Most of us thought that the leadership challenge of deftly handling a pandemic would linger only as a bad memory, a bruising, once in a lifetime moment, something to tell our grandchildren. Fraught with institutional and domestic challenges, COVID-19 has become so much more than that; it has changed the way we live, the way we think and the way we work. When I sent my “final” COVID-19 message to our college community on October 26, 2022, I titled it what I thought would be “CCBC’s Swan Song for a Nefarious Germ!” However, now that a new variant of the “nefarious germ” has surfaced, I see that such overconfidence was misplaced. COVID-19 has managed to morph into yet another leadership challenge.
While that is indeed the case, both the disease and the maturity with which we can now handle it, do battle on a more evenly matched battleground. After several years of strict universal protocols designed to deflect the threat and severity of COVID-19 infection, CCBC, along with many other institutions, has stepped back from active pandemic management, ceding that role to each individual student and employee. The leadership strategy of this next phase demands that we manage the risk of the virus according to our own personal level of caution and concern. Each of us must do what feels right for ourselves while at the same time respecting the choices others may wish to make.
Rather than retreating into our houses once again, we must handle this new threat with the same acceptance, caution, and good sense that we bring to other ordinary germs: the flu, the common cold. Do so and we – both individually and collectively – will be healthier for it. The college can and should address broad environmental issues, arranging shot clinics to upgrading and maintaining air filtering systems, etc. However, the onus of the burden of mediating the disease rests upon us individually. We can wear masks, maintain distance or get vaccinated if we choose. The college will respect individual choices.
The resilience and resolve that the nation displayed throughout the pandemic is a collective accomplishment for which we can all be proud. However, in gearing up for this round, we recognize that we must live and work in the world. After enduring two years of isolation and loneliness, we better understand the negative impact of shutting ourselves away from the world. Our students suffered, many returning to in-person schooling with serious learning deficiencies. In distress, students from elementary school to university seniors faced unprecedented mental health challenges. Exhaustion and stress seeped more heavily into all of our daily lives. Let us not shut ourselves away again. By exercising good health habits both on campus and at home, we can continue to live amongst each other. “Stay Safe! Stay Healthy! Stay Tuned!”