Adjustments for the Pandemic
Before January 2019 in Puerto Rico, everything was running normally. Then Covid-19 hit, and the world went crazy for a while. Everything had to be readjusted fast. Everyone wanted to know how it started. Moreso, people wanted to know how it was getting to their locations.
I worked for the National Guard section in Puerto Rico that helped keep track of statistics for both the Covid and military operations. At the start, it was not easy. The island had just gone through disastrous earthquakes earlier in 2019 and I already had a system to assist with keeping track of the situation. Just as the earthquake operations were about to cease, we instead shifted all resources to the Covid-19 situation instead.
"...we instead shifted all resources..."
The systems we had in place were doing a good job of keeping tabs, so they just had to shift as well. From a ground earthquake operation to an airport security operation. Obviously, the airport had no way of keeping tabs at the time of the pandemic, and we had to act fast. Some wanted to start printing papers for the passengers to fill out, and though the number of passengers had gone down drastically due to the situation, that would have been costly. Paper, ink, printer maintenance. Not to forget the fact that someone was going to have to input all of the data into some digital database eventually. Others considered making programs to run a database on the scene. The resources were not sufficient to make an online one yet, but an on-scene one would have been much better and more cost-effective than the paper idea.
"...someone was going to have to input all of the data into some digital database eventually."
I was given the task to come up with something, as my database management skills had already proven to be valuable for earthquake operations. As such, I began to analyze the situation. Being stuck with government systems is not always great. Limitations, low performance, tedious wait times. I always used my own systems off the grid to ensure high-quality products in a timely manner. As such, I decided to go with the simplest program that almost any Windows computer has. Excel. However, inputting data cell by cell would have left too much room for error. Instead, I opted to use the hidden features behind Excel. Visual Basic for Applications.
"Sometimes we just need someone to show us and help us gain the knowledge."
Though it was not state of the art in terms of using online systems due to the heavy restrictions, it was more than enough to collect the much-needed data. A simple user form with, safety restrictions, and a simple input system. Passengers would arrive, answer a few questions, and be on their way. All of the information would get stored safely and remain well-guarded. The information was enough to help the island of Puerto Rico shift the tide by having the right data and right statistics to make the right decisions.This system assisted against the pandemic for the first four months until other companies with more resources decided to deploy their own products using their own servers and app products. There will always be a better way, given the right resources. Some people just don't know the limit of the resources they have in their own hands or their potential. Even with a simple product that at the time makes work feel complicated and annoying, there are ways to get around. Sometimes we just need someone to show us and help us gain the knowledge.