Call off the COVID fun police

thers have better ideas. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer in British Columbia, has set an example of highly effective public-health leadership while largely avoiding mandates and police involvement. She has imposed reasonable restrictions with an empathetic approach that sustained the public’s willingness to comply with social-distancing measures. As Henry learned from her experience with Ebola in Uganda, the most effective way to promote healthy behavior during public-health emergencies is with clear communication and support, not punitive measures. Her primary approach to social-distancing recommendations, including parties, has been frequent, compassionate communication with the public, with fines levied only as a last resort. “This is our time to be kind, to be calm, and to be safe,” she regularly reassures British Columbians. As she told The New York Times, “That’s the only way as a community we can get through this without traumatizing people.” Henry is so well loved that a designer shoe was created in her honor.

Advertisement

Compassionate messaging can go a long way toward building trust and supporting healthier behavior, but it’s not the only tool at our disposal. Public-health professionals can use contact-tracing efforts and research studies to understand what drives high-risk behaviors and which interventions would help people forgo those activities. State officials can collaborate with community leaders, especially in hard-hit neighborhoods, to promote attractive alternatives to indoor gatherings. In redesigned outdoor spaces, people can safely exercise, listen to local musicians, watch theater performances, and enjoy food and beverage trucks. The city of Oakland, California, has created miles of “slow streets” where residents can recreate and interact with plenty of distancing, transforming the city into one that’s more walkable, bikeable, and—yes—fun. Permitting to-go drinks from restaurants and bars, and letting people consume them outside with appropriate limitations, could lure partygoers out of their home. In Toronto, loosened rules around licensing of outdoor spaces allowed a beach-themed beer garden to pop up in a parking lot, complete with food from local restaurants and sand, in a neighborhood where few residents have access to private outdoor space. Too hot in the summer? Bring in the misting fans. Too cold in the winter? Set up the heat lamps.

Advertisement

Policing won’t help Americans persevere during this ordeal; compassion and creativity will. Indoor gatherings are not advisable during a pandemic, but scolding and retribution will only impede public-health efforts.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Videos

Sponsored

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement