I was planning my schedule for the upcoming week a few days ago, and I said to the person that I was speaking to that we probably should stay away from Wednesday since that is a big travel day. Then it dawned on me: like so much else that has changed this year, there won’t be much travel on Wednesday because COVID has put the brakes on it.
Every time I think about what COVID has taken away, it stings a little. The breadth of lost lives is far too overwhelming to consider. It is an American tragedy.
For those of us who have been lucky enough to escape the life and death impacts of this horrible disease, the pandemic has still taken away many of the joys of living. I don’t need to recount them for you. But suffice to say that our holiday season will be clearly subdued this year as we await the miracle vaccines that appear to be ready to make 2021 a better year for all.
This coming week though, you are likely to hear from your co-workers and supervisors about what their Thanksgiving plans are. More than just small talk, however, these discussions are really going to be substantive and matter.
That is because your plans for Thanksgiving are going to have impacts upon those that you work with for the next several weeks. If you plan to travel or gather with friends or family, your chances of exposure to the virus will be heightened. On your return to work, your chances of infecting co-workers, clients, or vendors will necessarily increase exponentially.
Discussion of your plans is not simply a friendly discussion topic this holiday season. It is, in fact, a matter of life and death for some. So a question that will arise is exactly how invasive can your employer be in trying to discern your holiday plans.
And can your employer require you to divulge the specifics of how you plan to spend your holiday and who you plan to spend it with? Can your employer require you to quarantine if there is an increased risk of exposure to you simply by congregating with relatives and friends over the holiday season?
This holiday season, it has been reported that many employers are encouraging employees to spend the holidays simply at home with the immediate family members who live under their roofs. Others are asking employees to pledge to avoid contact with non-family members during the holidays. And some are even offering to pay for time off for those employees who must travel or visit with relatives they do not usually see.
Overall, employers have been intent on delivering the message that this autumn and winter will be a volatile time for virus exposures and that the best way to avoid infection is by limiting exposure to others as much as possible. While many of us have been hopeful that we are “turning the corner” on the virus, the facts show us something quite different.
Infections are up and hospitals are nearing capacity again. Before the vaccine arrives in numbers sufficient to allow us to get back to a sense of normalcy, we are going to have to weather the coming winter storm. Employers are intent on keeping their workforces healthy so that we can make it through to the end. Expect to continue to hear messaging from your employers about maintaining safety and avoiding large groups as we head into the new year.