So how’d you pass the final peaceful hours of Labor Day weekend? We spent ours on the back porch, with the faint thrum of a cicada symphony as our soundtrack. The air was redolent of summer. The kids had situated themselves somewhere that we weren’t. Life seemed pretty darn okay.
Then our oldest came outside to tell us that our phones were “exploding.” We checked them with a sigh and learned that the local elementary school had been notified about a staff member’s positive COVID test at 5 p.m. EDT, some 15 hours before it was scheduled to reopen in half-semi-virtual mode.
And thus we were sucked into a vortex of underinformed overcommunication, complete with (false) rumors that every kindergartener and parent on a welcome-to-your-charming-little-red-brick-schoolhouse tour had been exposed to the infected individual. Even worse, we found ourselves included in what had quickly devolved into the War and Peace of passive-aggressive text threads about parenting, pitting the alarmist sect of local moms and dads against members of our concerned-but-rational tribe.
School didn’t open on Tuesday. My youngest’s first words to his new teacher, delivered via a shaky Zoom connection, were “I know what species Yoda is: A Muppet!” It’s been a decade of a year and the calendar says early September.
This week’s Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing is 1,450 words and will take you seven minutes to read.
The mental grind
Partly because I mask and distance and hand-wash and partly because I’m fortunate enough to live in and work from a big dumb house in the suburbs, I’ve felt as well physically during the last half-year as I have in a long time. Mentally, it’s a different story.
- According to a JAMA Network Open study, nearly a quarter of people in the United States are experiencing symptoms of depression. That’s up threefold from the number experiencing symptoms prior to the COVID-19 shutdown.
- Jean Watkins, director of the U.K.’s National Bereavement Service, shares advice in People Management around supporting grieving employees who are returning to the workplace.
- In the latest installment of Campaign’s Reimagining the Office series, Dame Cilla Snowball writes that “the business of getting people back has to be more of an invitation than an instruction.”
- “We’ve been psychologically kicking the can down the road.” And so the emotional grind of pandemic life continues.
The incidence of COVID-related PTSD, both for people who got sick and people overwhelmed by the stress of trying not to get sick (and everything that comes with it), is going to linger for decades. The country’s support infrastructure isn’t ready for that crisis, either.
The new abnormal
A friend told me today that he saw a movie over the weekend. I didn’t even think to ask him whether he did so in a theater, because, come on, really? This is 2020.
- CivicScience finds that we’re not exactly lining up to resume life as we knew it back in the halcyon days of February 2020, especially when it comes to movie attendance. Also, some 40% of respondents expect to have to practice self-isolation and social distancing for at least six more months
- MM+M’s Marc Iskowitz analyzes the havoc that COVID-19 has wreaked on the conference-heavy world of medical education.
- In Infectious Disease Advisor, Dr. David Alfandre addresses the ethical challenges that come with prescribing off-label or otherwise unproven treatments for COVID-19.
- More parental nightmare fuel arrives in the form of this feature about COVID-19 long-haulers who happen to be children.
- Wired suggests that hybrid school models could create “a public health nightmare.” Oh, so NOW they tell us.
- Here’s a handy chart detailing the types of masks that are most effective. Speaking of which, please wear a mask. The fate of the republic hinges on it, sort of.
Night is day. Green is red. Cats are dogs.
The “this won’t end well” section
“This won’t end well” used to be my punch line for situations involving too many agendas and too few manners. Now, it’s the underlying message of a majority of the news that crosses our screens.
- “Nursing Home Workers Were Underpaid, Overworked and Denied PPE. And Then COVID Hit.”
- Pro football returns on Thursday night, and some teams are planning to allow a limited number of fans to attend games.
- Farm workers have been hit hard by COVID. Without farm workers, the country’s food ecosystem implodes.
- The federal government’s response to COVID surges in nursing homes has been inadequate, New Hampshire Health Care Association president/CEO Brendan Williams writes in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.
- This Reuters report details how coronavirus has run rampant among workers at JBS SA, the world’s largest meatpacker.
- McKnight’s Long-Term Care News’ Danielle Brown sits down with attorney Mara Cohara to discuss a potential surge in COVID-related lawsuits against care providers.
- International Olympic Committee (IOC) VP John Coates said the 2021 games will happen “with or without COVID.” Predicting anything more than five hours into the future seems pure folly, but you do you, IOC.
Remember when optimism was the country’s default mode? Nowadays, even silver linings rust.
The returns and revivals
Whether or not it makes sense, we’re putting our heads down and getting back to the task of doing whatever it is we’re supposed to be doing. Yay?
- Because it’s perfectly rational to blame 18- and 19-year-olds when they act like 18- and 19-year-olds and not pillars of adult society, Northeastern University has sent 11 first-year students home. They won’t be receiving any of their $36,500 semester tuition back, either.
- In People Management, Layla Barke-Jones, a dispute resolution expert at Aaron & Partners, offers a primer on avoiding personnel disputes related to COVID-19.
- Per a Conference Board survey, only 39% of companies plan to reopen their offices by the first quarter of 2021. If you haven’t already, this might be the time to request an ergonomic-furniture stipend.
- North Carolina’s Century Furniture, which has been in business for 73 years, shared a staggering amount of detail about its battle to survive COVID-19.
- In PRWeek, Frank Washkuch checks in with the leaders of Edelman, Weber Shandwick and other communications firms on their prospects for the months ahead. Spoiler: most are “cautiously optimistic.” And PRWeek’s final Lockdown Life video shares more stories of how communicators have been coping personally and professionally during the pandemic.
- McKnight’s Senior Living’s Amy Novotney reports on Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies research revealing that 75% of retirees believe their ability to maintain a comfortable retirement lifestyle has not changed amid the pandemic. Novotney also points to a study by Transcend Strategy Group which found that 68% of family caregivers don’t agree that quality care can be provided in congregate settings.
- Nine pharma companies – AstraZeneca, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer and Sanofi – jointly issued a letter pledging they would fully test their COVID vaccine candidates before submitting them for FDA approval.
- Former MM+M/PRWeek Health Influencer 50 headliner Dr. Atul Gawande believes that “We Can Solve the Coronavirus-Test Mess Now – If We Want To.” The problem? “If we want to” does most of the heavy lifting in that headline, and we’re a country that isn’t big on the whole self-motivation thing.
It’s easy to mistake movement for momentum, especially when we’re all so desperate for the normal and the familiar. Let’s just hope that safety ranks high on back-to-business priority lists.
- For the “things I would prefer not to contemplate” file: A preview of a COVID-era earthquake in or around San Francisco.
- An Austrian retiree who hasn’t lived in the United States since the 1960s claims he recently received a $1,200 coronavirus stimulus check. So did his wife. Yes, both checks were cashed.
- A San Diego State University study has traced 267,000 coronavirus infections between August 2 and September 2 – around 20% of the new cases reported in the U.S. during that stretch – to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. Guess what most attendees didn’t do? It rhymes with “rare flasks.” That figure sure seems on the high end of the scale of probability, though.
- Here’s a longer retelling of the story about the woman who created a fake Twitter persona and then claimed the nonexistent individual had died of COVID-19. Only on the internet, kids!
Stuff you can do
- Help staff your local polling place
- Provide rides to the polls on Election Day
- Donate time or money to people and communities hit hard by COVID
…and some songs.
- Holland, 1945, Neutral Milk Hotel
- 1973, Beth Orton
- 1979, Smashing Pumpkins
- 1984, David Bowie
- 2112 Overture, Rush
And so ends the “back to school” edition of the Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing. We’ll return with the next one on Wednesday, September 16. Be well.