It is worth noting that regardless of the volume of education, obtention of degrees, or other credentialing, there is room for people to disagree. We have a great many experts and organizations striving to guide us all through the COVID-19/Wuhan/SARS-CoV-2. Much like the constantly evolving dietary advice we get (eat this, don't eat that, etc.) the ground beneath our feet is seemingly always shifting. In the end, there is ample evidence that societally we do not know all about this virus, and perhaps we do not yet even know what we don't know.
We are confronted with conflicting advice that frustrates our efforts. ABC News recently reported CDC and WHO offer conflicting advice on masks. An expert tells us why. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now says Americans should be wearing masks. The World Health Organization says you should only wear one if you are caring for someone with the virus. One scientist in Hong Kong says mask use could reduce spread by 80%. Who is right and what do we do about those who are wrong?
That is a fair thought process. Perhaps we should start with what we should not do. First, we should strive to not resort to violence based on our beliefs or conclusions. ABC News reports that a security guard was killed after telling someone to wear a mask or leave a store. A strange incident was also reported in which a patron wiped his nose on a store employee's shirt when asked to wear a mask. A store providing employment for several closed after assorted abuse directed at employees about mask wearing. The article reports that similarly people have been attacked while wearing masks.
I recently stood in a grocery checkout line, demarcated by floor tape. The cashier ensconced behind a sheet of plexiglass, and the grocery bagger several feet away. When I prematurely stepped towards the card pin pad, conveniently located several feet away from the “stand here line,“ I was chastised by the cashier for getting too close to the bagger. The curious thing was that the cashier on the lane next to mine was a standing approximately 1 foot behind me, also separated from her customers by Plexiglas, with no apparent concern for our shared/unprotected proximity. One might stand in the grocery store and debate the logic of any of these points, but there is no benefit to be gained.
On another trip to the grocery store several weeks ago, turning down the frozen food aisle, I detected the distinct aroma of rubbing alcohol or similar antiseptic. It was reminiscent of a hospital. Proceeding down the aisle, I happened upon a lady who was opening the compartment doors with a visibly damp cloth, and picking up her selections with the same washrag. As I passed her, the aroma of antiseptic diminished, and eventually faded. It's my suspicion that everything the shopper touched was exclusively with that antiseptic-soaked cloth. One could discuss with her the necessity of such measures, but what is the point?
On a visit to a "big box" store, I was corralled and channeled through a maze of overturned carts, fencing, and "caution tape." Approaching the front door, I observed another customer shopper berating the entrance employee regarding how “useless“ and “unnecessary“ these various efforts were. As I brushed past the two, striving to maintain any distance, I overheard a customer ahead of me utter "idiot"; I was not sure if she referred to the caterwauling customer or the employee guarding the door. I did not inquire further.
The bottom line is, it appears, that various individuals and organizations have differing opinions as to this virus, it's perniciousness, and reactions to it. In the end, many will eventually likely utter “I told you so,“ regarding their individual perspective. That was illustrated in a recent conversation I observed between two passionate advocates. One contended that the Coronavirus lock-downs and stay-at-home orders were overreaction, emphatically pointing at the erroneous initial death projections compared to actual outcome to date. The other debater seized upon the March-reduced death toll, and argued that statistic merely supports the success of the lockdowns and orders ("what if we hadn't").
Who is right? Does it matter? Can anyone travel back in time to change our course? Can anyone offer perfect solutions and answers? In the end, we are human beings faced with uncertainty and difficulties. In the end, our mission must remain to do our best.
As far as Worker's Compensation litigation in Florida, our goals will be: (1) striving to maintain clean environments, (2) striving to maintain social distancing adherence in our facilities; (3) requiring the use of face masks in our premises; (4) encouraging sound discretionary decisions as to remote proceedings by telephone, zoom, or other platforms; (5) encouraging an environment of respect and dignity for everyone involved, regardless of anyone's personal beliefs regarding this pandemic or any other topic. Some local governments are mandating masks more broadly. That is their business.
This is not some adoption of, or rejection of, any particular personal perception of the effectiveness of distancing or masks. We are not endorsing the CDC or discounting the WHO. This is merely an adoption of a rational and reasonable path forward in the face of uncertainty, conflicting opinions, and unfortunately sometimes raw emotions. News reporter Brit Hume recently noted on Twitter:
"The best reason for wearing a mask is not medical. The best reason is to be considerate of those who are frightened by this outbreak and are made uncomfortable around people not wearing one. So mask up not to be safe, but to be nice."
What if everyone made their decisions on that simple fulcrum? What if the only analysis was "am I being nice?" Too simple? Perhaps.
We will persevere through this threat. As a community, we must remain focused on our purpose of resolving, mediating, and adjudicating worker's compensation disputes. Others in the community will hopefully remain similarly focused upon their roles in serving employees and employers in this community. In their premises, they may have rules with which we disagree or which we celebrate. Regardless, let's remember it is their premises and their decision. Let's just be nice in their office, clinic, home, etc.
As we progress, the most important attributes we can strive towards are compassion, patience, and tolerance. The fact is that disagreement will persist. The fact is much is not yet known. The fact is, despite that, we all still have an immensely important duty to fulfill to our community of workers' compensation. The fact is that through disagreement and confrontation we will not change minds about masks, distancing, and more. Our job is to help resolve issues and disputes, and we need to focus on that.
I am hopeful, moving forward, that we do not have any untoward behavior in our community. It is my hope that we all remember our responsibilities of civility and patience with each other. If wearing a mask troubles you, patiently try to work through why. It is my hope that we collectively and individually demonstrate the outstanding professionalism for which the Florida worker's compensation community has become known. If you have suggestions or criticisms, I'm happy to hear from you.
If something in our process makes you angry, or upset, please let me be the recipient of your comments, the target of your angst or even anger. But, please allow our security, judges, mediators, and staff to fulfill their responsibilities as they have been asked. We are doing our best for you, and appreciate you more than you know.
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Disclaimer: WorkersCompensation.com publishes independently generated writings from a variety of workers' compensation industry stakeholders. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of WorkersCompensation.com.