Together Again — What will it Require?

Michael J. Readinger

I know we will be able to meet in person again someday in the near future. We have all heard the scientific research, political opinions, theories, hopes, and worries about how and when that will happen. I do not have all of the answers, but I do have some of the questions and possible answers in mind. What do I think we will require in order to meet face to face again?

Patience is probably at the top of my list. The most important thing we can do is wait until the science and our commitment to safely gather are in alignment. Rushing into a decision could result in poor choices with no way to reverse course. For example, CHHSM was able to include a “pandemic clause” in our hotel contract for the 2022 Annual Gathering, so we have options in case the virus flares up again.

Vigilance is critical as we must keep our eye on the things we do, the people we see, and the places we go. Our carefulness and watchful eye will keep our staff, our constituents, and our acquaintances safe. If we remain healthy and cautious, we maintain the option of meeting in person.

Hygiene, mask wearing, social distancing, and avoiding large crowd situations will also keep more people safe and healthy. Herd immunity is important in a pandemic such as this, but I hope and pray that it is not through rampant spread of infection that we attain that status. I’d rather see us get there by way of vaccines.

Vaccination is an essential medical tool that we should all take advantage of. We should also work to dispel myths so that as many other people as possible will take advantage of it as well. We know the history around some of the abuses that have plagued the medical research field. The distrust that has resulted may still take generations to overcome; but if we meet people where they are and try to reassure them on a case-by-case basis, we might shorten that time span.

Safety for ourselves and consideration for the safety of others is imperative. There are those that are opposed to mask wearing and vaccinations. That is their right to choose unless mandated by law or corporate/business policy conducted on private property. Likewise, it is your right to choose mask wearing, vaccinations, and any other policy you deem important for your own well-being and your concern for others.

Trust in each other, in science, in first responders, in medical providers, in care takers, in those we serve and their families is also an important factor to consider. There is no health or vaccination passport that enables one to have risk-free, unlimited access to the world around them. If we do not and cannot trust others to follow best practices for good health, then we should not meet in person.

Additionally, resilience will keep us focused and dedicated to find the solutions we can utilize in order to be together again. Girded by hope and love, we can continue to strive for the ultimate goal of being in person again someday soon. It will require some starts and stops, some progression and some regression, but if we remain committed to following the steps listed above, we have a much better chance at success. I, for one, cannot imagine life without a mask on my face or in my pocket for quite a while. I am planning for that to be a part of the new normal for a while.

Finally, 2020 and the beginning of 2021 have taught us that hybridized meeting formats may become the norm as we assemble partially in person while inviting an online virtual community to participate in the full meeting. As we learned this year during the Annual Gathering, there are many ways to create a sense of community in a virtual meeting. The economy of reduced registration fees, no airfare or hotel expenses, and reduced time away from work make continuation of virtual elements to our in-person meetings essential.

So, here’s to a brave new world where we take the necessary steps required for us to be together again.

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