During a pandemic crisis such as we're experiencing, rules of protocol and etiquette become more than a matter of just good manners and good business; they are essential to protecting public health.
As both a licensed mental health professional and a specialist in diplomatic protocol, these principles come from a dual prospective:
- Maintain physical distance of at least six feet (coughs that spread virus-containing droplets can travel even further) from people who are not part of your household.
- Follow the posted rules in food markets and hardware and other stores (e.g., one-way aisles, face coverings); don't touch items unless you intend to buy them. If the person behind you appears to be moving more quickly than you, invite him or her to pass.
- Wear a mask! Your "freedom" doesn't entitle you to spread disease to others. You could be infected but asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. If you've been exposed to someone known to be infected with the coronavirus, self-isolate for 14 days.
- Show appreciation to front-line workers: police, firemen, health workers, drivers, those who bring your groceries (tip generously). Say "please" and "thank you" (not "no problem"). They put their lives on the line every day for YOU!
- Phone courtesy: I know… you are accustomed to getting things done quickly. It's different now. Be patient. Everyone is understaffed. This may be the new "normal" for a while.
- Reach out to those who are alone, elderly, the most vulnerable and show you care. Loneliness and depression are common during isolation from others.
- Be generous! This is not the time for self-absorption. It is a time to support your neighbors, friends, city, state and country.
- Don't make following the rules dictated by science a political issue. These viruses don't care whether you are a liberal or a conservative, or how tired you are of restrictions such as sheltering in place. This is a time for patience, pulling together, and helping one another.
- Be skeptical about things you hear, read and pass on about COVID-19 unless you have an unassailable source, such as the CDC or a scientific journal, such as Science, Nature, or JAMA. Beware of armchair experts and, especially, anonymous sources.
- If frustration gets the better of you, don't take it out on those you love. Instead, write "PANDEMIC" or the name of anyone else who annoys you, on the bottom of your shoes and take a nice long jog or walk outdoors. It's not good to hold in your frustration, but it's not productive to express it in negative ways. Stay safe and healthy!
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