Tis the season for dropping kids off at college. My family is no exception. We recently visited Miami — Coral Gables to be exact — to drop my daughter off for her first year as a Hurricane. It’s exciting and exhausting. Add a out-of-control pandemic in Florida, and it’s downright stressful.
(But who would’ve thought though that we might be dealing with a Hurricane in New England before Miami?!)
Around campus at the U, masks are required for all indoor events and vaccines are strongly encouraged. Contrast that to Connecticut where many universities are requiring masks AND vaccines. But in Florida due to an executive order and legislation, even private schools like University of Miami are prohibited from requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
As a result, during orientation, there was a constant mantra of “While we’d like to mandate the vaccine, we must follow the law so we strongly encourage you and your students to be vaccinated.” Thus during the first week of operation, the school already has 41 active cases from students, and 71 cases from employees.
Contrast that with the news in Connecticut on Thursday of Governor Lamont requiring all teachers and state employees to be vaccinated or face weekly testing.
It’s just yet another reminder that during this pandemic, we have 50 different states of responses.
For now, employers have to juggle a lot. Those considering mandatory vaccinations have to ensure that local laws are met, that exemptions are considered, and that the policy is well thought out and implemented fairly.
And for those that aren’t mandating vaccines, managing expectations and mask wearing is another challenge. Pandemic fatigue is real.
My trip to Florida was enlightening on a few other grounds too (beyond the realization that Florida pizza is just a pale comparison to the New Haven-style pizza that abounds here).
- There are plenty of people in Florida who don’t care about the pandemic. Maybe they never did. Mask wearing during a visit to Target was maybe 35 percent — at best. Around our hotel, it was similar. Without mandates, people who don’t want to wear them won’t wear them. Having government make this a “personal choice” allows for a lot of discretion.
- That said, at almost every restaurant or store we visited, employees were wearing masks even though they are not legally mandated. (Some had them below their nose, but I digress.) This dichotomy between a non-mask wearing public and the mask wearing staff that serves them is just weird. For employers, it’s hard to keep your employees protected without both.
There is something to be said about persevering during this pandemic. In Florida, there’s plenty of outdoor eating and opportunities to be outside where things are a bit safer and many places we walked by were full of people taking advantage of it. But this pandemic has shown that doing all or nothing aren’t great options. Shutting down hurts too many people while opening up entirely, no holds barred, lets the virus run rampant and causes many people to restrict their activities too.
For employers, it’s a hard balance to get right. Employers that thought about returning to the office full time next month have had to rethink their plans.
Patience is hard to come by nowadays. But that might be the one thing that employers will need most over the next several weeks as we continue to ride this Delta wave.