Perhaps no one is happier than restaurant servers now that dining in is allowed again in Honolulu. (Washington, D.C., June 5, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced approval of a request from South Dakota to provide online purchasing of food to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households. This approval will allow South Dakota to expedite the implementation of online purchasing with currently authorized SNAP online retailers with a target start date to be announced at a later time. Franklin county teenagers share their experiences as they work summer jobs during the pandemic. The pandemic forced schools into a crash course in online education. Problems piled up quickly. ‘I’. The Results Are In For Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work Public shaming, in this era of rapid judgment and ensuing internet outrage, is nothing new. But the pandemic has made it a popular pastime. Runners have been berated for exercising without masks. City dwellers have been criticized for congregating in parks. And beachgoers have been condemned for hitting the sand. The pandemic has heightened the
Perhaps no one is happier than restaurant servers now that dining in is allowed again in Honolulu.
“It’s awesome to be back,” Cafe Kaila server Wayne Kato said Friday morning, after he took the orders of regular customers David and Ann Snakenberg.
Kato was glad to be busy again. The restaurant’s dining room closed in March — along with all others on Oahu — due to a city and county emergency order brought on by COVID-19 concerns. Since then, Kaila continued to offer takeout, but as there was no one for servers to serve, Kato was among the thousands statewide out of work.
After some initial difficulties, he figured out the unemployment system. But Kato, 39, of Makiki, said he would rather be busy at the restaurant where he has worked for 10 years and has made many friends among customers and coworkers.
>> PHOTOS: Oahu restaurants reopen for dine-in restriction customers
It was definitely different than in pre-pandemic days: In Kaila’s once-bustling dining room, tables are now spaced 6 feet apart and servers wear masks and face shields. As per city and county guidelines, customers are asked to wear masks, except when sitting at their tables.
Kato added a personal touch to his face shield, writing on it, “Hi! My name is Wayne.”
Another longtime Cafe Kaila server, Stephanie Thiel, said that “contact” is the biggest difference now that she’s working in a mask. “I’m talking to people a little louder,” she said.
The Snakenbergs were first in line and through the door of the Market City Shopping Center restaurant Friday, a few minutes after 7 a.m. They had supported the restaurant the past 11 weeks by regularly ordering takeout.
“It really is like family here, like ‘Cheers’,” said David Snakenberg, an Air Force retiree. He and Ann, a retired teacher, chatted with each employee who came by to say hello.
More customers trickled in as the Snakenbergs enjoyed their breakfast; it was an encouraging start for early on the first morning.
Later, at 10 a.m. at Scratch Kitchen, only one group had come in for a sit-down meal at the Ward Village restaurant also known for brunch fare.
Chef Brandon Mezurashi was not too concerned, because takeout business has been going well there. But some uncertainty remains.
“You don’t know if people are afraid, or if they’re just not ready to go out yet,” he said. “We’re being very careful to do everything to lessen contact, even when ordering. You can even scan a bar code on your phone for our menu.”
“Right now, we’re just trying to make sure everyone is getting fed,” Mezurashi added.
At 11 a.m., Mayor Kirk Caldwell held a news conference at the entrance to The Surfing Pig on Waialae Avenue. The location was symbolic. Caldwell stood between two sidewalk tables, the first approved via a pilot program under which restaurants may apply online to use city-owned sidewalk areas for seating.
Since social distancing guidelines allow most restaurants to use only about half of their dining room floor space, having access to outdoor seating can ease financial deficits.
“This is to celebrate opening up of our restaurants,” Caldwell said. “The other part is we want to be outside.”
He said the pilot program will continue as long as restaurants must operate under social distancing guidelines, and perhaps beyond.
At 2 p.m., Jon Ishii, a high school math teacher from Hawaii Kai, enjoyed a sit-down meal at The Counter at Kahala Mall with friends and family.
“This is wonderful,” he said. “I hardly leave the house and I’ve been craving a burger. And I’m really glad the servers get to work again.”
Author: By Dave Reardon firstname.lastname@example.org
USDA Approves South Dakota to Accept SNAP Benefits Online
(Washington, D.C., June 5, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced approval of a request from South Dakota to provide online purchasing of food to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households. This approval will allow South Dakota to expedite the implementation of online purchasing with currently authorized SNAP online retailers with a target start date to be announced at a later time. South Dakota’s SNAP participation is more than 75,000 individuals, more than 35,000 households, and totals $122 million annually in federal benefits. This announcement further demonstrates President Trump’s whole of America approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic by ensuring those affected are fed.
SNAP online purchasing is currently operational in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. The authorized retailers working with all states are Amazon and Walmart. TheFreshGrocer is working with New Jersey and Pennsylvania; ShopRite is working with Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania; and Wrights Market is working with Alabama. USDA previously announced New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Wyoming would also be implementing online purchasing in the near future. With these states, more than 90% of all households receiving SNAP will have access to online purchasing.
Multiple stakeholders – notably, state agencies, their third-party processor, and any retailers that wish to participate – must work together to implement online purchasing using SNAP benefits. To ease the process, FNS put together a simplified template for states that want to operate online purchasing and provided guidance to interested retailers, which is available online.
USDA continues to provide significant technical assistance to all interested stakeholders to ensure implementation plans are thorough and appropriate preliminary testing is conducted to avoid compromising the state’s entire benefit system. Each state, EBT processor, and retailer presents their own mix of challenges so FNS is providing customer service based on each of their specific needs.
Until States are prepared to operate the pilot, USDA recommends utilizing other options that retailers may already provide, such as Pay at Pick-up (also known as “Click and Collect”), where SNAP cardholders can shop online and then pay for their purchase using their EBT card at pick-up. Grocery pickup is already an option that these retailers offer beyond SNAP so they are already thinking through how they can provide a safe environment to do so with the growing concerns around social distancing.
During these challenging times, FNS is working hand-in-hand with state program leadership, to provide support and guidance to adapt to the challenges of this public health emergency. FNS is granting states significant program flexibilities and contingencies to best serve program participants across our 15 nutrition assistance programs. For up to date information and to learn more about flexibilities being used in FNS nutrition programs, please visit the FNS website.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer, and lender.
Franklin County teenagers find work during the pandemic
COUNTY — As Franklin County teenagers join the workforce this summer in the middle of the pandemic, they have to adopt conscientious practices to ensure the safety of their co-workers and customers as well as those in their households.
Mt. Blue graduating senior Caitlin Underwood works 25 hours a week at the Farmington Walmart as an e-commerce shopper. Her job entails filling online grocery lists and delivering the order to the customer’s vehicle. The online grocery pick-up department that Underwood works at consists of about 12 workers, half of whom are teenagers.
Employees at Walmart are required to wear masks and Underwood has to wear gloves during cash and card transactions. She said that she feels nervous about contracting the coronavirus every day, especially now that vacationers are flocking to the area.
“We get lots of out of state cars pulling up which causes a little more anxiety because of quarantine,” Underwood said in a phone interview.
Underwood has nine other people in her household, several of whom are considered part of high-risk groups for the coronavirus. Her parents urged her to take Walmart’s two week self-quarantine offer when Gov. Janet Mills announced a state of emergency to ensure the safety of herself and her family.
When Underwood returned to Walmart, one of her co-workers had resigned because their parents were uncomfortable with their child working in a high-exposure environment.
Livermore Falls teen Evan Dowe, 17 expressed less anxiety about working during the pandemic as he operates the first window of the McDonald’s drive-thru in Jay.
“Of course, you do have it in the back of your mind that someone could come through with coronavirus, but after taking a few orders and the usual flow goes, you just get into the rhythm of the work and just don’t think about it too much,” Dowe said in a phone interview.
Evan Dowe, 17, wears a mask during the entirety of his shifts at the McDonald’s in Jay. Photo courtesy of Evan Dowe.
Dowe’s household consists of his parents and his 16 year old brother who will return to Berry Fruit Farm for summer work after healing from an injury. The thought of contracting the coronavirus while at McDonald’s seems unlikely to Dowe.
“We have a plastic shield between us and the customers. We can only reach our hand through the bottom, so I feel pretty safe in general because I also have a mask on, and I have hand sanitizer right next to me,” Dowe said.
In addition to these safety measures, Dowe’s mother asked her son to shower immediately when coming home and stressed that he needs to wash his hands constantly at work. Barbie Dowe still feels strongly about her son having a summer job during the pandemic, attributing his and her family’s good health as a reason not to fear contracting the virus.
“We still need to make sure that we have extreme precautions for people who are at risk, but as for the rest of us healthy people, we need to get to work. That’s for sure,” Barbie Dowe said in a phone interview. “I want to get to work, I want our country to go back to normal.”
Teenagers Alexa Newcomb and Chelsea Seabold work together at Wilson Stream Ice Cream Shop in Wilton where they now hand ice cream to customers with masks on behind a Plexiglas.
“I originally was trying to find work on a farm because I thought that would be a safer option, but no farms that I got in contact with were hiring so I turned to other options,” Seabold said while standing behind glass canisters of stacked waffle cones.
Seabold also had to wait for her parents’ approval before she could accept any positions.
“As the community started to have more natural adjustments to it, I think my parents were a little more accepting of me working in a public place,” she said.
Newcomb and her family did not feel as hesitant about her working in food service during the pandemic, but she did say that the new safety practices have required some adjustments.
“It was different at first because of the Plexiglas and we weren’t wearing masks at first, but now we are and that’s been a struggle because it’s hard to talk,” Newcomb said in a muffled voice behind a purple mask.
Teenagers Alexa Newcomb, left and Chelsea Seabold work together at the Wilson Stream Ice Cream Shop in Wilton during the pandemic. Andrea Swiedom/Franklin Journal
The young workers have also had to deal with some customers who do not understand some of the ice cream shop’s new COVID-19 related precautions.
“We had some extreme negative responses from people to having their ice cream in a dish,” Seabold said with her eyes squinting from a smile beneath her bright yellow mask.
Both Newcomb and Seabold mentioned that they are practicing social distancing with their grandparents to prevent any potential spread to the high-risk age group now that they are working in the food industry and are in contact with new people everyday.
Mt. Blue High School junior Emily Willett is working for her second summer at The Ice Cream Shoppe on Wilton Road in Farmington. Although her family expressed some anxiety prior to her working during the pandemic, they felt comfortable with her returning to an employer that they trusted to maintain safe practices.
“I think they were definitely a little iffy about it at first, but my parents are pretty for me working, they like me having the responsibility to come here. But it’s worked out pretty good because it’s super safe here.”
Willett is also familiar with her co-workers and knows that they all practice social distancing outside of work, which eased her own anxieties about working over the summer.
“It definitely felt different than the first season because we have these new rules that we have to follow, but it was pretty easy to adjust because we all know what we’re doing,” Willett said while standing behind Plexiglas in the counter window. “We didn’t have any new help this year and I think we fell into it pretty good.”
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Author: By Andrea SwiedomFranklin Journal
The Results Are In For Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work
The pandemic forced schools into a crash course in online education. Problems piled up quickly. ‘I find it hectic and stressful’. The Results Are In For Remote Learning: It Didn’t Work
This spring, America took an involuntary crash course in remote learning. With the school year now winding down, the grade from students, teachers, parents and administrators is already in: It was a failure.
School districts closed campuses in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic and, with practically no time at all for planning or training, launched a grand experiment to educate more than 50 million students from kindergarten through 12th grade using technology.
The problems began piling up almost immediately. There were students with no computers or internet access. Teachers had no experience with remote learning. And many parents weren’t available to help.
In many places, lots of students simply didn’t show up online, and administrators had no good way to find out why not. Soon many districts weren’t requiring students to do any work at all, increasing the risk that millions of students would have big gaps in their learning.
“We all know there’s no substitute for learning in a school setting, and many students are struggling and falling far behind where they should be,” said Austin Beutner, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, in a video briefing to the community on Wednesday.
Already, school administrators are looking ahead to an uncertain fall, when many will be trying to apply lessons gleaned from the rocky spring to try to reopen classrooms, possibly using a mix of in-person and remote learning. To prevent a repeat of the spring disaster, some of them say, more students will need suitable electronic devices and internet access, and teachers will need much better training about how best to instruct from afar.
Preliminary research suggests students nationwide will return to school in the fall with roughly 70% of learning gains in reading relative to a typical school year, and less than 50% in math, according to projections by NWEA, an Oregon-based nonprofit that provides research to help educators tailor instruction. It expects a greater learning loss for minority and low-income children who have less access to technology, and for families more affected by the economic downturn.
Pandemic Learning Slide
Some students, especially those without much structured learning from home, could have started to experience the learning loss typically associated with summer when schools closed in March because of the pandemic.
Even though many students these days are tech savvy, that doesn’t ensure they will do well with remote learning. Some education experts say there is a huge gap between what students can do for fun on their cellphones and gaming systems and how good they are at using a device for educational tasks such as reading a document, answering a question or figuring out a problem.
“I think we have this assumption that since they spend all their time on their devices, it’s no big deal for them to learn remotely,” said Janella Hinds, a social-studies teacher at the 500-student High School for Public Service in Brooklyn’s Flatbush neighborhood. “But being a digital consumer and a digital learner are two different things.”
Parents, for their part, are frustrated after more than two months of trying to supervise their children’s at-home learning while juggling jobs and other responsibilities.
“It’s been very challenging,” said Mara LaViola, who has a 17-year-old son with autism and other disabilities in the Eanes Independent School District in Austin, Texas. Initially, she figured she would be more tolerant of teaching shortcomings during such an unprecedented time. But she was dismayed that her son’s interaction with teachers didn’t extend much beyond a morning greeting.
“The vast majority of it failed because of a lack of imagination, and a lack of effort,” she said.
Molly May, the district’s executive director of special education, said she felt “all of our students got a high-level of services given the platform and their ability to access remote learning. Teachers were innovative and creative and tried to meet the needs of each child.”
School districts and teachers that had previously used forms of online learning made the transition more easily. But many educators, even those comfortable with the method, say remote learning isn’t comparable to in-person teaching.
“I find it hectic and stressful,” said Dallas middle-school teacher Delna Bryan, whose advanced Spanish classes include both fluent and nonfluent youngsters. “In the classroom, I can look around and see body language and know when some of my students not fluent in Spanish need me to switch to English. I can’t do that online. We need the interaction with the kids, face-to-face.”
School districts didn’t realize the number of students without access to devices and the internet until they surveyed parents. Districts that could afford to do so hurried to buy the technology needed to get students online. Some, such as those in Austin and Belleville, Ill., put Wi-Fi wired buses in parking lots for students to connect from their parents’ cars. Many districts prepared printed packets of work for students without online access, which were handed out in food drive-through lines at schools.
One major issue has been how to assess students fairly when learning is done remotely. Many school districts aren’t comfortable issuing grades for remote work. Some have told teachers not to give failing grades because of equity issues. Many are using a “hold harmless” approach, where grades that negatively affect students can’t be used, but ones that help them or are neutral are permitted. Some teachers believe the rule has simply resulted in students not doing work.
Others worry that remote learning facilitates cheating. “Whatever work we’re receiving online may not always necessarily be the work completed by the child,” said Alexa Sorden, founding principal of Concourse Village Elementary School in the Bronx.
Dr. Hinojosa said students won’t be failed for not completing remote work assignments, but those already failing before the pandemic who didn’t do any work will still fail. He said teachers can give an “incomplete” to students who fell short of passing but are willing to complete the work over the summer.
Many teachers unions have been supportive of not grading students because of inequities, although some of their members feel like it allows students to slack off.
Remote learning has turned the simple task of taking attendance into a challenge. Many count students as present if they log in to do work in programs like Google Classroom, an online classroom manager. Some give attendance credit for weekly progress on completed work, while others allow parents to call in to vouch for their children. Some districts aren’t bothering with attendance at all. Those that have been able to track attendance say it has been below regular levels.
Some students have simply gone missing. Early into the shutdown, the Los Angeles Unified School District estimated that on any given day in a week span, 32% of high-school students didn’t log in to learn.
Mr. Beutner, the Los Angeles superintendent, said at the time that some of those missing are among the most vulnerable—those in the foster-care system or living in deep poverty, students with disabilities and those who regularly missed school in ordinary times.
“It’s simply not acceptable that we lose touch,” he said, while noting that the number of students logging in has grown as the district worked to provide students with laptops and internet access.
Some districts have opted to end the academic year early. The Bibb County School District in Georgia wrapped up on May 1, three weeks ahead of time. Officials cited stress on the community and said they planned to use the time to get ready for next school year.
The Quitman Independent School District in Texas stopped giving new assignments two weeks before the school year ended to focus on teaching life skills. Based on their age, students were asked to complete tasks ranging from making a bed to changing a tire to reading a bill.
“Parents are overwhelmed,” said Rhonda Turner, superintendent of the 1,200-student Quitman district. “It seemed like a perfect time to implement this. We’ve had a phenomenal response” from students and parents.
Lucia Curatolo-Boylan, a mother of four children, ages 4 to 10, in New York City public schools, found supervising the schooling a challenge. “It was definitely more difficult than I probably could have ever expected,” she said. “There was a lot that my oldest son was able to do on his own, which was wonderful. But the other two children really required my constant supervision and presence, which made it also harder to be there for my baby. Her nursery school education of her letters and numbers is quickly disappearing and not a priority because I had to sit with my kindergartner from 9 to 2 every day.”
Her son, 10-year-old Miles, has found remote learning exhausting and unpredictable. “Sometimes you have a lot of work and sometimes you don’t,” he said, recalling a time when he worked “almost an entire school day on three things.”
Some schools, particularly those with ample resources and some experience with remote learning, had a far easier time of it than most.
In Broward County Public Schools in Florida, the district had been building its technology program for several years and many teachers were already managing classwork online, so things have gone more smoothly. Nevertheless, a survey of Broward students in grades 6 through 12 found that 52% don’t feel motivated to complete distance-learning assignments. About 45% said they almost never receive adult help at home to complete assignments.
Administrators at Riverdale Country School, a private school in New York City, said their foray into online learning was successful, thanks to careful preparation and execution and having the resources to pull it off. The transition involved a month of infrastructure design and collaboration between administrators, teachers, the school’s technology team, students and parents.
Faculty and students participated in one-hour training sessions during the school day, and the school closed for two days before its spring break for a remote learning trial run.
As the school year comes to a close, districts are focused on making improvements. Some will use summer break to retool remote learning, provide teachers with professional training to use it, and work to outfit students with needed technology, with hopes of using federal stimulus money to do so.
About 9.7 million students aren’t connected to the internet, according to an estimate by the EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit focused on connectivity in public schools. “As a nation, we were not prepared to take learning online,” said founder and CEO Evan Marwell.
Louisiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., have the largest percentage of unconnected students, ranging from 26% to 28%, more than the national average of about 20%. New Hampshire, North Dakota and Utah have the lowest percentage, ranging from 10% to 12%.
Many districts plan to offer summer school, likely remotely, to get students caught up and help combat “Covid slide.” But some educators worry that the same remote learning that wasn’t effective in the spring won’t have changed much for summer.
New York City Department of Education will provide remedial instruction over the summer and possibly in the fall to thousands of students who have fallen behind during remote classes this spring. Officials expect about 177,000 of the city’s 1.1 million public-school students to enroll in remote summer learning, with about 102,000 of them required to take part.
School superintendents differ on how to reopen schools in the fall using social-distancing practices. Many are contemplating a hybrid system of splitting up classes and rotating students in and out of classrooms, with some reporting to the school on some days while the others work remotely. Another strategy being explored is to have younger students who can’t be home alone in classrooms every day, while older students learn at home.
To keep everyone safe, districts are considering new rules such as requiring students and teachers to wear masks, having students eat lunch in classrooms and requiring them to attend school in person only two days a week. Other possibilities include prohibiting the sharing of school supplies and the spacing of desks closer than 6 feet apart, and limiting parents and other visitors on campuses.
Educators hope that the rockiest days of remote learning are behind them.
“We’ve been building this plane and flying it at the same time,” said Danielle Buttacavoli, a school counselor at IS 61, the William A. Morris Intermediate School, in Staten Island. “We’ve been getting stronger at using these platforms, and I think the same goes for the students.”
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Public shaming has become a common pastime during the pandemic. But it doesn’t really work
Public shaming, in this era of rapid judgment and ensuing internet outrage, is nothing new. But the pandemic has made it a popular pastime.
Runners have been berated for exercising without masks. City dwellers have been criticized for congregating in parks. And beachgoers have been condemned for hitting the sand.
The pandemic has heightened the stakes for every small decision we make about our lives, and people are naturally on edge. But experts say shaming other individuals for apparently going against the rules — or, public shaming for what you may perceive as public good — isn’t usually the best route to take.
Here’s why we shame others — and why we shouldn’t.
It’s often a natural response: Shaming or scolding others for not abiding by the rules is a natural response, says June Tangney, a clinical psychologist and professor at George Mason University.
The pandemic has people understandably worried about their safety. So when someone acts in a way that appears to be putting others at risk, we might get scared or angry. And one way we might express those emotions is by aggressively confronting those who are engaging in behaviors that make us feel uncomfortable.
“When we’re scared and when we see people doing something that endangers all of us, it’s a natural tendency to want to shame them,” Tangney said. “It’s just not a good approach if, bottom line, you want to see their behavior change.”
We may feel like we’re missing out: The impulse to shame someone else might also be driven by FOMO, or the fear of missing out, Tangney said.
Perhaps you’ve been diligently wearing a mask on the rare occasions you leave the house, and you haven’t been socializing with others. Then you see the images circulating on the internet of runners and cyclists not wearing masks, of people hanging out at crowded pool parties or of beachgoers enjoying a sunny weekend.
We already know that mass gatherings can endanger lives by potentially spreading the virus to large numbers of people, prolonging and worsening the devastation we’re already navigating. So it’s normal to feel frustrated by such scenarios, though it’s worth noting that some, like running and cycling outside, are relatively low risk.
“We get this image of half a country having a party that most of us are not doing,” Tangney said. “It’s natural to become angry and also be afraid and to want to shame people, because we believe if we shame them, they’ll stop doing this bad thing. But unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case.”
The thing about shaming is that it doesn’t really work, says Tangney.
It can have the opposite effect: Scolding someone for not following the rules is usually done with the intention of changing that person’s behavior. But it typically has the opposite effect.
People don’t like being told what to do. And when they’re shamed for behaviors that just months ago felt harmless, they’re likely to feel attacked and become defensive, Tangney said. Instead of complying, they might minimize or deny any harm their actions may be causing.
“You’re more likely to hit a brick wall,” she said. “And if anything, they’re going to dig their heels in and be less likely to think about grandma and the other people at home or whomever they’re seeing.”
It drives the behavior underground: Shaming doesn’t mean that people won’t engage in risky behaviors. Rather, it drives the behaviors underground, says Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.
It’s something Marcus knows well from her work as an HIV researcher. Abstinence-only messaging doesn’t work for sex, research shows. Telling people to refrain from seeing their friends or going outside for an indefinite period of time won’t work either.
“When we have an all-or-nothing approach to prevention, which is what we’ve been seeing in our public health messaging around the coronavirus, we tend to inadvertently stigmatize anything people do that’s not 100% risk reduction,” she said.
She gives a hypothetical example of a group of people getting singled out for congregating in a pool. The group may then choose not to gather again publicly for fear of backlash. Instead, they might hold a house party indoors, where they’re safe from public view — but in an enclosed space, where the risk of infection is higher.
If an outbreak occurred in that instance and contact tracers were trying to determine who has been exposed, the people who attended the party may be afraid to acknowledge that they were at the event — and health officials can’t reliably contain the virus.
“Then our public health response ends up breaking down,” Marcus said.
To avoid that breakdown and the high-risk pool party itself, Marcus says our public health messaging needs to convey nuance. People need to feel as though they have other options for social contact so that they don’t feel compelled to behave in high-risk ways.
It turns us into the behavior police: The guidance around whether masks should be worn and how the virus is transmitted are constantly evolving. Different states have different restrictions. And federal, state and local authorities have often implemented rules that conflict with each other, making things confusing for everyday citizens.
Nancy Berlinger, research scholar at bioethics think tank The Hastings Center, said messaging on when and how to wear masks needs to be clearer.
“In these everyday interactions with masks, should everyone be turning themselves into the mask police?” she said. “Or should we absolutely make sure that everyone understands why this is important, how to do it, where to get masks and figure out friendly ways of encouraging each other?”
It makes assumptions about others’ behaviors: We don’t always know someone else’s situation.
Maybe that the shopper you’re side-eyeing at the grocery store just forgot to wear a mask, or perhaps they don’t have access to one. Those people you see crowded next to each other on blankets in parks might be a part of the same household, or they might have formed a double bubble. And others may feel unsafe wearing masks because of their race.
And the photos of seemingly crowded public spaces that often make the rounds online can be misleading, because different camera lenses can affect the appearance of depth.
It exploits our biases: Shaming people who aren’t following the rules could also align with other biases about who does things wrong in a society, says Berlinger.
“Do you notice teenagers not wearing masks but you don’t notice other middle aged people like yourself?” she asks.
Shame is connected to power, Berlinger said, and those who publicly call out others for supposedly violating safety protocols often feel as if they can do so without consequences. Nonwhite people generally don’t have that privilege, and are also disproportionately targeted by law enforcement for violating safety protocols.
It misplaces blame: Scolding people for seemingly violating safety norms also places blame on individuals for our current situation, instead of holding institutions accountable, says Marcus.
“Shaming individuals who are at a party or in a park may give us a sense of control in the moment, but it’s misplaced energy,” Marcus said.
Individuals do carry some responsibility in reducing a community’s risk, she said. But in the grand scheme of things, most cases in the US are not arising from pool parties and other outdoor activities. Rather, they appear to be originating from so-called “superspreader events,” where an infected person attends an indoor gathering with large numbers of people, like funerals, birthday parties or religious gatherings.
Fixating on individuals who are flouting the rules distracts from wider, institutional failures to scale up testing and contact tracing so that society can reopen safely, Marcus said.
If you see someone behaving in ways that are risky or make you feel uncomfortable, there are still some things you can do.
Consider a kinder approach: Instead of aggressively confronting someone about not wearing a mask, you can kindly ask them to put one on. Share what your concerns are, and let the other person ultimately make the decision for themselves.
“The approach itself is the most important thing,” said life coach and columnist Susie Moore.
Make your request as easy as possible: If you’re concerned that someone isn’t wearing a mask, offer them one.
Give them the benefit of the doubt: There’s a lot of fear and anger being felt right now, and a little compassion can go a long way.
“It’s okay to remember that we’re all human beings, we’re still figuring it out and we can still talk to each other kindly,” she said.
Our current moment will continue to require collective action, and that includes doing what we can to keep each other safe. But we are navigating new norms and a new normal. So we, accustomed to a world of judge-first-assess-later, need to embrace something else anew: empathy and understanding — from everyone.
Author: By CNN