Op-Ed: US executive orders and national responses — obstacle or missed opportunity?

Op-Ed: US executive orders and national responses — obstacle or missed opportunity?
Derek Smith Jr.

By Derek Smith Jr

There is no doubt over the last nine-plus months that countries, industries and individuals have been navigating uncharted waters. It is paramount for stakeholders at government, industry and community levels to plan for various future scenarios while appreciating the current landscape, i.e. access to funding, operational capacity, partnerships, political and industry influence, etc. Additionally, these facets must be acutely aware of potential opportunities that may appear as obstacles by having the best human capital engaged in the processes.


Fact pattern

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has throughout the COVID-19 pandemic distributed press releases, media advisories, transcripts and statements clearly stating the recommendations for various COVID-19 management in a multiplicity of areas, one of which was travel. I wish to note the below three occasions:
    • November 22, 2020 — COVID-19 Travel Health Notice Levels and Testing for International Travelers;
    • December 24, 2020 — CDC to Require Negative COVID-19 Test for Air Travelers from the United Kingdom to the US; and
    • January 12, 2021 — CDC Expands Negative COVID-19 Test Requirement to All Air Passengers Entering the United States.
  • President Joe Biden has stated and reiterated throughout his presidential campaign that he would “rely on science experts to defeat COVID-19”.


Observations on responses

  • The actions of US President Joe Biden should not be a surprise — period. The US president always discussed four key points — control of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing economic relief, promoting racial equality and climate change.
  • Enhanced risk management should have been deployed at country and industry levels. I am not referring to measures to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but to potential changes in supply chains whose drivers/impact points could include transportation, information and pricing.
  • Representatives of government and industry should have designed ahead of the presidential elections a communications plan that took into account both outcomes — Joe Biden as the new US president or Donald Trump winning a second term. Representatives of government and industry voices are critical to general public understanding, comfort, confidence in leadership and level of anxiety.
  • In reference to stay-at-home (self-quarantine), the CDC recommendations on November 22, 2020 vs January 12, 2020 are almost identical. Both recommend that international air travelers get tested with a viral test one to three days before their flight to reduce spread during travel and three to five days after travel; and stay home for seven days. This implies that strategies could have been discussed and developed ahead of the January 2021 executive orders. Therefore, the risk/potential fallout could have been mitigated.


Obstacles vs opportunities

  • It appears, based on local news reports, that The Bahamas is in a positive position vs a surprised position to administer viral tests, which are aligned with the recently signed executive orders requirements. Two of our major hotels have integrated viral testing into their operational framework. International messaging can be crafted to promote our agility in times of crisis instead of appearing to be always being responsive vs resilient.
  • It appears that the cost for a rapid antigen test, which is a viral test that meets CDC recommendations, is included in our Bahamas Travel Visa. If correct, there may be no additional cost to tourists to travel to The Bahamas.
  • With the current local testing capacity well over 30,000, based on news reports that Baha Mar (one of two major hotels) administered more than 15,000 COVID tests since reopening, The Bahamas is in a prepared position to service tourists.

Risk management needs to move from being a buzzword to an action. The employers and employees of The Bahamas require prudent assessment, management and communication surrounding risks. Alignment of risk management to country strategies is essential to our navigating the current and post-COVID-19 environment.

Derek Smith Jr is a Top 40 Under 40 leader; the compliance officer at Higgs & Johnson, a leading law firm in The Bahamas; and the former assistant vice president, Compliance & Money Laundering Reporting Officer (MLRO), at an international private bank. He is also a CAMS member of the Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists (ACAMS) and an executive member of the Bahamas Association of Compliance Officers.