Virginia: Deputizing The Walmart Greeter

I’ve been mulling over Governor Ralph Northam’s mask mandate for businesses I keep coming back to the story of the Family Dollar employee who was killed after trying to enforce MI’s state-mandated mask policy:

Calvin Munerlyn, 43, died at a Flint hospital after he was shot in the head Friday, said Michigan State Police Lt. David Kaiser.

“From all indications, Mr. Munerlyn was simply doing his job in upholding the Governor’s Executive Order related to the COVID-19 pandemic for the safety of store employees and customers,” Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said in the statement.

Many of us have worked in retail and know of the almost universal mandate that if someone bolts for the store with unpaid product you do NOT pursue for legal and insurance reasons.

And that’s to enforce a law on the books.

Here, Northam is telling business owners and employees to enforce an Executive Order and refuse service to people who won’t wear masks – prohibiting them from entering stores or making them leave.

Or they risk the state penalizing them and putting their business at risk.

Enforcement comes down to business owners whose permit or licenses to operate could be on the line.

“The criminal code is not the place you want this enforced. There are tremendous equity issues with enforcing this that we’re cognitive of and there are very practical issues of our police and sheriffs had to enforce this. So we’ve taken that off the table,” said Clark Mercer, Northam’s Chief of Staff.

By putting the burden of enforcement on stores with the threat of losing their ability to lose business, Northam is putting shop owners and employees on the front-lines of enforcing rules and regulations while having zero real authority.

And that puts their lives at risk.

And which businesses and employees are going to have to deal with this the most? The very same low wage, essential business employees who’ve already been working through this entire pandemic.

I get it, Northam is trying to find a way to make this happen with the powers at his disposal, but clearly those limits are creating burdens that are unsustainable or just irresponsible.

If he needs permission of the General Assembly to give it teeth, then call a special session (though based on his Chief of Staff’s quote above it sounds like they don’t want to go that route). Or find other ways to educate and promote mask usage.

But don’t continue to saddle businesses already struggling with more risk.

On Masks: Don’t Be A Jerk

Pro Tip: As masks become more common, either by mandate or public embrace, please don’t berate people who are not wearing them. You don’t know their situation or circumstances. There are legitimate and invisible health reasons for some people to not wear them.

Treat this like a herd immunity situation – please do what you can for the sake of those who can not. And assume the best intentions of those you observe not practicing until given a reason otherwise.

Even then, don’t be a jerk.

Of course I can’t find an exact quote right now, but your beliefs don’t prescribe how others should live but how you should live.
So live by example and be patient with and understanding of others.

WFH Words Of Wisdom

  1. You are not “Working From Home,” you are “At your home, during a crisis, trying to work.”
  2. Your personal physical, mental, and emotional health is far more important than anything else right now.
  3. You should not try to compensate for lost productivity by working longer hours.
  4. You will be kind to yourself and not judge how you are coping based on how you see others coping.
  5. You will be kind to others and not judge how they are coping based on how you are coping.
  6. Your team’s success will not be measured the same way it was when things were normal.

This has been making the rounds in assorted formats and assorted credits, but the original was posted by Jonathan Lundberg (@techjonathan) on Twitter. And while he may have been speaking about teams working remotely, these can apply to just about anyone who’s been working from home. Even if you’ve been doing it for 10 plus weeks now, never too late to take note.

But we’re reopening anyway

I’ve given up on tracking Virginia’s COVID-19 numbers. The state has changed the way they’ve presented numbers or metrics so often that it’s now hard to measure with any degree of accuracy how we’re trending. Besides, the state isn’t even following its own guidelines for what needs to happen to reopen before reopening, so it doesn’t really matter, does it?

Which then comes back to a nagging question of what was the point? For nearly ten weeks, Virginia schools have been closed, and families have been facing a stay-at-home order, all to flatten the curve, not squash it. And while we’ve flattened it, this time was also meant to increase testing, hospital capacity, and figure out ways to safely reopen. None of those things seem to have happened to the degree officials said they wanted them to when we shut down.

But we’re reopening anyway.

The Commonwealth says their data shows they’ve met whatever internal benchmarks are in place. However, the data they’re releasing publicly doesn’t support that. We’re still below 10,000 tests a day, even if we add in every possible test, including local final exams as a COVID-19 test (I exaggerate, but not by much).

But we’re reopening anyway.

And once that genie is out of the bottle, how do you get it back in? People aren’t going to eagerly embrace another stay-at-home order because the last one did what? Because officials used the last one to do what?

I’ll readily admit that it’s hard to see the whole picture with this happening in real-time. Especially for a virus that can take up to two weeks to rear its ugly head.

Reality has a lot of moving parts, many unseen, but we’re past the days of being able to take “trust us” at face value.

But we’re reopening anyway.

The consequence of inconsistent data, moving the goalposts, a YOLO approach to missed benchmarks, all of it is that people pushing for a reopen so we can get back to “normal” and those saying “WHAT ARE YOU DOING STAY HOME!!!” are both able to make cases because we don’t have anything that we can definitively point to to say “but wait.”

This especially complicates efforts to push for a middle ground – continued social distancing, encouraging the wearing of masks, the limited reopening of some businesses versus others – because both sides can dig in and point to the big gray area that is Virginia’s response and say “but the data says!”

I worry for my family. My kids. My parents and my in-laws and my friends and people who are vulnerable.

The idea that we can say “well, vulnerable people should just distance themselves” and go about our business ignores the fact that vulnerable includes people of all ages and all walks of life who have family members who aren’t “vulnerable” so will be expected to go about business as usual. And contract and share whatever bugs are out there.

But even if we just look at age, nearly 20% of the American workforce is over the age of 55, the demographic most vulnerable to COVID-19. Of 157 million Americans in the workforce in 2019, nearly 27 million were between the ages of 55 and 64, more than 10 million were over the age of 65.

How does our economy manage losing 20% of its workforce who are told they should shelter in place until we find a cure? Sure, it’s less than the current unemployment rate, but that’s a number that SHOULD come down drastically as we get back to work. This would be a mandated “20% of you can’t work” winners-and-losers decision. That has an impact.

Then there’s the question of what support is in place to help them when we say “stay home?”

And you know there are people who are going to say “well, that’s up to them, they should have saved!” and those are some of the same people raging on the steps of capitol buildings saying “REOPEN WE NEED TO WORK!” because they, well, didn’t save.

It’s easy for me to rant from the comfort of my own home with a family that is healthy and safe for now. And I so desperately want to keep them that way.

I understand there are no easy answers here. I just wish I had more confidence that the folks in positions to provide those answers were able to do so confidently and competently.

Not a lot of people are showing that these days.

But we’re reopening anyway.

Coronavirus: Day 66

We are into the TENTH week of the great COVID inspired working from home, stay at home, social distancing, quarantining of 2020. Huzzah!

Kenney Boys In Cars Going Places

Driving to run errands for a sick kid today I realized one of the things I miss most about the pre-COVID routine is the drive to and from school with the boys.

Every morning I’d drop them off, every evening I’d pick them up. It’s about 10 minutes one way but we fill that time talking about our days or listening to music or telling jokes or stories and just generally goofing off.

Listening to music in particular was a big part of it. It was a great opportunity for us to explore Spotify together or just let them shout out what they want to hear and sing along.

We do that a little time to time in the house, but it’s not that isolated slice of time to just chat or listen or sing.