As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the nation’s economy, healthcare system, and social environments, tech companies are coming to the aid everywhere. Millions of businesses have sent employees home to work – with many people now having been at home for five weeks or longer.
For many, the transition has been easy from a technology perspective – those who had already made the move to the cloud. But others delayed moving to teleworking, or rushed to concoct makeshift solutions while they figured out how to best handle the crisis. Fortunately, countless tech vendors have come to the aid of those businesses and are offering their communications services, including video conferencing and unified communications platforms, at no cost.
Many are also bringing their technology to the front lines of the coronavirus battle, giving first responders, healthcare workers, and government organizations the tools they need to safely serve their communities.
Among them, Verizon set up its Verizon Response Team (VRT) early in the outbreak to deploy emergency services and solutions to COVID-19 response sites and teams across the country. It’s teams are supporting pandemic operations in more than 30 states. VRT assistance has included portable cell sites, WiFi hotspots, charging stations, mobile devices, and other technology to ensure reliable communications for essential personnel.
Rhode Island Virtual Call Center
Verizon set up a virtual call center in Rhode Island to help the Rhode Island Department of Health accommodate a massive increase in call volumes from residents looking for information and guidance about COVID-19. With the cloud-based call center, calls are being routed to the right teams and agents, who need only a browser and headset or phone to handle calls.
We understood that a project of this size and scope normally takes 45-60 days, and together we did it in 48 hours,” said Brian Tardiff, the State’s Chief Information Security Officer. “In addition to adding the service and getting it up and running, we also trained the agents on the system, completing the entire scope of work and taking calls from Rhode Islanders in a matter of hours, not weeks.”
Emergency Operations Base in Queens
In Fort Totten Park in Queens, New York, Verizon provided a mobile cell site as well as landline connectivity to support an emergency base of operations for emergency responders, including the military, fire department, and medical teams. The site is managing as many as 300 ambulances and could be set up as a field hospital to handle hospital overflow. In addition, Verizon provided hundreds of smartphones and other devices within a 24-hour window to the U.S. National Guard, which was called into New York City
Nursing Homes During Shelter in-Place
Most residents across the country have been ordered to shelter in place to curb the spread of the virus. That includes nursing home residents, who suddenly find themselves cut off from their friends and family – and even other residents. In New Mexico, Verizon worked with the Aging and Long-Term Services Department to bring hundreds to tablets to facilities across the state, so residents could continue to communicate with others – including seeing each other over video.
“As you can imagine, this level of social distancing can be very difficult for families that are separated from their loved ones,” said Katrina Hotrum-Lopez, Cabinet Secretary, State of New Mexico Aging and Long-Term Services. “We have received so much feedback from family members and nursing home residents who are using these tablets to connect with each other – they are so grateful.”
There are only a few specific examples of Verizon bringing its technology to help contain a virus that has infected more than 2.2 million people globally, and nearly 700,000 in the United States. While the debate rages over how long stay-at-home mandates will remain in effect, what certain is these organizations will benefit from the technology implementations, which include:
- Standing up temporary emergency operations centers, hospital facilities and testing centers in areas like state parks, convention centers and vacant buildings by deploying network coverage;
- Connecting quarantine sites by deploying network coverage;
- Providing portable hospitals with WiFi connectivity;
- Facilitating communications at testing facilities by issuing smartphones and tablets;
- Keeping teams connected at critical care units, testing facilities and emergency operations; centers by providing charging stations for medical staff, emergency management services, law enforcement and other first responders;
- Issuing smartphones and charging units for emergency operations centers; and
- Enabling communications for emergency management field workers by deploying smart phones and providing network coverage.
“The Verizon Response Team’s extreme sense of urgency, combined with its ability to cross multiple segments – whether healthcare, education, emergency management, or law enforcement – furthers the missions of those we serve by delivering the connectivity and solutions they need on a moment’s notice,” said Andrés Irlando, senior vice president and president, Public Sector and Verizon Connect at Verizon. “The COVID-19 pandemic marks the first time the VRT has worked on a national crisis, and despite running at nearly five times its normal number of deployments, the VRT continues to operate effectively and deliver for response teams serving communities across the country.”
For the latest in COVID-19 technology news from across the world, visit Pandemic Tech Report.
Edited by Erik Linask