We can’t let our Covid guard down

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Like other non-essential types, I’ve been limiting ventures into the outside world since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Trips to our Toronto office are rare. When photos or other details are required from the field, I’ve completed my duties and come straight home.

Scheduled in-person meetings within our corporate headquarters have become special occasions, and since this March can be counted on one hand. They’re also accompanied by an array of protocols. Mask up. Record temperature. Document self-assessment. Apply sanitizer.

That’s before walking through the door.

Derek Leathers - Werner
Werner’s Derek Leathers continues to encourage employees to remain vigilant. (Screen capture)

Every step is worth it. Life working from a home office is fine, and limited interactions are a good practice in the name of public health, but Facetime – or Zoom, or Teams – will never truly replace the benefits of real face time. There were only a handful of us on site, but these were real people, and the procedures were established to keep everyone safe.

We were in the office long enough to gather around a screen as Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced another lockdown to control a surge in case counts in Toronto and Peel Region.

Mask up. Head out. Back home.

It would be all too easy to become complacent with the steps that we rushed in place this spring. Bubbles are restrictive by their very nature. The layers of procedures that apply to each trip can seem tiresome. But the damn virus isn’t tired. Not yet. Not by a long shot.

“Look, I get it. We’re all sick and tired of the pandemic,” Werner vice-chairman, president and CEO Derek Leathers said in a recent video message for his fleet employees. “We’re sick of the rules, and the protocols, and the distancing, and we just want to go back to the way it was before. But now is the time for Werner associates to do what they do best – lead by example.”

That example will sound familiar to truckers on both sides of the border.

“Don’t congregate with other people in a small area, either in an office, around a cubicle, in the hallway, at the truck stop, or waiting for a load. And wear a face covering when you are away from your desk or your truck and are interacting with others – and do so properly with the mask covering your nose and mouth,” he said.

As temporary as such measures appeared when they were first introduced, they’re going to be with us for a while yet.

The news of a vaccine is undeniably welcome, but there are key challenges that anyone in the world of transportation will understand. The Pfizer vaccine that made headlines in November, for example, will need to be maintained at -70 Celsius as it travels from warehouse to final destination. Such vaccines will also need to be distributed to everyone in a relatively short period of time, making this one of the largest logistics-related operations of our lifetimes.

We need to do what we can to help control the case counts in the meantime, to ensure that hospitals are not overwhelmed, that friends and family stay safe.

I shudder to think of the direction that dreaded Covid curve will take after U.S. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other celebrations this holiday season. It would be all too easy to drop our guard at a time when we traditionally come together.

But I’ll leave the final word to Leathers: “Don’t let your guard down now.”


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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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