local level online, but you can’t cast a binding vote in most places. Again, given modern technology, let’s open-up electronic legislative voting as an option, too, with adequate safeguards in place.

“Voting Online, or Vote-by-Mail?” – Three states – Oregon, Washington and Colorado – now conduct all their elections by mail. Six other states allow you to request a permanent absentee ballot. And twenty states allow a mail-in absentee ballot, but you must have an excuse such as a medical condition. Here in West Virginia, there is a big push this year to get most people to vote by absentee because of health concerns at crowded polling places. But that is all just for this year. I wonder how many states will move to a more predominant mail-in system? I bet many will.

“School’s Out for Summer… Oh No It’s Not!” – This week Gov. Jim Justice (R) West Virginia announced that children would not return to school buildings for the remainder of the school year. They’ve already been studying online at home for weeks. They are not getting a free pass, with an early end to the school year. Instead they will continue utilizing technology at sites such as: www.Schoology.com. Even when brick-and-mortar classes will return, the online component will be seared into the education landscape for good, from K-12, through graduate schools.

“Your Honor, I Plead…. Online!” – Another place we’ve seen the technology explode during Covid-19 is in some of our legal proceedings. Many crowded courts in states such as Florida have been doing video first appearances and arraignments for years, saving the transportation cost from jails to courthouses. But what happens when a courthouse is declared a “hot spot” because of too many employees and others testing positive for Coronavirus. That happened at the Kanawha County Courthouse here in Charleston. Well, all kinds of emergency hearings are being held with the judge in chambers, and the legal combatants sitting in their lawyer’s offices, elsewhere in town.

Do you have ideas on ways where we can incorporate more technology during and after this pandemic? Please click the comment button on this page and let us know your thoughts!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, its five surrounding states and most of the Washington, D.C. media market. He is a National Contributing Political Writer for the White House Patch at www.Patch.com.

© 2020, Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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