Reject Blame and Frustration and Be Kind

What a day. What a week. What a month. What a YEAR. I’ll bet you’ve made these exclamations more than once in 2020. I know I have. We have entered the final month of likely the most difficult and strange year in most of our lives, and I’m sure there are still more twists and turns in store for us before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.
There is no denying that these last several weeks have been among the hardest since the pandemic first hit Vermont back in March. We’re managing an ongoing surge in cases; there are outbreaks across the state in long-term care facilities; health care providers are burned out; teachers and school administrators are working long hours to keep our students safe and schools open; testing is ramping up and contract tracers are increasing in numbers; our resorts and restaurants are feeling the effects of fewer patrons and tourists and that’s only a fraction of the hardship. Just writing this list is hard.
Throughout this pandemic, one thing that has been a bright light to me is our kindness towards one another. The fact is, none of us has any real world experience responding to a global pandemic. Sure, many of us have experience in crisis and emergency response, but we know from our training that each situation presents its own unique set of circumstances that require us to assess, adapt, plan, execute and adjust. That’s what I’ve witnessed time and again from Vermonters as this pandemic has unfolded. We can be very proud of our efforts to date.
Unfortunately, though, what I’m observing more of these days, as the pandemic rages on, is not so worthy of pride and that is: frustration and blame. I know so many of us are at our wits' end and each mistake, mishap or bit of misinformation feels like a big deal—and, sometimes it is. Most of the time, however, it’s the result of too few people working too many hours to tackle big challenges we’ve never encountered before.
Whether it’s our testing protocols, tracing strategy, surge plans, food distribution work, school closure plans, social gathering guidelines or our upcoming vaccine distribution strategy, I know first-hand the competent and caring folks behind these efforts are doing very good and thorough work. And that work takes place under incredibly challenging conditions to continue to deliver a response that will save lives, keep our children in school and keep our economy going. Most have been at this since the onset of the pandemic without relief or rest.
When I read recent news stories, whether they are here at home or from afar, about testing snafus, long lines at grocery stores, frustration from parents about school, I immediately think of the individuals behind those challenges and my heart goes out, because I know they are doing their very best in an ever-changing and immensely complex environment. There are fewer things more distracting and demoralizing to those on the front lines leading our pandemic response than criticism from the bleachers.
So, my ask is this: take a deep breath. Think before you speak. Consider that we are truly all in this together and none of us is exempt from the disruption, the stress and even the pain of this pandemic. Be kind. Be especially kind to hospital and health care workers, teachers, state leaders, contact tracers, community leaders, your neighbors, friends and family and yourself.
These next weeks and months will continue to test our will and our resolve, but we simply
cannot allow ourselves to lash out. We must rise above the blame and frustration and commit to supporting those we are counting on to lead us through. I know Vermonters are up to the challenge. We have been blazing the path and lighting the way forward since the beginning.
Jeff Tieman
VAHHS President and CEO