COVID-19 Impact on COTN and Radio Amateurs in Public Service

Post date: Mar 15, 2020 9:54:21 PM

The National Traffic System (NTS), its sister service Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), and numerous other programs are designed to organize service radio amateurs' service to the public in times of need. With aggressive action being undertaken in the State of Ohio to contain the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19, the question arises: What if anything will amateur radio do to serve the public?

The COVID-19 pandemic is not a communications emergency. Don't expect large-scale requests for assistance but that does not mean that there's nothing for you to do.

Central Ohio Traffic Net (COTN) provides an outlet for third-party message handling. In light of closures and restricted hours for businesses and facilities of all types, people are being encouraged to reach out and stay in communication with one another through means other than face-to-face. Expect more demand on the infrastructure for supporting video feeds, phone calls, and short messages. It's possible that there will be some overloading of the infrastructure, but the most likely scenario is that high-bandwidth applications like videoconference will be unreliable, but text messaging, email, and social media will be widely available. People might use letters sent through the mail or send radiograms as a novelty. Should that happen, treat the traffic well, and be sure to provide good service.

We're more than radio amateurs, however. We're neighbors, friends, and family. Think in practical terms about those around you. You know that schools are closed, so who around you has children who now will be at home? Are they nurses, doctors, or others whose services are most urgently ready? What can you do to help them keep their children well cared-for, without using daycare centers with large populations that could spread the virus?

Serving the public means doing what you can for the benefit of others around you. While there is no need to panic, the best information available is that there is need for action. Each of us needs to ask the question: Who among people I know needs help, and what can I do to help?

The State of Ohio has a website now running at Please go there for the latest information, checklists to help you protect yourself, and ideas for what other action you can take for the benefit of the entire community.

C. Matthew Curtin KD8TTE

Net Manager, Central Ohio Traffic Net

PostScript by Thomas Cox NK3F, PhD, RN

As a nurse and a statistician I want to ask people to please take this seriously.

This is not a hoax, it is an extremely lethal, and very viral disease. We statisticians can argue about how lethal - whether it is 5, 10, 20 times more lethal than the flu, and believe me, we do, but we all agree that it is many times more lethal than the flu and it also seems to have a much higher transmission ratio.

Avoid any social interaction that isn't critical. They keep lowering crowd sizes,so be proactive - the only safe crowd size is 1. Anything over that is less safe, and the higher you go the less safe it is.

I love motorcycles, but we just had the worst thing that could have possibly happened in a pandemic - hundreds of thousands of bikers, from all over the country and the world, traveling to Daytona Beach, partying like there was nothing happening, and now either back home, or still traveling home.

So we have already lost valuable time in shutting down the spread, and we need to work even harder going forward. It is going to be unpleasant, but so is getting sick or dying, or causing someone else to get sick or die, for a few minutes of social interaction.

The health care systems in some areas are already overwhelmed, nurses, doctors and other health care providers are going to have our hands filled trying to meet the demand for care, and as is always the case in such situations, many nurses and doctors and other health care workers are going to get sick and some of them are going to die because most facilities failed to have sufficient quantities of masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves.

Difficult ethical choices are being made in Italy, and other countries, and those difficult choices are coming here to the US.

Take it seriously, practice hygiene, learn about what is actually happening and how to protect yourself and others.

Thomas Cox PhD RN