There’s less debate every day, as the accelerating stream of behind-the-scenes books continues to make clear, that the lies, incompetence and ultimate indifference about Covid-19 of Trump and his crew of sycophants has cost thousands of American lives over the last two years. One in 500 Americans has died of Covid-19 and more than 1,000 people are still dying each day — disproportionately in red states. Trump’s politicizing of the pandemic by promoting lies and misinformation to raise funds for his own personal political war chest while killing thousands of his sadly deluded followers in the process will be remembered as one of his worst and most shameless acts.
The Biden administration has finally stepped up and made vaccinations mandatory for federal workers (except the Post Office), the military, and companies with more than 100 employees. Unfortunately, there’s only so much legally and practically that Biden can do to offset the manipulative and dishonest mini-MAGA governors who are resisting vaccine mandates while sickening more children in their states every day. That ignominious list is headed by Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, whose state leads the nation in deaths per capita from Covid-19. Don’t count on these hacks to educate and change the closed minds of the roughly 80 million people who are still refusing to be vaccinated.
Now’s the time for those of us running businesses to heed Bob Marley’s sagest advice: “get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight.” Sticking your head in the sand and pretending that things will get better by themselves or due to someone else’s efforts may be the easy thing to do, but it won’t work. The only direction that bad things head on their own is downhill. Contrary to one of Trump’s earlier lies, they don’t just disappear by themselves.
If your business is suffering right along with the rest of the economy (and whose business isn’t suffering?), now’s the time to stop whining, blaming and complaining about the situation and instead step up to help get things back on track. Not half-heartedly, not tentatively, and not by trying to please everyone because that’s a faulty formula that’s most likely to leave us in this sick limbo for another year or two. As Jerry Garcia said decades ago at the United Nations about protecting the environment: “Somebody has to do something. It seems incredibly, in fact, it seems pathetic that it has to be us, you know.”
While some of our major national firms, such as United Airlines, Tyson Foods and Walmart are providing real leadership and setting the right examples, it’s been disheartening to see how many firms and organizations of all sizes have come up short. So have too many of the individuals who call themselves disruptive and innovative entrepreneurs. They’ve all attempted to dodge, finesse or straddle the difficult decisions regarding vaccination and testing instead of making the necessary statements and the accompanying commitments that we’re going to need to get out of this sticky mess once and for all.
Perhaps the only things more depressing have been the constant vacillation and changes in direction by the CDC, the White House and other government agencies as well as the painfully piecemeal decisions of the regulatory approval agencies. It’s difficult for even a conscientious business (putting aside all the issues regarding fraudulent documentation) to implement an effective testing requirement – especially tests administered at home prior to coming to work – when the United States is one of the last countries in the world to have inexpensive at-home Covid -19 testing kits broadly available.
But the fact is that ex parte testing is never going to be a solid and convincing solution for many employees and unions, which is just another consequence of Trump’s debasement of trust in our government (and in each other) along with the immediate emergence of all sorts of fraudulent vaccination and testing documentation. In addition, on-site testing is simply too costly, too time-consuming and slow, and too risky for the millions of businesses that need to get their people back to work now in safe, secure and credible environments.
Businesses need to step up and simply require that every employee who wishes to return to on-site work will need to be fully vaccinated. They also need to ignore the vile governors in Texas and Florida who are trying to outlaw this practice. A simple go/no go rule is essential because, human nature being what it is, anything more complicated will soon be abandoned or ignored by those charged with addressing and enforcing it.
This is the only realistic way forward for businesses to provide the consistent assurances and comfort to their employees and customers that they can return to the store, office or factory floor without subjecting themselves or their families to further exposure to variants of the virus.
If you’re an indoor assembly or shared co-working space or a restaurant, theater, or entertainment venue, you need to take the next strong step as well and require on-site guests, indoor diners, visitors and desk renters to show proof of vaccination. You’ll discover very quickly (apart from a few social media trolls) that your solid and loyal customers and users will respect and support and even encourage your efforts to look after their health and well-being. It’s win-win.
So, if you run a business and want to do something effective and important for your business, your team, your community and your country, now’s the time to act. The opportunities for half measures, lip service and short-sighted avoidance are over. Get up, stand up and do what’s right.
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