So here it is. This is what it’s come to. We are over a year and a half into the COVID 19 pandemic. We have vaccines. We have improved treatments on the horizon. Yet we still have a long way to go. Why? Because people who are able to do so refuse to get vaccinated and even refuse to wear masks and practice other precautions. It’s inexcusable among the public, unforgivable for those who work in public health and public safety.
Those who work in public health and public safety are entrusted with the health and safety of the public. In order to do so we not only need to take care of ourselves, but also do what we can to protect each other and the public. We seem to have a rash of issues lately, such as:
- A state trooper, ‘forced’ to resign because he didn’t comply with a vaccine mandate, signing off of his last transmission with a statement of ‘the governor can kiss my ass’. From all I’ve heard, this trooper had a great career and made a big difference – yet this temper tantrum is what most people are talking about.
- Hundreds of health workers ‘forced’ to resign or being fired because of their lack of compliance with vaccine mandates.
- A large number of attendees of a recent emergency management conference not wearing masks during the conference, despite repeated written and verbal instructions from the host organization to do so before and during the conference.
- Hundreds of corrections officers potentially being ‘forced’ to resign or being fired because of their lack of compliance with vaccine mandates.
Public health and public safety have never been about individual freedoms, rather they are focused on what is good for the public as a whole. Yes, we should be taking precautions to protect ourselves, but we also do so to protect our co-workers and the public we are entrusted with caring for and serving. While some choose to make this a political issue, I have colleagues across much of the political spectrum who have maintained vigilance and care in the office, with the public, with their families, and even off duty by getting vaccinated and practicing other precautionary measures as appropriate. Some choose to make it a matter of religious freedom, yet the leaders of every major world religion are encouraging their followers to get vaccinated and take precautions.
It seems a simple, and respectful thing to get vaccinated and to also take these precautions when on duty and representing your agency, but also as much as possible beyond that. I’ll grant that some social situations can be challenging, but we can and should maintain an appropriate measure of vigilance, again not just for the benefit of yourself, but also for the benefit and respect of others. Doing so isn’t about ‘being a sheep’ or following some fascist rule of law. It’s about health, safety, and respect.
I’ve seen some disregard vaccinations and precautionary measures because they are not 100% effective, therefore they must be a joke or the science must be wrong. Consider that careful driving, the wearing of seatbelts, and vehicles with airbags aren’t foolproof preventers of injury or death in a car accident., either. Nothing is foolproof, especially when there are so many fools. We do the best we can with what we have and if we want to be true professionals in public health and public safety we need to lead by example.
My disappointment in public health and public safety personnel who flaunt and disregard these standards is high, regardless of their rank, station, or prior accomplishments. As such, I say: step up or step out. If you don’t have a regard for yourself, your family, your coworkers, and the public; then you should likely seek a different profession. If you are in these professions, but aren’t doing what you can to prevent the spread of the pandemic, I’m not sure what you stand for. This is a pandemic. It’s serious. Though it may not cause something as severe or dramatic as people randomly collapsing to their death in the streets, it has caused over 700,000 deaths in the US alone so far, as well as serious and lasting effects for many survivors.
I’ll close with this… I always encourage and welcome dialogue, discussion, and different points of view in response to my posts. That’s not changing, but I will say that science deniers, conspiracy theorists, and those espousing fuzzy math need not respond. Those aren’t informed opinions and certainly don’t lead to intelligent dialogue.
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Tim Riecker is Co-founder, Partner and Principal Counsultant at Emergency Preparedness Solutions, LLC. See more posts from Tim Riecker on his blog The Contrarian Emergency Manager