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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Richard Connor: Do the right thing – if not for you then for the other guy

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Richard Connor

Many years ago, one of my children attended a summer camp that had the charming but powerful motto: “… the other fellow first.”

It struck me as a great mantra for life.

Amid all of the debate on how to return life to a semblance of normalcy in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic I have returned to that motto and believe it might be the simplest rule to follow.

There is, for instance, much debate about social distancing and whether or not we should all wear masks. I believe we should. It’s not so much for our own safety but for the welfare of others.

I was shocked this week to walk into a drugstore, a large chain store, and find I was the only person other than employees of the store wearing a mask. Drugstores carry all sorts of items these days but in essence they are places where sick people go to buy medicine. Not everyone who shops at the drugstore is ill, of course, but you are more likely to find a sick person there than at, let’s say, the post office.

Masks are not flattering and they are a nuisance but if you can protect someone else from getting sick why not wear one? Seems to me to be the polite, generous and just plain decent thing to do.

One of the dangers of “reopening” society and daily life in general is the number of people who believe that “poof!” – just like that – we can go back to living as we once did and the danger of COVID-19 will vanish just because a governor decides we need to get back to our daily routines.

The virus may have come upon us in a rush, but it will not go away all at once, in an instant. I tend to believe the worst is yet to come and we should continue to take all precautions because I would rather be wrong in that assumption than in the one that says everything is suddenly OK.

Life as we knew it has changed forever, in my view. Some of the changes at home and in the workplace will be improvements. There will also be many things we once did that are gone, and we will miss them forever.

If anything is clear to me it is that social distancing works. Whether masks work or not is up for debate but what’s the harm in wearing one?

The fallout from this pandemic is brutal. Many persons have lost jobs they will never regain. I believe the economy will not recover for a long time. Our business, the news business, will never be operated as it once was. Print journalism was already in trouble and now the problems have been compounded.

Businesses such as restaurants will have to adopt new models, and many will not survive this upheaval. These things are tragic and sad but as we all know we must forge ahead and move on. I hope we do not move too fast. Texas has reopened too soon, I believe. I pray I am wrong but if infections and deaths start to rise again we will have to pivot and quickly.

Satya Nadella is CEO of Microsoft and his observations on life, particularly business life, during and after the pandemic strike me as prescient. We will continue to go through a series of adjustments to return to something that resembles normal, he said in an interview with The New York Times. An excerpt:

“Mr. Nadella sees the world going through three phases during the pandemic. The first is simply responding to the immediate impact through office closures, cost cuts and the like. Then comes recovery, which is already underway in many places, and will be more like a ‘dial’ than a ‘switch.’ He said, ‘There will be lots of movement of the dial, back and forth.’

“In the ‘reimagining’ phase, innovations born of necessity during the previous two phases will emerge, like remote control of manufacturing processes, A.I. bots helping diagnose patients and more effective distance-learning technologies.”

I like the “dial” prediction. None of the inconveniences and changes we are experiencing will suddenly go away. There will a steady progression and there will, in fact, be a new normal. In the meantime it would be simple and wise to be cautious and careful – and to think of the other fellow first.

Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at rconnor@bizpress.net

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