By Randall Hanifen
COVID-19 continues to alter many aspects of our work and daily lives. We are now starting to see the frustrations come to light due to the need to get back to normal while also being cautious of coronavirus variants and some unknowns related to the vaccines.
While some states have decided to reopen completely, other states have made little to no changes. Because there is no national standard, these differences create issues. People say if his state is open, why can’t my state be open too? Additionally, numerous workplaces will need to have re-opening plans that incorporate guidance from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from their own state health agencies and, more importantly, from what is culturally acceptable within the company.
The Different Sources of Data to Mull Over
As noted, there is no national standard to tell a company what are the completely correct actions. Some companies are regulated by executive orders of the states, others are not. For those that are regulated, following the regulations is actually easier. Following state guidance assures choices made are defensible to all parties involved, such as customers, employees, and vendors. For those businesses that do not have many state regulations, knowing how to act is harder, as the clash of cultures may cause strife within their organizations.
Unfortunately, the CDC appears to be very slow to update any information, so slow in fact that Crystal Cruises’ decision in mid-March “to relaunch North American cruises from Bahamian homeports in July was met with applause from many in the cruise and travel world,” Travel Weekly reported. Norwegian Cruise Line too, hinted its restart program may be outside the U.S. Also “Royal Caribbean earlier this year said it would base a ship in Barbados for the first time, the Grandeur of the Seas, starting in November.”
Vaccinations Are a Personal Choice and a Problem
While opinions are all over the board as to whether to get vaccinated, can employers force employees to get the vaccination? There could be a medical reason or a fear of a vaccine that was created on short order, or simply a choice not to get vaccinated, the so-called non-vaccers.
That leaves many employers in a quandary whether to separate the two groups. But can you completely separate them? Also, do those employees who choose not to get vaccinated have to wear masks? As we come further into the vaccination cycles, this will become a very important decision to make. From a public safety perspective, we have another layer of factors of concern; that is, we cannot tell whom we may come in contact with during the course of our duties.
Normalcy in the EM/ES organizations
Most public safety and emergency management agencies are customer service organizations by trade. While some of our customer interaction is driven by emergencies, many of our services are preventative in nature and are not emergency driven. Some of the services offered by fire departments that were suspended by the COVID-19 pandemic included fire prevention and public education activities.
These activities range from inspecting commercial properties for fire and safety hazards and citing those responsible to educating the public on how to perform CPR. While we have survived without these activities for a year now, each day we come closer to a significant event that could have been prevented or had a different outcome due to enforcement or education efforts.
The positive news is that many EM/ES organizations have peer groups who have helped each other draw up and initiate plans related to tackling COVID-19 problems. Banding together with other profession organizations helps to ensure a common reopening strategy.