Weekly Convening for Mayors and City Leaders is Part of Ongoing Collaboration Between Bloomberg Philanthropies, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative
New York, NY — Participants from more than 230 cities around the world, including mayors, local leaders, and members of response teams, joined Bloomberg Philanthropies’ seventh virtual COVID-19 Local Response Initiative convening on April 30 where the Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan and Michael Bloomberg addressed some of the challenges associated with the pandemic. Joined by moderator Jorrit de Jong, Faculty Director, Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative; Mitchell Weiss, professor at Harvard Business School and creator of the school’s course on Public Entrepreneurship; Dr. Lisa Cooper M.D., a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Equity in Health and Healthcare at Johns Hopkins University; and Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, MD, the Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, Governor Hogan and Mr. Bloomberg highlighted the leading role mayors have in responding to the crisis.
“The COVID-19 pandemic truly is one of the most daunting challenges that our nation has ever faced. It is our leaders at the state and local level who are on the frontlines working in a bipartisan manner to respond effectively to this public health emergency,” said Governor Hogan at the beginning of the convening. “By putting politics aside and doing what is right, putting the people first, we will do what Americans have always done in times of crisis: We will defeat this hidden enemy and we will get through this together.”
“In Maryland, when this crisis began, we immediately convened a coronavirus response team made up of some of the smartest doctors, scientists, and public health experts in the world, from premier Maryland institutions like Johns Hopkins University, which is one of the partners of this series,” Hogan added.
Over the past month, Bloomberg Philanthropies has brought together world leaders to share insights, advice, and inspiration with the local officials on the frontlines of the pandemic. Previous convenings featured President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. President Clinton highlighted the important role mayors play in sharing accurate, actionable information with residents. President Bush told mayors that in historic times like this, it is important to keep three things top of mind: Truth, empathy, and especially hope. President Obama reinforced the importance of speaking clearly, and with compassion, to avoid misinformation in the current environment, when so many are making sacrifices.
“In many places the growth in the number of cases is finally slowing down a bit, so we know at least that the drastic measures we’re taking are effective – and that’s good. And understandably, it also means that people are eager to re-open the economy. But as every public health leader has warned us: We are a long way from being in the clear, and one of the biggest dangers right now is that we can let our guard down too soon,” said Michael Bloomberg, three-term mayor of New York City, Founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies and Bloomberg LP. “We cannot let that happen – because it would have disastrous consequences both for public health, and for the economy. That’s where leadership is so important, and it comes back to something you’ve heard a lot on these calls: Clear and continued communication of facts and information is absolutely essential.”
Bloomberg stressed the importance of local leaders earning the trust of citizens by making decisions informed by public health experts and facts. “Not everyone will agree with you – that is democracy. But if they trust you, they’ll be willing to follow you even when they don’t see the same path forward that you do. Without trust, they’re going to go in a very different direction and that’s not good.”
Mitchell Weiss from Harvard Business School stressed the necessity, and reality, of pursuing new, innovative programs to address the COVID-19 crisis, advising mayors to source, try and scale novel efforts in their communities. “COVID-19 has forced a huge number of innovations and adaptations at every level of government,” said Weiss. “New efforts are being quickly spun-up and tried in order to slow the spread of the virus, save lives, and support people, and more will be needed.”
Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the COVID-19 Local Response Initiative in March to help cities combat the devastating impact of coronavirus on the wellbeing of residents and local economies. Working with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the network provides mayors with the most up-to-date information on the virus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and crisis management support from experts from Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard Business School, and other schools across Harvard to help them act quickly, efficiently, and reliably for the benefit of their citizens. Learn more about Bloomberg Philanthropies’ additional COVID-19 Response Initiatives here.
The Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative, which provides leadership and management training to mayors worldwide, designs each session to provide mayors and other local leaders with the latest facts from public health experts and crisis leadership essentials, from communicating during a crisis to building resiliency and working across sectors.
Dr. Lisa Cooper from Johns Hopkins University offered mayors advice on how to build trust in communities of color by emphasizing communication. “This is particularly important in communities where there’s a longstanding mistrust of institutions based on prior histories of discrimination. Communities of color need to be kept up to date about the impact of the pandemic on their community and they also need to be given opportunities to talk about their needs and make sure that they’re being heard by their leaders. The goal is to strengthen relationships with community leaders and residents and to create opportunity for communication as well as collaboration with communities.”
The COVID-19 pandemic represents the nation’s first 50 state disaster that will spare no community. Bloomberg Philanthropies is tapping into a wide range of partners to generate a robust set of support and resources to help local leaders combat the coronavirus and protect the social and economic wellbeing of cities.
Since launching, hundreds of city leaders have joined the virtual convening each week. The aim of the program is to provide cities with the tools to understand, respond and manage a dynamic public health crisis, they will be better prepared to slow the spread of coronavirus in the United States and protect their residents.
About Bloomberg Philanthropies
Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in more than 570 cities and over 160 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2019, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $3.3 billion. For more information, please visit bloomberg.org or follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.