Jody Vance: You may be tired of the same message, over and over, from public health officials. But it’s consistent for a reason, and needs to be.
January 25, 2020. That’s one year and two days ago. That’s how deep we are into COVID-19.
For the last 367 days, an entirely new language has been hammered home, over and over and over: incubation periods, epidemiological modelling, genome testing, and more. We know variants and mutations.
Watching and navigating this incredibly weird year already brings visceral memories. This has been much harder for some to manage than others, on many levels. There are divides between the have’s and have nots; those who struggle with mental health and anxiety, and those who do not; kids who need in-person school, and those who thrive remotely.
Then there are those who are “over it, done, frustrated, can’t anymore” when it comes to the Message.
Public health messaging in BC is basically this:
Go home, stay home, essential outings only. Stay within household bubbles, keep contacts to the absolute minimum. Wash hands, stay two meters apart, wear a mask when you can’t, stay home when you are sick, and in case you missed it: stay home.
These are the things that save lives. And we need to be all in, because the virus doesn’t have legs. It needs us to move onto its next host. Think about that.
Yes, it’s repetitive messaging. And as we hit the home stretch of COVID, the pushback is forceful.
For some (put me in this category) the consistent messaging here in BC brings calm. Watching Dr. Henry calmly navigate the Q&As makes me feel informed. I do not feel it’s political.
And we need to be all in, because the virus doesn’t have legs.
Watching Canadian politicians in those earliest days was terrifying. Prime Minister Trudeau looked shook, as did most leaders around the globe — oh to have been a fly on the wall behind the scenes. Imagine the public panic had it been laid out for all to see.
The federal actions taken in those first months hint that they knew was coming: this entire year, at least, was going to be devastating.
No government says “we are shutting down the economy” without having seriously terrifying truths untold.
The carefully worded daily speeches, the messaging of calm to coincide with the shock of a suddenly wide open federal wallet. Schools closed, borders closed. It’s all designed to help understand and navigate. And if repetitive messages have you tuning out, here’s a lesson from my early radio days:
“When you are completely sick of our messaging, our listener is hearing it for the very first time.”
This communication adage is on full display. People frustrated with repetition in public health messaging are people up to their neck in the ins and outs of the news cycle, but so many others are still in discovery mode.
Consider how every briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry has ended with: “Be Kind, Be Calm and Be Safe.” In the early days, the phrase seemed sweet; 367 days in, they ring as a mantra to be mindful of.
This is not Dr. Henry’s first pandemic and she could anticipate some of pushback and frustration she would face as time ticked on.
People frustrated with repetition in public health messaging are people up to their neck in the ins and outs of the news cycle, but so many others are still in discovery mode.
Recently I looked back at my open letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry from last March. My naive positivity of personal experience with SARS was on full display. Re-reading it now reminded me how the true terror of what was before us hadn’t hit me yet.
If you want to think I’m fangirling here – blinded by Fluevog shoes and a brilliant resume — I’d prefer it be called being a truster. And I don’t think my trust is misplaced.
This middle is not at all about selling anyone on BC’s Public Health Officer, or pumping anyone’s political tires – but to say that if we listen closely, we can hear the end of COVID-19.
If you know people who have tuned out, help tune them in.
Those of us with enough can make sure those with less don’t die simply by being selfless, staying home and staying tight to our actual household bubble. Two more weeks is the ask — and yes, be ready for another two weeks after that — and another.
For those who feel the briefings and asks have been tuned out need to look around and ask, “have I done enough to help that message move about my circles?” If you know people who have tuned out, help tune them in, maybe in your next Zoom or dog walk.
The Middle is for us all to play a role in getting BC through these next few months. To support one another through this final stretch of social pain for longterm life-saving gain. Let’s be the marathoner who slows to help the fellow runner who’s hit the wall limp across the finish line. The consistent messaging here in BC is of great value, and it will continue — like it or not — until this is over.
And it will be over, eventually. We just have to get there.
Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.
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