Ok, fair warning that this post is coming from a place of exhaustion and even foreboding.  I just got a vaccine booster shot and don’t feel great; my elderly mother who almost never leaves her house just tested positive for COVID-19 and is in the hospital (cannot fathom how she was exposed); and my state is now topping the United States in the rise of active cases.  Uffda, as my grandmother might have exclaimed.

This is the moment when we kick into another, higher gear and effectively overcome the challenges we face…right?  I keep thinking that that is what we will, collectively, do – and yet we do not.  As a society, we seem incapable of coming together to beat this continually-evolving threat to health, livelihoods and education of our children.  How can we redouble our efforts – or change-up our approach to increase the chances of success?

I don’t have the answers – oh, I wish I did.  But perhaps sharing some observations that seem worth considering is a step in the right direction.  As a professional who has counseled business leaders and public officials on effective communications for many years, I hope these ideas are useful for communities, organizations, and engaged citizens who are focused on our shared progress.

  1. Demonizing others doesn’t help. People around you who are not vaccinated or do not wear masks have their reasons – you may disagree, but they have them.
  2. You have a right to protect yourself. Do not be willing to subject yourself (and those you care for) to the potential for exposure.  If someone isn’t masked, depart.  If there is someone in charge responsible for enforcing masking or vaccination status, share your concerns.  But don’t become the enforcer yourself – it won’t end well.
  3. This counsel above may seem to be giving in to those who are not respecting the rules of public health – and in the near-term, it sometimes will be the case. But it is essential that we find paths back to having civil ways to set and follow-rules.  ‘Citizen’s arrest’ has never really been a viable idea in our civic structure. In the longer-run, the loss of business and/or engagement because of lax enforcement will prevail.  Sick people are not great customers, colleagues or patrons.
  4. Information sharing is key: not just about mandates and rules, but about results and stories.  How easy it has become to get a test or a booster; how people who were doubters have changed their minds.  How unsustainable the challenges being faced in health care facilities are becoming; how devastating the impact of innocent people being exposed because of others’ lack of transparency about their vaccine status.  We have a shared fate that keeps being undermined by information-sharing that separates us from each other.  So share, not to ‘win’ but to inform, as the realities and facts about this pandemic continue to be revealed.
  5. Find the right ways to balance urgency with patience: where and how can you improve your safety and the safety of those you care about?  Do those things with urgency.  Where and how must you acknowledge the rights of others – and practice patience.

I suspect it will be a long and dark winter in the coming months for me.  I’m stocking up on candles, will get fresh air whenever I can.  It is not my nature to be a pessimist, so I’ll keep fighting for our shared fate.  Take care and let’s connect if you are in the same boat.

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