Insights from a road trip to Marfa Texas: Covid-19 Risk Response – A localized vs “one size fits all” State-based approach.

updated on 04 January 2021

How does a small town in far west Texas handle Covid-19? The rate of Covid-19 community spread, caseload, and risk factors vary greatly from county to county. Companies with facilities in a diverse range of locations have difficult and expensive risk management decisions to make. One key consideration: do we tailor our response using localized data and intelligence, or do we deploy a one size fits all strategy – and treat every location in a state using the same approach? A recent road trip to Marfa, Texas underscored this crucial consideration regarding Covid-19 risk management.

A Road Trip and an Eco-dome

Marfa is a small desert town in west Texas, population 1,714. It is best known for the arts, home to the Chinati Foundation, a renowned contemporary art museum. it has also served as the scenic backdrop for films such as Giant and No Country for Old Men, and tourists visit the mystical phenomenon known as the ‘Marfa Lights’.

Most importantly to this story – Marfa is FAR… far from anywhere. 

The whole experience was fantastic but also a great reminder.

The United States is BIG

REALLY big. To give some context, the drive from Houston to Marfa is almost 600 miles.

For further context, here is the state of Texas superimposed on the northeast of the US, Texas either wholly or partially covers around 13 states.

Not just Texas (not even Texas)

Texas provided the reminder, but this is not just about Texas (the 2nd biggest state in the union):

 Total Area by U.S. State – Top 6

Top 6 states

The key observation from here is that information about Covid-19 caseload, spread, and risk assessment at the state level – while interesting, is often not entirely helpful given the state’s size and complexity.

Deciding on Risk Management Process and Protocols. 

Keeping your workforce safe, and customers safe is the highest priority, for any company. Regulatory guidance has baseline rules around many things including identifying and excluding positive cases. However, there are many more protocols that organizations like the CDC and OSHA label as ‘Additional Considerations’ and ‘Strategies to Consider’.

An important question becomes how to decide when to implement or rollback additional protocols. If a state you are operating in has technically fallen into a lower risk category – is it the right business decision to relax additional strategies protocols ‘statewide’.

The answer – not necessarily, one size does not fit all. As clear from the screenshot above, that would be akin to a curve flattening in New Hampshire, triggering a roll back in Indiana – nonsensical. 

Localized knowledge and a localized response is the best approach to managing positive outcomes.

Taking a closer look |  New York State is Reopening – Bravo! 

A great comeback for New York State – and at a macro level the map tells a great story for the state. 

But as always, the devil is in the details. Take a closer look at Otsego County New York, with a significant acceleration in cases, a high recent caseload, recent media reports of local outbreaks. It is also home to a number of USDA facilities, fresh produce growers, a University, and a number of large nursing homes:

This is a very different story inside a state that is otherwise doing well.

Do you rollback additional protocols for your store in this county, on the basis of a statewide health prognosis? We say it is imprudent to ignore local data.

The inverse is also true: a negative prognosis at a state level does not necessarily call for the implementation of the same protocols in every location. This presents an opportunity for more efficient and cost-effective resource allocation, while still ensuring a healthy environment for your workforce your customers, and being attuned to the communities in which you operate.

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