my company is requiring us to travel because “they miss us”

A reader writes:

My company’s headquarters are based out of a city where the Delta variant is currently climbing rapidly, and where travel restrictions have recently been added as a result. I am a remote employee based out of another part of the country, and over half of our department is remote as well. I’ve just found out that, despite this, our department head is requiring my entire team to fly out to our HQ in two weeks because they “miss seeing all of us” and think our next team meeting would be more enjoyable if it was in-person.

Is there a polite way to handle this? Our company does not require vaccinations to work from our HQ, and some team members will be traveling from areas where vaccinations are low. We also had issues early in the pandemic where an employee came into the office with Covid symptoms this past winter and caused a panic, so I do not have faith in leadership regarding our safety. I would prefer not to go at all, but I don’t really know how to handle this.

For the love of ramen, what the hell is wrong with your company?

I mean, I know the answer because the last year has taught us the answer in relatively devastating ways.

But really, while case numbers are rising and the Delta variant is climbing rapidly, they think you should travel because they miss you?

No.

Some things you can say:

* “I’m not comfortable traveling right now, with the rising case numbers and the CDC’s latest warnings.”

* “My doctor told me not to travel right now.” (You can call your doctor and explain the situation and this will be true.)

* “My doctor told me not to travel anywhere with high case numbers right now.”

* “This isn’t something I’m able to do right now because of Covid.”

* “I have high-risk family members and can’t put their health in danger.”

Please encourage your colleagues to do the same.

People are often afraid of taking this kind of hard-line stance, so please know that it works surprisingly often, particularly if you’re just very matter-of-fact about it — your tone should convey that of course any reasonable person would agree you can’t go once they hear this. And really, even unreasonable/reckless employers are very likely to accept “my doctor said it’s not possible” in this context. Truly, you’re much less likely to get pushback on this than you might fear. (That doesn’t mean it solves things 100% of the time. But it does a lot of the time.)

And of course, if you get pushback on “this isn’t safe for me,” that puts you squarely in GET OUT GET OUT territory (to whatever extent you’re not already there).

{ 347 comments… read them below }

  1. Nicotena*

    My boss started requiring in-person staff meetings once a week. No change so far under delta. No real reason other than she thinks it’s “nicer.” So far, has made it to one – only the junior staff actually trucks in in-person.

    1. Anon for this*

      My husband is a spouse at a state U, he just got an email from the University’s president today affirming that the campus will be mandatory in person, vax- and mask-optional for the fall semester and it will be illegal for any university employees to require those things of the students or other employees.

      1. The Original K.*

        WHAT

        I hope this results in a mass exodus of students, faculty, and staff. I wouldn’t send my hypothetical child to a school with this requirement.

        I also just assumed, perhaps naively, that all colleges required vaccinations of all kinds. I distinctly remember going to my doctor the summer before I started college and saying basically “Here are the vaccinations I need to be able to go. Am I good? And if not, dose me up.”

        1. Allypopx*

          It might not be the college – Texas and Florida (I think its those) are saying they’ll pull state funding from any entity that requires masks or vaccines

          1. Anon. for this*

            Yes. This sounds like the situation in Florida. The state law is making it very challenging to require COVID vaccines. Fortunately, the college where I work is private so at least we can mandate masks and testing—and we are incentivizing voluntary vaccines/vaccine-reporting in other ways.
            Interestingly enough, vaccines for other diseases, like MMR, can still be required (albeit with religious and medical exemptions). I believe this is because they have formal FDA approval.
            Until the COVID vaccines get their full approval and workplaces can take firmer stances, I think it’s reasonable for workers to firmly indicate their boundaries. Admittedly some workplaces, including mine, have their limits (e.g., virtual work/study will not be possible for us), but we’ve had good luck by identifying core reservations to our administration, and at least getting reasonable responses to those. For example, the mask mandate, improved ventilation, key gatherings that had been scheduled indoors moved outdoors or online, temporary adaptations to campus policies, etc. It’s ultimately a bit like treating the symptoms rather than the causes of the problem, but it feels like less of a shrug-reaction than I’ve heard about elsewhere in the state.

            1. Ashley*

              Courts have upheld mandating the vaccine at Indiana University so at this point what states are doing is why some places can’t legally require it and it isn’t about it’s emergency authorization status.

              1. Jay*

                My daughter attends a Cal State university and they are requiring proof of vaccination for any in-person activities this fall. Of course, that is CA….

              2. KaciHall*

                Yet Purdue still won’t require the vaccine. And they have freshmen bunking up in rooms of up to 10 people.

                My Alma mater is terrible and it’s all Mitch’s fault.

                1. TooTiredToThink*

                  Wait… I saw that Tiktok of the new “dorm rooms” – and they aren’t requiring the vax?! I mean, even in the best of times those “dorm rooms” are unfortunate choices. I can’t even right now.

              3. J*

                Some states have made it illegal to have vaccine requirements- Iowa for instance. The state universities CANNOT require vacccines, and cannot ask students about vaccine status. Professors cannot require masks in their classes or office hours. Staff cannot work from home. That’s the governor’s final word.

                The only place it doesn’t apply is federal government.

                1. allathian*

                  I know I’m being vindictive here, but I just hope that the anti-vaxxers get sick at this point, and that those who care about their health get vaxxed. My heart bleeds for people who can’t get vaxxed for medical reasons, or because they live in an area where it’s hard to get vaxxed (minority populations), but honestly I don’t care if those who claim a religious exemption get sick.

              4. Rachel in NYC*

                I work at a private university in NY and wasn’t shocked they required it- initially for students and now for all staff. (Making it very clear at staff online forums that- yes, if you weren’t exempted (there was an approval process for religious and medical exemptions) there would be disciplinary steps taken if you didn’t provide proof that you were vaccinated or in the process of being vaccinated by Date X.

                We were in person almost at last year but students will be on campus- probably hell or highwater this fall.

                My office? We’re supposedly to be back in 6 weeks-ish but we’ll see.

                1. Splendid Colors*

                  California ended religious exemptions for routine school vaccinations at least an election or two before the pandemic. The only religions in the US that “discourage” vaccination as an official doctrine are Christian Science and the Dutch Reformed Church (and I haven’t even heard of the latter). Neither one bans it or threatens to kick people out if they get vaccinated.

                  There are individual church leaders who are invested in the political implications of vaccination and rant against COVID vaccinations–they should lose their tax-exempt status or have some other penalty. I bet they have no objection to MMR or the standard vaccinations and don’t tell believers to avoid flu shots. It’s the whole “vaccines are a leftist plot” nonsense.

            2. LC*

              Interestingly enough, vaccines for other diseases, like MMR, can still be required (albeit with religious and medical exemptions). I believe this is because they have formal FDA approval.
              Until the COVID vaccines get their full approval and workplaces can take firmer stances…

              I’ve been wondering about this recently. I haven’t looked into it at all, so at this point it’s just a thought in my head, but I wonder if the FDA is getting any undue pressure to delay formal approval. I don’t think it’s an outlandish possibility (which is horrifying in and of itself).

              1. AGirlHasNoScreenname*

                They are not. Inside scoop is a lot of FDA employees who had been eligible for retirement but just hanging in there for whatever reasons have, well, retired. And the USAJobs website requirement and the website itself being the mess that it is, the FDA simply cannot fill the vacancies as fast as they could. With all honestly, those BLAs are probably languishing away in some since-retired reviewer’s email inbox.

            3. Koamom*

              My daughter is going to a private university and they are highly recommending, but not requiring, vaccinations. However, requiring masks for everybody regardless in indoor areas due to the County case count. I’m fine with them not requiring the vaccines because I do believe it is a personal choice.

              1. JB*

                A personal choice? Goodness. That was the argument against seatbelt laws, too.

                It’s simply not ‘a personal choice’ when your choice about your own health and safety can take out other people in the process, whether that’s because you’ve turned your body into a projectile or into a disease carrier.

              2. Time’s Thief*

                It’s a personal choice until you interact with others or take up an increasingly rare hospital bed.

                Our two hospitals are full of anti-vaxxers and this morning a friend had to drive an hour away in excruciating pain to the next nearest hospital with room for her. She’s waiting to hear if the delay in treatment caused permanent damage.

                This isn’t like picking nail polish color, a choice that only affect the bearer. It’s a frickin’ pandemic and opting out of the solution should mean opting out of society and trying up scarce resources. Otherwise it’s no longer a personal decision, it’s making choices that affect everyone around them.

          2. Clisby*

            South Carolina, too. At least as far as requiring vaccines. Colleges can require masks as long as they require it of everyone, not just unvaccinated people. Frankly, I think this is what colleges should do. Just say everybody has to wear a mask.

            1. JG Obscura*

              Especially since most people are going on the honor system for un-masked people. You can’t just stop and ask every person without a mask if they’re vaccinated.
              My company has put in place a formal procedure to allow vaccinated people to go without masks. But there’s really nothing stopping un-vaxxed people from taking off their mask and pretending they’re vaccinated.

        2. Le Sigh*

          They often do in the U.S. At least the state school I went to did when I attended. And now they’re sort of shrugging their shoulders about a COVID vax requirement and acting like their hands are tied (what’s actually going on is the right-wing controlled statewide board is pulling the strings). It’s ridiculous.

        3. Boo TX Gov*

          It’s true that many universities require vaccinations. I’m in Texas and the university requires proof of a number of vaccinations before you’re allowed on campus, but the Governor has disallowed the university from requiring masks or vaccines as well as asking about vaccine status at all.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Yeah amazing they had no problem with require proof of measles, mumps and polio. but Covid — ooooh no, we can’t requre that one.

          2. Susana*

            It’s sad, but the only thing that will change this is when students go back to college and in October, say, some of them get COVID and die. Only then will there be enough pressure on the state governments to make vaccination a condition of college in-person attendance (as is the case for vaccinations at the K-12 level).

            1. JG Obscura*

              I wouldn’t get your hopes up. Millions of people have died and people still refuse to wear masks. Some people refuse to wear a mask even after a loved one caught COVID and died.

        4. SadToSay*

          At all public universities in Georgia (the state, not the country) is not requiring masks in class nor vaccines, but it is highly encourage. The University System of GA regents decided this. Most of the regents don’t have a science degree.

          1. SadToSay*

            Sorry about my errors – here is the post again:
            At all public universities in Georgia (the state, not the country) are not requiring masks in class nor vaccines, but it is highly encouraged. The University System of GA regents decided this. Most of the regents don’t have a science degree.

            1. kitkatbar*

              I work in a university in this state. We all know the BoR is run by right-wingers, at least in it’s majority. You don’t need a science degree to understand how to take precautions. COVID has been political in Georgia since day 1. If they cared at all about the students, we’d go back into hybrid or remote classes. They know what they’re doing. They are fine with students dying so they can enhance the optics of higher education in the state.

          2. TrainerGirl*

            I’m ashamed that my governor (VA – who is also a DOCTOR) isn’t reinstituting the mask mandate. He can’t get reelected, so he’s out the door come January. He’s got nothing to lose. The mayor of DC, Muriel Bowser, put the mask mandate back in place as of Saturday. Her sister died of COVID, so she is not taking any chances.

        5. M.J.*

          I’m in Oklahoma and the governor won’t mandate masks and vaccines at the state level so any entity that receives state money cannot mandate them. Those who want to continue to wear masks can do so, but it cannot be mandated and that’s not just colleges/universities, I think it applies to public K-12 schools and state offices so if you work for Oklahoma Department of (fill in the blank) same story. If you work for the federal government, that’s different and can be required. I think private businesses can still mandate them, but some lawmaker was trying to get a state law passed that made even private businesses unable to put mandates in place. Without a federal mandate making states require them, it’s going to be a patchwork of different policies depending on the state.

      2. Anonymous Esq*

        What do you mean the President of a University affirmed that it would be illegal to require that? He doesn’t get to choose what is illegal or not.

          1. quill*

            Yeah it’s usually the president conveying state legislature decisions in case someone, somehow, hasn’t been keeping up with the latest plague vector laws.

        1. AskJeeves*

          I read it as the university president confirming to the employees that the university is bound by current state law or regulation, and this is what’s required. (We don’t know whether the university president agrees with this policy – maybe s/he does, but they’d be bound to enforce it either way.)

        2. J.E.*

          If the state has made it so that any entity that receives state funding cannot mandate masks and vaccines then it is “illegal” by that state.

        3. J*

          If it is illegal in their state, he university president is just letting staff know that the university has no control in the matter.

      3. Paige*

        Oh, yay, another university doing that. Great. Welcome to the fun times, everyone.

        My spouse (and I) are in the same boat as far as university leadership goes. I, thankfully, am in an office and have almost no interaction with students, and my coworkers are all wearing masks again because SCIENCE.

        Spouse teaches and is vaxxed, but has immune suppression. Spouse cannot teach online this fall. Spouse is trying to decide if kn95 masks will be sufficient, or if they need to spring for n95s. Spouse has decided to let their students know that they have an immune issue, in the hopes that their students will decide to wear masks if they know they could literally endanger their prof’s life if they don’t.

        Fun times.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          I like that approach – letting his students know he’s immunocompromised. He’s not “requiring” anything but there should be a lot of peer pressure from the students to mask in that situation.

        2. EPLawyer*

          Would be nice. but Ron Rivera of the WFT tried this to get his players vaxxed. He is a cancer survivor — like literally last year had his last chemo. The team still has one of the lowest vax rates in the League. The owner’s attitude has a lot to do with it.

          1. Anonymous Pterodactyl*

            Just to tamp down on some of that alarm, here is some additional context: https://www.cnbc.com/2021/07/09/covid-heres-what-you-need-to-know-the-lambda-variant.html

            To summarize, the study referenced tested only Sinovac, a Chinese vaccine that only showed a 50.4% effectiveness in trials last January. No tests have been done to determine the efficacy of Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, or any other vaccines against Lambda (or at least, no results have been released from any tests). The WHO does not consider the Lambda variant to be as concerning as either Alpha (UK) or Delta (India), and the recommendation to wear goggles is attributed to a single MD who is on the editorial advisory board of the site being linked.

      4. KayZee*

        I work at a private college. Students are required to be vaccinated. Employees are not, but are required to disclose their status (in a private way). Faculty may not require masking in their classes, but certainly may wear a mask themselves.

          1. ecnaseener*

            I’m wondering if it’s because students have a remote option if they’re unvaxxed but faculty will have to be there? Just speculating

          2. Guin*

            Yes it is. I work at a university and that is their current position. It is mind-boggling. I’ll be wearing a mask all day, every day – and I’m fully vaxxed!

          3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

            It’s the same at my state school- I think it goes back to FDA approval issues (at least, nobody has told the university that they’re allowed to mandate employee vaccinations, whereas they have been told they can mandate student vaccinations). Also, employees tend to not live with large numbers of other employees, so it sort of makes sense that it would be more important for students to be vaccinated. Already 70% of employees have uploaded proof of vaccination though according to our COVID page.

        1. drsunsets*

          Thank goodness I work at an academic institution that is under Dutch law. The Netherlands has declared it fine for any entity to require vaccination of all employees, and that’s just what we’re doing.

          All students need to be vaccinated, all faculty need to be vaccinated, heck, even the groundskeepers need to be vaccinated.

      5. Rock Prof*

        My university has been requiring masks in classrooms but not in private offices or labs (which seems fine). I really hope they’re able to still have this requirement in the fall, but I live in a state where the legislature is also thinking of banning these types of requirements or we might lose funding.
        This legislature is so often at odds with the university system and basically seems to look for any reason to cut funding. It’s infuriating! Even from a purely fiscal standpoint, it doesn’t make sense. The university system, which is one of the most extensive in the country, has a huge return on investment and is one of the few things actually drawing people to this state!
        Unfortunately, even in a STEM field, faculty positions (particularly tenured) are few and far between, so unless you’re a rock star, it’s so hard to jump ship. And leaving academia can be terrifying because while academia is decidedly weird, when it’s a weirdness you know, everything else seems weirder.

      6. HugsAreNotTolerated*

        I wonder… when I was in college sometimes professors would offer up a free 100 on a quiz or homework assignment/drop your lowest quiz/test if you attended a specific outside lecture or event. For Astronomy it was going to a star-gazing party, for Archeology it was being a demonstrator in the Archeology lab during an open house for donors, etc.
        Interestingly enough, when my alma mater was running a large drive-up vaccination event over the course of several weeks, many professors would offer up an excused absence or bonus points on a test for students who were volunteering at the event.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          At our university, each college was given a giant stash of cloth masks that we can distribute to faculty and staff, to keep in our offices, to be offered to students and others who visit our offices. Per state law, we are not allowed to *require* them to wear the mask.

          The letter also addressed that faculty may not give bonuses or credit to incentivize mask-wearing. It’s not our university leadership, either; it’s the state legislature because they’re a bunch of conservative jackwagons. So later this month, the tens of thousands of students will return to campus for fall classes — which are required to be in-person — and lord knows what will happen or how long it’ll last before we all get sent home to work remotely again.

        1. Anon for this one*

          Oops sorry nesting fail – we are required to teach in person, not allowed to require masks or vaccination from students (or instructors) at Canadian state U.

      7. Rivakonneva*

        I think your husband works at the same Uni I do. The mandatory ‘everything in person’ has me worried. :(

      8. Also Anon For This*

        I’m an employee of a state univ that just yesterday announced it will start requiring masks again but does not plan to reverse its policy about all classes being in-person. If it’s not safe for me to be there without a mask, then I do not consider it safe for me to be there at all, and I am 100% prepared to quit if the U tries to force us to come back. (Of course, I’ve been itchin’ to walk for a while for other reasons, but this is worth making a huuuuuuge scene over.)

    2. Shut It Down*

      If you (and your coworkers) can, it would be a real kindness to push back on this on behalf of everyone. The junior staff may be uncomfortable or scared to go in-person but feel they don’t have a choice.

    3. TIRED*

      Your boss sounds like my former boss. She thinks it’s “nicer.” So she is either desperate for human social interaction because she doesn’t get it from her personal life / family / housemates – or she misses all the bullying in-person that bosses get to do. Sorry you are dealing with this Nicotena.

    4. Laney Boggs*

      Yeah, we’re in the office 3 days a week.

      In a basement.

      In a county with a 30% vaxx rate

      But hey we have the company-brand, brand-new air purifiers that definitely certainly kill Covid

  2. Construction Safety*

    That giant “Woosh” you just heard was the clue flying @ 30,000 feet over the company’s head.

    1. Decima Dewey*

      The meeting will be more enjoyable if it’s in person? For my money, it would be more enjoyable if it didn’t happen at all!

      1. LadyK*

        It’s called micromanaging. Lol. My whole company went hybrid with the exception of my department. We met all our yearly objectives by mid year that’s how productive we’ve been. These managers are life sucks.

  3. No Tribble At All*

    OP, you’re 100% correct to push back on this. You could be saving your life and the lives of other people around you.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I’m afraid that your comment has been passed over by other people, but this really is the most important point here. In fact, at this point, I would say rather than “could be saving lives” it is actually “will be saving lives”.

    2. Llama Llama*

      Yeah, their reaction might be negative but it’s not worth dying over. Or someone else dying over.

  4. Sarah N*

    Especially if you band together as a group, I think employees have a lot more power right now than they think. My husband’s office really wants people back in 2-3 days per week, but also their whole industry is desperate for employees and they can’t hire fast enough, so when people have said they don’t want to…they kind of just have to accept it? They have made the request, and some people who are comfortable with it are doing it while others are just not. They could push harder or fire people, but those people would pretty easily find work elsewhere and can shop around for remote work policies, so it’s not in the company’s interest.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      Agreed that hearing concerns may change things. I am at an academic institution and we’re required to be 100% on site, but meetings and such are still widely virtual, especially with lots of people. My department is supposed to have an all-staff session this Friday for strategic planning, and it was supposed to be in person. When all the location managers were together, several of us expressed concern for ourselves and on behalf of employees who were nervous about it. They changed it to a virtual session within 48 hours of hearing our concerns.

  5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    They will miss you even more if you leave for a new job with a company that has common sense

    1. Aunt Vixen*

      I was just thinking “We miss you too, but how much more will we miss one another if someone gets seriously ill or worse, knowwhatImean? Like everyone’s been saying this whole time, let’s put off getting back together until it’s safe?”

  6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    ‘That’s not possible for me in this current situation’

    (Sound of ex virologist head explosion. FFS viruses do not care about feelings, about team morale, about individual morale even. This one is dangerous to all, mutates into more dangerous forms and spreads easily unless people get vaccinated.)

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Ain’t it the truth? Personally I can point out of that my morale is much better without long covid and without any dead immunosuppressed relatives.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Mine would be a lot better if I’d not lost 3 people to this virus. I’m…not coping terribly well with it now because I have been vaccinated and feel guilty that I got to live while they died before the vaccines became available. I know it’s illogical.

        1. Laura*

          I lost my father to COVID in January, and I have that same guilt. He would’ve been first in line for the vaccine because he believed in science (even though he was no fan of Biden & watched Fox News regularly).

        2. AnonEMoose*

          I am so sorry for your loss. And survivor’s guilt is awful; I hope you can take advantage of grief counseling and that it helps you go forward and that it at least gets easier to live with.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Thank you, and major sympathy for those feeling the same.

            I’m working on getting the counselling again. Had it last year when the deaths occurred but survivors guilt wasn’t something mentioned or even that I’d really heard of before.

    2. Case of the Mondays*

      I think they should elaborate. If they just say “not possible” the employer can fire them for not meeting the “requirements” of the job. If they elaborate that they have a health concern, there may be protections.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I see your point, and it’s a good one. I just don’t know how to express it without leaving self wide open for Covid denial responses.

        1. Ashley*

          The medical accommodation can be helpful here. A doctor not advising travel to a high COVID rate area to be in an indoor gathering with unvaccinated people should be pretty easy to come by.

    3. Liz*

      Um yeah? but that would mean those in charge have common sense.

      My office has been “back” one day a week. Before Delta became caused things to become an even bigger sh*t show than it is, the rules were no masks in the office IF you are vaccinated and provide proof (confidentially), but if you are not, or choose not to reveal your status, you must wear a mask. Of course, as things change and evolve, i fully expect this to change as well.

      I’ve been in twice, both times, very few people around, and I didn’t wear one. But now I probably will even though I don’t need to. I’m a little more paranoid given how virulent Delta is, and how many idjits there are running around.

  7. Paige*

    Just posting to say I love the phrase “For the love of ramen”.

    Everything else, just, argh. LW, I’m sorry your company is run by idiots.

      1. quill*

        I think it might have to do with us collectively deciding to travel to ramen island after an LW’s coworker was a snob about it. ;)

  8. MissFinance*

    I feel like a lot of companies are this way and I just want to get on top of a building and scream “The pandemic is not over people!”

    1. Threeve*

      You’ll have to scream pretty loud to be heard by the people with their eyes closed and their fingers in their ears going “lalalala I can’t hear you, everything’s fine!”

      1. RosyGlasses*

        That’s literally one of our sales persons on the east coast. We were on a coffee chat zoom last week and were talking about rising cases again and she’s all – I’ll just stay here in my bubble – everything is fine here, sorry it’s burning hellfire there lala lalala. *facepalm*

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          I’m sitting here on the east coast, in a state with one of the highest vaccination rates–and even with that, there’s an outbreak of the delta variant on Cape Cod that seems to have spread even among vaccinated people.

          The virus isn’t going to stop at the Massachusetts border, or care who I voted for last November.

          I know exactly one person who can legitimately say “it’s OK in my bubble”–his bubble is New Zealand. (We communicate entirely online, of course.)

          The virus isn’t going to stop at the Massachusetts border, or care who I voted for last November.

    2. Powercycle*

      The amateur sport that I participate in is like this now that most facilities we play at are now open. One of our team captains was whining and threatening to kick people off the squad because many haven’t been active this year and barely anyone wants to travel 3+ hours to play with hundreds of other strangers from all over the place.
      I recently hugged my immunocompromised mom for the first time in 18 months now that we’re all fully vaccinated. I’m in no rush to travel to go spend an entire day with a large group of mostly unmasked strangers whose vaccination/covid status is unknown just as the delta variant is spreading. Not everyone is going to feel comfortable in such an environment even if they’re fully vaccinated! Just want to smack people over the head and yell “The pandemic isn’t over yet!!!”

      1. AnonyTraveller*

        This so much!

        And to put this in perspective–I just returned from an international vacation. The vacation was booked before the recent spikes and as the spikes started I did the risk calculation and decided I was still comfortable travelling. For one, the country I travelled to has a lower transmission rate than my home county currently, I am fully vaccinated, and the destination has a country wide mask mandate. When I returned to the US two days ago I was required to have a negative Covid test to re-enter the US and so was everyone else on my flight, and masks are still required on all planes. My office is still working remotely, meaning even if I somehow am now carrying Covid, I present to risk to my coworkers.

        And I still wasn’t comfortable going to church yesterday because people aren’t wearing masks, the vaccination rate in my area is barely 50% and people are being much more cavalier than the country I travelled to.

    3. lilsheba*

      same here. Everyone is acting like it’s done…and cases are rising faster than we can keep up with again! How do they figure it’s over?

    4. Lily Puddle*

      This! A manager at my office recently remarked in an in-person meeting (all of our meetings are in-person now) something like now that the pandemic is going away…. We live in a red state that has seen a big increase in cases over the past few weeks, but apparently the pandemic is over.

    5. Never Boring*

      My employer is still not requiring universal masking in the office, even though the CDC and the city are both recommending it, and even though at least one vaccinated person in the office that I know of tested positive. This is why I wish the city would issue a mask requirement, not an advisory.

      Of course I cannot fathom why I am currently required to go in to the office 3x/week, even though none of our clients are back in the office, and nobody (including my boss) can tell where I am unless they ask, and I spend basically the whole day alone in my office with the door shut doing things that I can do even more efficiently at home because I am the one who designed our awesome paperless processes.

  9. Liz*

    I recommend not sharing too much because it opens up opportunities for pushback. Stick to what AAM suggests – “I’m not comfortable with this due to COVID” rather than “I’m not comfortable until cases decline” because that gives your boss a window for “oh but the city we want to send you to has declining cases, so no problem!” Keep it vague, firm, and polite.

    1. Shut It Down*

      This. And if it helps, cite an authority they can’t argue with directly — ie, “My doctor has told me not to travel.” The end.

      1. quill*

        Yeah, easier to cite your own personal doctor (and they don’t know who that is!) than the WHO (where they’ll say ‘no they’re talking about countries that haven’t been vaxxed yet) or the CDC (where they’ll go “but earlier they said everyone who is vaccinated is 100% fine~!”) or any personal details (which they’ll brush off).

        Be a polite grey rock with a strict personal authority figure. Much like you might have in high school to deal with things you didn’t want to do.

    2. Archaeopteryx*

      I would stick with “that’s not possible” rather than “I’m not comfortable”. The latter sounds more wishy-washy and more like it’s about you being timid or a personal preference; I think they’ll hear it as though it was “I’m not comfortable wearing a two-piece swimsuit.”

      “That’s not possible for me because of Covid” is firmer and reinforces that it’s because of external reality, not because of internal mindset.

  10. No name for this one*

    Now how do I get my co-worker, who insists she’ll never be vaccinated, to wear a mask? She REFUSES to wear a mask and social distance no matter how many times we’ve asked her to, saying “I don’t have to wear a mask”

    I hate going to work each day now because she causes my anxiety to spike to near panic-attack levels.

    1. AskJeeves*

      Are masks required at your workplace? If so, go to HR! And if not, at the very least, I’d think refusing to social distance is a problem that HR should address. Standing close to someone when they’ve explicitly asked for more space is weird and creepy, pandemic or not.

      1. No name for this one*

        That’s the thing, the new Covid policy has two contracting statements and I’m not allowed to go to HR for clarification (which I think is ridiculous). No, we have to ask our supervisor to interpret the policy.

        Well, my supervisor is on vacation right now and getting a definitive answer about anything from them is like pulling teeth.

        Said unvaxxed employee will wear her mask sometimes if the supervisor is around, but as soon as the supervisor leaves, it’s back to no mask and spreading germs.

            1. Koalafied*

              That’s so bizarre, since HR isn’t part of anyone’s chain of command and the entire premise of what HR is, is that they handle personnel matters for all employees in all departments at all levels of seniority. Who in the world is allowed to go to HR for anything, other than people in HR??

              It’s why Michael Scott hated Toby so much. As the HR rep, he was the only person in the office who didn’t report up to Michael. HR is outside of the regular chain of command.

              1. AskJeeves*

                Yeah, that makes no sense and seems like it could open up the company to legal liability? Employees need a way to report illegal behavior at the workplace (harassment, discrimination), ask for legal accommodations (ADA, FMLA), and be protected from other illegality (retaliation). Overall this workplace sounds like it is full of bees. I’m sorry, No Name.

            2. Quinalla*

              Weird! With your supervisor out, who do you go to in his stead? That’s who I’d go to now and if you don’t know who that is, go to HR all apologetic that you aren’t sure who to go to. Sorry you are dealing with this!

            3. mf*

              Then use the “chain of command” in your favor. Escalate to your supervisor’s manager. If that person is not available, go to their boss.

        1. Paris Geller*

          . . . you’re not allowed to go to HR?
          Is that order coming from HR? If not, I’d go to HR anyway. If it is, then. . . jump ship if you can? I know that’s easier said than done though depending on your field/job opportunities/pay/etc.

        2. Lance*

          So basically, she knows she shouldn’t be doing these things, but thinks it’s fine to do them anyway.

          Your co-worker is awful, and company similarly so for being so senselessly strict on policy inquiries.

        1. HigherEdAdminista*

          If there was some other issue, who would you go to if your supervisor wasn’t around? Can that person be told about the issue? I would also make it clear that you have observed her put it on when supervisors are around and remove it as soon as they are out of site.

          I’m sorry you have to deal with this person. What I hope would happen to them probably violates the comment policy! It’s so frustrating to be worried and have people who are proud of how much danger they can put others in.

          1. Ashley*

            This. There should be a chain of command for when the boss is not available. Also I always try to suggest ways I can modify my behavior instead of the co-worker. In this case something like can I WFH or if that isn’t reasonable can co-worker only call me / chat. It would at least help with the distance but it doesn’t help with how air circulates in an enclosed space overall.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I’d offer you a job at our place. I’ve got absolutely zero cool for antivaxxers and mask deniers and will not have them here.

      (Usual addition: if you can’t get a vaccine for medical reasons I’ll do everything in my power to keep you safe. Everyone else gets Fields Virology Vol. 2 thrown at them.)

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Man if I didn’t have to pack up and move I’d be all in for this thing. My company doesn’t require masks or vaccines and refuses to let us continue working from home…unless you have to quarantine after your kid gets exposed to covid at daycare. Which is what I am currently doing.

        No I am not ok. Panic attacks every day since we went back 4 weeks ago. And now my worst fears confirmed.

        1. Never Boring*

          The one general out that our employer has give us is that we shouldn’t come in if we are not feeling well. With my crappy respiratory system, on pretty much any given day I have symptoms that overlap with COVID. I am not sick every time I sneeze or cough or my eyes water, I am fully vaccinated, and in general I am staying the hell away from people (and I mask at work unless I am alone in my own office with the door shut). I am starting to wonder what management would do if I emailed every morning and said I had COVID symptoms. Hmmmm….

      2. A Person*

        PLEASE tell me that’s an actual book that you can actually throw?

        I’d work for you in a New York minute (didja like that Americanism?) but I don’t have the job skills you need, alas. Although I was told earlier today that my (html) coding is always clean, so there’s that. :)

      1. No name for this one*

        More like the 39 and a half foot pole the singer won’t touch the Grinch with!

    3. Mental Lentil*

      I would buy one of those transparent riot shields that police have and just hold it up whenever she’s around me. (They’re around $90 on eBay.)

    4. Liz T*

      Sounds like your company is built to favor the Problem Children. You should think of ways you can be a Problem Child to your maskless vaxless coworker so she’ll give you a wide berth. (After all, she’ll have the same chain-of-command issues reporting you, right?)

      1. Chris too*

        I’m Canadian and where I live we’re still taking this seriously ( so obviously, I’m not in Alberta .) I wouldn’t even bother with HR, I’d just call public health and ask if they could do a premise inspection, and I’d tell the inspector loudly and clearly what the plague rat was doing.

    5. CatCat*

      Honestly, you cannot personally force her to wear a mask. You can report her, but you can’t make her wear a mask. You can get loud about her keeping space between you and her. I am not saying yell, but raise your voice so that your point is made and others know you are setting a boundary, and physically move away from her if you have to. “Keep back at least six feet from me.” “You’re too close!”

      1. Pobody's Nerfect*

        The thing is, the airborne nature of Covid spread negates the old 6′ rule; there is no safe distance indoors when it comes to Covid and potential infection, it spreads like smoke and can hang in the air for hours and hours. And with Delta now it only takes a few seconds to get infected, rather than the old “15 minutes” they used to spout originally. If you are working in the same indoors space with people who don’t wear masks, you and everyone else there is at risk.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, absolutely this. People who carry the Delta variant spread about 1000 times more virus around them than those who had the original variant, and it looks like you can catch it after a 5-10 [i]second[/i] exposure, rather than 15 minutes. People have been known to get it and spread it after full immunity from two vaccinations. The only consolation is that thanks to vaccinations, fewer people need hospitalization. But you can still get sick even after two vaccinations.

          I really, really don’t understand how anyone can think that the pandemic’s over.

    6. Anon for This*

      You don’t say what the work environment is like, but if you have the ability to avoid her in person – e.g., close your office door and don’t let her in – and insist that all meetings with her be virtual, that’s what I’d do. (And for back-up, I like the riot shield idea!)

    7. WellRed*

      I’m tempted to tell you to repeat your last paragraph to her. And then loudly ask her to step back.

    8. Verde*

      All the usual comments, plus:
      “Masks, they’re not just about Covid.”
      Signed,
      A Person Who Just Got the NotCovid(TM) Flu After Being Around A Large Group of Vaccinated But Unmasked People And It Was Nasty

    9. Free Meerkats*

      You can’t do much about the mask, but the cat spray bottle can fix the social distance problem. If you worry about pushback because of the water, use a can of spray air.

    10. Database Developer Dude*

      Social distancing? People don’t refuse my requests to social distance from me more than once. I get rude otherwise.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Or my totally unprofessional suggestion – I start eating sugar free mints. The gas that gives me is so unbelievably vile that nobody will want to come closer than 10 feet.

      2. Pobody's Nerfect*

        The thing is, the airborne nature of Covid spread negates the old 6′ rule; there is no safe distance indoors when it comes to Covid and potential infection, it spreads like smoke and can hang in the air for hours and hours. And with Delta now it only takes a few seconds to get infected, rather than the old “15 minutes” they used to spout originally. If you are working in the same indoors space with people who don’t wear masks, you and everyone else there is at risk.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Most of what you’ve said is wrong regarding the virus. It cannot hang in the air for hours, it is droplet borne so can’t disperse like smoke and infection depends largely on viral load/time – infection time in mere seconds is technically feasible with any virus given a high enough viral load (I once worked in a viral research lab – the concentrations grown there were unnatural and could infect that fast) it is amazingly unlikely for this family of viruses to actually occur.

          It is dangerous. It is important for all to take precautions and get vaccinated. But it’s also important to be factual.

          1. LizWings*

            Multiple sources say it can remain in the air for hours through “smaller, infectious virus particles” besides the larger droplets you reference. Here are the first few reputable sources I found, the EPA, CDC, Harvard:
            https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/indoor-air-and-coronavirus-covid-19
            https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-briefs/sars-cov-2-transmission.html
            https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/06/health/coronavirus-airborne-aerosols.html
            https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/covid-19-basics

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Yes, but not as a ‘smoke’ comprised of millions of virons that can infect in a second. I’m 100% for truth, I’m still scared of this virus, but making it out to be something that can blow in through your house window hours after an infected person coughs down the street is a bit much.

          2. allathian*

            Yeah, that. But the viral load from people infected with the Delta variant is orders of magnitude (some estimates say up to 1,000 times) higher than the viral load from people infected with the other variants. So the 15-minute “safe zone” definitely no longer applies.

            According to one internal CDC report that’s been publicized by at least the Washington Post, the Delta variant is as infectious as chicken pox. No wonder it’s become the dominant variant all over the world.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              I never believed in a 15 minute safe zone anyway – that’s kinda akin to the ‘you can pick food up off the floor within a time period and eat it without getting germs’ stuff. It’s all probability mechanics.

              Don’t want to give anyone the impression I’m not scared of this variant. I am. A deadly respiratory virus pandemic was the worst case scenario of all our nightmares in virology and seeing it come to life is horrific. I just don’t want people to start fearing the air around them and thinking that someone infectious could have breathed half a mile down the road two hours ago and they’re gonna get infected the instant they open a door.

              I’m paranoid enough.

  11. ThatGirl*

    I work out of a corporate HQ, and we have an office two states away for a smaller business unit. My team works pretty closely with a team there, we’re all under the same big boss. So she decided everyone should get together in August, and as of right now the plan is still for them to come this way at the end of the month, with in-person meetings and team dinners. We’re not in super-hot spots but our rate has been going up, and I’m really wondering what that’s gonna look like and how the other team is feeling about travel…

  12. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

    They “miss” you? You know who I miss? My long distance boyfriend, who I haven’t seen face to face in a year and a half, thanks to, you know, A FLIPPING ACTIVE STILL OCCURRING RIGHT NOW PANDEMIC. Some companies (and people) are stupid.
    I’m in the “You’ll miss me more when I leave for a smarter company” camp.

  13. Old Admin*

    Holy Moly Macaroni Matzoh Balls!
    I’m an ex-scientist myself and just needed to say that…

    …but seriously, I’ve learned from my own company that “we miss you”, “it’s nicer in person” yadda yadda actually is code for “butts in seats”, “we don’t believe in Covid”, and the kicker “we don’t trust you to be productive from home”.

    1. quill*

      And also “short term profit is king, we need people to act like it’s all over at the absolute first minute. No, we don’t care that rushing things stretches out recovery, we’re only looking at quarterly numbers.”

    2. mediamaven*

      Both can be true. I miss my team and we also are not performing adequately at home. I’m not bringing them back yet but this is detrimental to business which is what this is.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I, too, am giving a big side-eye to “we miss you”. If they missed their remote employees, they’d be doing everything in their power to keep those employees, ya know, alive.

      1. JustaTech*

        Exactly.
        The big boss’ bored/lonely does not outweigh the staff being alive and well.

  14. Brooks Brothers Stan*

    All I can say is that I am really happy and lucky that my big boss immediately put the brakes on returning back to the office and pushing for more in-person events as soon as it became evident that the delta variant was more than a minor blip on the radar. Just on our staff call this morning he issued guidance that we need to start looking at moving as many things as possible to online only.

    And as shortly as a month ago he was full speed ahead on wanting everyone back in the office as much as possible.

  15. For the love of ramen*

    You could “call in sick” at the last minute. I did that for a conference I didn’t want to attend when everybody else thought it was fine.

  16. Person from the Resume*

    Ugh! Many Americans seem to be just done with COVID precautions. Your company leaderships seems to be some of them. This was supposed to be done by so Delta variant, rising OVID numbers and hospitalizations be damped, they want to see you face-to-face.

    I agree with Alison. You got to do what you got to do.

  17. J*

    I’ve been working in person all the pandemic and my company isn’t consistent about guidelines. I’m at the point where I don’t care.

  18. Spearmint*

    So, I definitely think it’s crappy the company is requiring this for such a superficial reason, and LW should push back if they’re uncomfortable, but I guess I just don’t see this as being as outrageous as others here do.

    Sure, there is a spike in delta variant cases, but vaccinated individuals are still at extremely low risk for hospitalization or death even from the delta variant, and are less likely to catch and spread the virus in the first place. Assuming LW is vaccinated, they’re at very low risk of anything bad happening to them. As for unvaccinated coworkers, well, unless they have a medical reason preventing them from doing so, it’s their choice to take that risk. The vaccines have been free and widely available in the US for months (assuming LW is in the US). I don’t think vaccinated individuals or businesses need to shield the unvaccinated from the consequences of their individual choices.

    (Of course, I think LW’s employer should have been more explicit that people with medical issues that put them at high risk and/or prevent vaccination could opt out, I’ll ding them for that)

      1. Allypopx*

        Yeah I don’t have kids but I assume “less likely to spread” isn’t a huge comfort to parents of young children

      2. Spearmint*

        Young children are very unlikely to get severe cases. For young children, covid and the flu really aren’t that different in terms of risk.

        1. quill*

          With young children though you might not already know about a developing health condition that could cause significant additional risk though. And also, babies and toddlers are at much higher risk for nearly all illnesses (immune systems aren’t cooked yet) than school age kids.

          1. Cat Tree*

            Exactly. My daughter is 3 months old and at greater risk for everything. I won’t roll the dice with Covid. Other risks that are greater or less (such as flu or car crashes) are red herrings. Exposing her to Covid doesn’t decrease the risk of those other things happening. Also, she’ll be able to get a flu shot in a couple months.

        2. what.*

          “Shame your beloved child died/was permanently impaired thanks to the company requiring travel UNNECESSARILY, but don’t be too sad — it was unlikely!”

        3. Nea*

          “Unlikely to get” and “children have died of COVID” are facts that coexist. Parents have the right to decide not to roll the dice no matter how good the odds.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Very much agreed. It’s just another variant of the ‘if you’re young and healthy this is no danger to you’ bs.

          2. Case of the Mondays*

            I 100% agree with you but be ready for the pushback that your child is more likely to die in a car accident and you still drive with your child in the car, so this risk should be tolerable to you. I disagree with that argument but it’s one I keep hearing thrown around. “If people are willing to drive with their kids than they are just using COVID to get out of XYZ.” Ugh. People.

              1. Chris too*

                I was an early adopter of masks and intend to keep wearing them for a long time still. When people yap on at me about “sheep” I will tell them yes, the pandemic is sure separating the sheep from the goats.

                1. Nea*

                  I plan on wearing masks in large indoor gatherings – theater, conventions – pretty much for the rest of my life. I don’t want y’all’s common cold either.

                2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                  My mother has severe lung damage due to getting whooping cough as an adult. I’m definitely sticking to carrying masks around as soon as I feel even the tickle of a cold from now on.

                  Additionally, man it’s been great not being flat on my rear end due to a respiratory infection for 2 years.

                3. HerdingCatsWouldBeEasier*

                  “Better a live sheep than a dead a$$. What, no, of course I’m referring to a donkey, why would you think otherwise?”

            1. quill*

              People should be grateful that less in-person things means they are out of the range of my whacking stick when this comes up.

            2. Nea*

              My response to that is “invalid analogy.” You can take extra protection for your children in the car in at least three ways – drive a car with a high safety rating, seatbelts, child seats.

              There is only one extra covid protection you can use for a child below vaccination age, masking, and it is subject to user error and the general public’s rising refusal to comply.

              1. allathian*

                Yes, and masking isn’t really practical for any kids under 2, and for those under about 10 or 12 it really depends on the kid. Some wear them like they were born with a mask on and others will rip them off as soon as nobody’s watching.

          3. Guacamole Bob*

            As a parent I’ve been trying to find the happy medium between “COVID is way less risky to my kids than all sorts of other things I barely worry about and don’t totally rearrange and restrict their lives for” and “of course I need to keep them locked down until they’re vaccinated, how could I think of putting them at risk” for months now. There are people I respect taking positions all over that spectrum, and parents are really being left to figure it out for themselves. It’s exhausting.

            1. allathian*

              You’re right there. I’m just so happy that my son’s 12, and there’s some hope that he’ll get his shots this year. They’re already vaccinating kids over 12 with health issues like diabetes or asthma, we’re just waiting for them to start vaccinating healthy kids as well.

          4. tangerineRose*

            “Parents have the right to decide not to roll the dice no matter how good the odds.” Yes, this!

            And people without kids also have the right to not want to roll the dice because the company “misses you”.

        4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Young children may not be *as much* at risk of death or severe disability from the virus but they do provide a heckin’ great viral growth and mutation reservoir.

          1. quill*

            Children are germ sponges. Ask a teacher how often they get pinkeye or strep. Just ask one. And then realize how seldom all other adults get it, comparatively.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Agreed. I don’t have children and am not around them much but part of my epidemiology masters was about how children can generate a surprising number of bacterial and viral variants while showing relatively minor symptoms.

              1. quill*

                And a surprising number of formerly untreatable (pre-vaccines) “childhood diseases” such as measles, tended to have a pattern of “babies die, children of the exact right age to weather this who don’t already have any other health issue we don’t know about turn out fine, it’s a crapshoot for anyone outside the correct age range to have a “childhood disease” or who did not catch the virus while already in perfect health.”

                Most of us would prefer that the babies didn’t die, I hope? Babies are still at high risk of dying from flu compared to their older siblings.

                1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                  Also, some of the strains of Influenza A are markedly *more* dangerous to the young people. Did my undergrad dissertation on Influenza A.

            2. allathian*

              I just hope that the sanitizing procedures remain in place even after we learn to live with Covid longer term. Even in areas where kids have been back to in-person school, the rates of non-Covid respiratory infections and other infections like pinkeye have dropped dramatically, both among teachers and students.

              Hand washing and sanitizing works, people, so let’s keep it up.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                100% agreed. It also drastically reduces the spread of fecal-oral transmitted viruses like Hepatitis A, gastroenteritis etc. Clean thine hands!

          2. JustaTech*

            Not to mention that children who do end up hospitalized need specialized equipment and staff, and while you can send a pediatric ICU doc to work on adults, it’s harder to go the other way because kids (especially babies) had some kind of fundamental physiological differences when they’re very, very sick that require specialized training to recognize/deal with.

            Oh, and RSV has picked up early this year in the US and New Zealand – in case we needed another serious respiratory virus going around.

        5. RabbitRabbit*

          Children are also susceptible to MISC (multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children) post-COVID, which can be bad enough to be a life-threatening emergency, and there’s also the risk of other post-COVID syndrome problems. In addition, COVID-19 is being linked to neurological/cognitive issues, which you would not want to risk inflicting on a developing young mind.

          And there’s also the fact that kids are extremely efficient little germ vectors normally and so every kid they come in contact is now going to get a nice big dose of highly-infectious Delta variant to send home to their parents/grandparents/etc.

        6. Irishgirl*

          Well as a parent of a 4 year old that just had COVID delta, my concern is not how she was while sick with COVID, she was not herself for 2 days with a slight cough and no fever, it’s the long term lung damage she could have. Right after she was sick we also had the wildfire smoke in the northeast which irritated her lungs. She is now coughing intermittently with activity which could be a sign of activity related asthma. So while you are half right on how young kids may feel while sick, there can be long term health issues that aren’t seen with the cold or flu

        7. Code Monkey, the SQL*

          Young children can still pass it.

          Ask me how sick my daughter got when she brought it home from daycare. Now ask me how sick I got.

        8. Loredena Frisealach*

          A five year old died in Georgia last week. I’m sure it’s comforting to be told how unlikely it was.

          1. allathian*

            Absolutely. There’s a huge difference between statistics and individual cases. No matter what the reason, the death of a child is always a tragedy for the family.

        9. Quinalla*

          Sure and I get my kids a flu shot every year to mitigate that risk as much as possible. A COVID vaccine is not an option yet for under 12 year old kids so yeah, the whole attitude of welp, adults choosing not to get vaccines isn’t affecting anyone and companies don’t really need to do anything special anymore is bullshit. It already was bullshit because of people who can’t get the vaccine and the fact the more people who are unvacinnated the more likely variants become which could be a danger to all – vaccinated or no. But seriously, ALL children under 12 cannot get vaccines. That is a huge percentage of the population and huge percentage of employees anywhere live with one or more people that can’t get vaccinated because of this. It is beyond frustrating as a parent of kids under 12 that so many people are acting like it is no big deal if my kids get COVID. One of my kids has asthma – so huge deal for her – and yeah, I don’t want long term long damage and who knows what else we don’t know yet and yeah there is still a risk of dying, though yes less than for adults. Ugh, this is so frustrating and I will feel so much less anxiety when my kids are vaccinated too.

          1. S*

            I wholeheartedly agree. I’m angry at the non-vaxxers but also angry with vaxxers who act like everyone who isn’t vaccinated isn’t vaccinated by choice so who cares about them? I have 3 kids under 12, including one who is too young to mask. Kids are absolutely getting sick from COVID, and people acting as though they aren’t is frankly terrifying.

        10. justanobody*

          Just saw on today’s news that pediatric ICUs in Florida are filling up with Covid Kids.

        11. nonethefewer*

          You have no way of knowing the long-term risks of having COVID when young, because no one knows that yet. Saying that they’re not that different re risk requires knowing the long-term risks as well.

          Also, “there’s a lower risk in children for getting severe COVID (so go ahead along to that on-site!)” is an odd stance to take, gotta say.

        12. Ariaflame*

          Before Delta it was just ‘we didn’t notice when most of them got it unless they infected their families and the symptoms started showing up weeks later for those who got long covid’. Now pediatric departments are filling with covid infected children. I think your information may be a bit old.

      3. quill*

        And many over 12 but under 16, the vaccines were only approved for the non-driving teens in May. Between it being 2 doses and availability depending on your location, there are probably a lot of teens who won’t count as fully vaccinated before their school year starts.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      The more people who stay unvaccinated – the more the virus has a lovely big pool to grow and mutate in. It greatly increases the chances of getting a new variant that the current vaccines are not as effective against, not to mention something that’s far, far worse.

      1. James*

        It’s not just that, though. Increased vaccination rates mean that there is a powerful selection pressure as well, which combined makes this situation quite dangerous. Merely having a pool can limit the number of variants, as the various selection pressures from microhabitats cancel each other out; limit the pool and merely by chance you’ll remove some of those selection pressures, causing others to increase in relative importance. And in this case it’s worse, because we’re intentionally setting up selection pressure.

        That’s why it’s so important to get people vaccinated quickly. By starting we’ve created a situation that could easily become worse than it was before we began, and could circumvent our attempts to control the virus.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          That’s more applicable to bacterial disease mutation than viral (like how antibiotics can generate resistant strains but vaccines/antivirals generally don’t).

      2. quill*

        Also the more people have even “mild” cases of covid, the less likely you are to get quality care based on hospitals having been overextended for a year and a half already. The more cases spikes, the more people with theoretically survivable cases die based on less available care. Also the more people with long term damage!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Can I just say it’s doing wonders for my mental state seeing brilliant responses like yours? No sarcasm, genuinely gives me hope.

          1. quill*

            Am I sustaining myself by being absolutely, pettily accurate? Why yes, I am.

            I did Envisci in college, if it’s good for anything it’s good for training you to cudgel people into “scientifically, this thing that is inconvenient for you is better for the survival of the whole species, so suck it up, buttercup. Yes even if you think that it isn’t a big deal this one time, there are millions of “just this one time”s happening right now, because everything is cumulative.”

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Definitely preferable to lobbing my virology textbooks at people! :)

              1. quill*

                See, my cell and molec textbook is still in a box in a box somewhere because I moved. But it would cause SIGNIFICANT bruising if it wasn’t.

                1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                  Molecular biology of the cell is a weighty tome (still have it!) and a good one.

        2. Ariaflame*

          Also if you have something else that requires hospitalisation? Good luck finding one with room and capacity

      3. WendyRoo*

        Except there’s a whole big world out there.. Delta came from India, remember? There will always be variants, that’s just the nature of viruses.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Not sure what you’re getting at here? Should we not reduce the risk of variants because they might come from elsewhere on the planet?

          (Seriously, I know a LOT about viral variations)

    2. Howard Bannister*

      Sure, there is a spike in delta variant cases, but vaccinated individuals are still at extremely low risk for hospitalization or death even from the delta variant, and are less likely to catch and spread the virus in the first place.

      Most of the spikes are occurring in places where the vaccination has yet to hit 50% of the eligible population.

      In those cases vaccinated individuals can become part of a chain of transmission that gets people killed.

      I live in a place where I can rest easy knowing the vaccination rate is high enough that even if I were part of the chain of transmission I’d be very, very unlikely to get somebody killed. But not everybody can be sure of that.

      I think some precautions are very much good for public health, even by the vaccinated in spaces where vaccination rates are still lagging.

      1. quill*

        Everyone wearing a seatbelt BEFORE they pull out of their driveways / reach a speed that actually dangerous accidents usually occur at (I think it’s upwards of 25 mph?) is the law because it’s easier to take precautions across all cases than lawyer “oh, it’s super unlikely that we would get into an accident where a seatbelt would help if we were in an accident!”

        It also encourages seatbelt wearing at all speeds.

        Universal precautions are always better at protecting public health than asking people to rationalize when to take precautions. So yes. Sleep easier at night knowing that you’re in less danger than you were last year. STILL TAKE PRECAUTIONS. Like we do for literally every non-disease public health issue.

    3. HEllooo*

      Agreed – cases are spiking deaths are not. If you don’t want to go, request to not attend, but you probably need a specific reason not just general covid-concerns.

      1. Nea*

        “My doctor says no” is an all-purpose specific reason. It can mean anything from “This is against best medical practices,” “I might spread covid to a vulnerable person,” or “I don’t care how miniscule the percentage is, some vaccinated people have caught Delta anyway and I’m not volunteering.”

      2. Dr. Rebecca*

        You realize that getting it *at all* can destroy a person’s life? Mild to moderate cases are still a huge, life altering, miserable big deal.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Re: my friend Johnny, who went from a regular jogger and all round healthy person to needing a disabled pass because he can no longer walk from one side of his house to another without gasping for air.

          It’s not just about death. Very much agreed.

          1. Dr. Rebecca*

            I’m disabled due to genetic illness. People have no freakin’ clue how difficult it is navigating a world not set up for accessibility.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Disabled due to road traffic accident and autoimmune disease here and you are *not* kidding. Sometimes it feels like trying to wade through a swimming pool filled with treacle.

              1. Dr. Rebecca*

                *almost silent sigh, akin to the one that I give when people automatically head for the stairs instead of the elevator*

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            My grandmother was completely paralyzed for ten years after a stroke. She had a healthy heart that just kept going. But hey, at least she didn’t die /s. I just can’t with the “it’s no big deal because deaths aren’t going up” logic.

        2. Sasha Blause*

          This. In Nov 2020, my mother didn’t even know she had it. Her case was so mild that it felt like the usual sinus pressure/pain that comes with every change of seasons. Eight months later, the fatigue is still no better. All she can do is work, sleep, and eat simple meals that require very minimal cooking and dishwashing. She’s fallen asleep at her job as a stocker – literally fell asleep while putting peanut butter on a shelf. Doctors are useless (“Oh honey, don’t be so melodramatic; you just need anti-d*pr*ss*nts,” etc… the usual patronizing nonsense that women get, even from women doctors, when we complain of anything invisible). She’s unable to read anything longer than a couple of paragraphs. That’s not a life, it’s just a biological existence.

            1. Philosophia*

              And I’d say there’s more than enough information by now that NO case ought to be dismissed with the label “mild” or “moderate” unless time has proved it to be truly so.

          1. allathian*

            Ugh, I’m so sorry. I guess I’m lucky in that I know I’ll have access to a long Covid clinic should I ever need it. There’s some evidence to show that women and younger people are more at risk of getting long Covid, whereas men and older people are at a greater risk of dying.

        3. Paris Geller*

          +1. I had a very mild case of covid. I’m basically back to my pre-covid self, but it took 3 months to feel about halfway normal and another 3 to really get back to not being winded just walking up one flight of stairs. And despite the fact that this took 6 months, I wouldn’t even really classify it as long covid–I didn’t have any symptoms past 1 week except being short of breath all. the . time. I’m back to normal now but those six months were fairly miserable and honestly, very difficult.

        4. ecnaseener*

          Yeah, “you probably won’t literally die” is not the airtight argument some people seem to think it is.

        5. Homophone Hattie*

          Agree. And we don’t really know anything about the long-term effects or damage even a mild case of covid might have on someone. Just because Delta isn’t killing people at the same rate doesn’t mean it’s okay to just go out and catch it. There’s a fair amount of evidence that even a mild case can cause damage to people’s lungs, hearts, and other organs.

        6. Archaeopteryx*

          Yes I know someone dealing with neurological issues after a ‘mild’ case. It’s no joke.

        7. MEH Squared*

          Thanks for pointing this out. I’m Asian (underrepresented in studies) and have a weak autoimmune system. I got knocked on my ass by the second jab. Will I die if I get Covid? Probably not. Do I want any part of it, anyway? Hell, no! And I most certainly do not want to pass it on.

      3. A Person*

        The problem is that “not sick enough to need the hospital” can still be really, really sick. Like, “sleeping all day for a solid week and then exhausted for another month” levels of sick. And just this weekend we learned about huge delta clusters among mostly-vaccinated people (see: Provincetown, MA). That, plus delta is really easy to catch even outside. I’m really glad that my employer is gung-ho for remote work.

      4. louvella*

        There are a whole lot of things I’m not doing because of general covid concerns. Indoor dining, going to the gym, traveling, gathering with people indoors. I don’t see why I would need a special reason for something work-related.

    4. Guacamole Bob*

      It’s true that vaccinated individuals are at extremely low risk, and I think it’s reasonable for many or even most people to be making different choices now than they were before vaccination, even with delta. But it’s really different for it to be required of all employees, and even more of an issue when it’s travel that requires getting on an airplane.

      Individual circumstances vary so much – immunocompromised individuals, vulnerable household members, unvaccinated children of varying ages – that any employer requiring people to show up in person should really have “and here’s how to opt out of this or get an exception” clearly communicated, and there should be no repercussions for doing so. Especially for something that has as little behind it as “we miss you”.

      1. Allypopx*

        ” it’s reasonable for many or even most people to be making different choices now than they were before vaccination, even with delta.”

        This is true but to elaborate a little further, there’s a spectrum! I was damn near agoraphobic prevax. Now I’ve decided to take public transit and return to the office (wearing a mask and having my own office as a bubble) – but grocery stores are still too much for me, so I’m certainly not getting on a plane and going somewhere with the intent purpose of gathering with mixed vaccine folks “because it would be nice”.

        So many people just expect things to magically be back to normal overnight but truly “normal” may be a pipe dream for a lot of folks right now.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          Yes, this is very true. After I was fully vaxxed I dropped from double masking or KN95s to regular cloth masks in the grocery store, will go to my (almost creepily empty most of the time) office via public transit, run more in-person errands and pick up more takeout, don’t mask outdoors anymore unless it’s a crowded spot like a farmer’s market, do more driving-distance visits to family with less quarantining first, and other things along those lines. It’s not a total free-for-all. And I’m only comfortable with many of those things because vaccination rates around me are about as high as anywhere in the US, and cases were super low for a while. With delta I’ve gotten a bit more cautious again as case rates rise, especially given that my kids are too young to be vaccinated – a couple of months ago it seemed like the consensus was I was unlikely to transmit to them, and delta has changed that.

          Being told to use up much of my expanded risk budget to fly to an in-person meeting because someone at work “missed me” would not go over well. I have lots of other things I’d choose to do first if I were going to step up my risk level!

    5. J.B.*

      As someone with kids – one of who got vaccinated as soon after turning 12 as possible, and the other is too young to have a vaccine available yet, I prioritize risks that matter. Going back to school in person is incredibly important for their learning (see last year). The more people who won’t mask or insist on going back with the Delta variant, the more illness will spread and the more likely they are to get sent home again. That will be a VERY VERY BAD DAY in my house.

      Some parents are protesting against masks to the local school board. I sincerely hope the school board still requires masks (and considering the risks of litigation if they go against CDC and state guidance I feel it is more likely they will stick to it!) Plus schools are full of adult staff who might have their own health issues.

    6. VeryAnon4This*

      Do you think vaccinated individuals or businesses need to shield children under 12 from the consequences of being too young to be vaccinated? As the parent of a toddler, this attitude of “I’m vaccinated, let those jerks suffer” is infuriating. It’s not my kid’s fault that he’s 2.

      1. Susie Q*

        Exactly. We have a friend whose 4 year old got covid last year. He now has permanent lung damage.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, my husband and I were planning to go to a large convention over labor day weekend and I think we’ve been kind of living in a fantasy world and intentionally not following news on the Delta variant so we could pretend we were going to make it there for a little while longer.

        If we could go and then come home and self-quarantine for two weeks we would maybe decide to take the risk for ourselves… But my husband works in a school so this past weekend we finally admitted that there’s just no way we can go to this event and then come home and send him into a building full of unvaccinated children, even if we are vaccinated and wear masks the whole time. It’s obviously just not worth the risk.

    7. mreasy*

      This is a totally unnecessary reason for risk, though. This isn’t in-person school or seeing your family for the first time in 2 years or anything that a reasonable person might calculate is worth it. This is a company meeting with people traveling from multiple places for no reason that has been satisfactorily stated.

      1. tangerineRose*

        That’s the thing. I know someone in his 50’s, reasonably healthy, who had COVID19 a couple of months ago. He was on a ventilator, in a medically-induced coma, and he nearly died. You don’t want to risk something like this just because the company “misses you”.

      2. JustaTech*

        Precisly this! It’s not “you’re the only one who can troubleshoot this vital piece of equipment we need to make a product people depend on”. It’s not “we are about to get creamed by lawyers, save us!” It’s not even “we must make this deal for the company to survive and the buyers demand to speak to you in person”.

        Those are reasons with consequences for the whole company (and even outside the company). “We miss you” lacks consequences.

        1. quill*

          Yeah, a good part of the problem with risk management conversations this year have been employers going “whatever is convenient for us is reasonable, even if it’s a larger risk because it’s daily and required of dozens of people,” as soon as people are safe-ish taking one-time, personal risks.

          See: companies assuming that they’re essential because it’s less convenient (rather than logistically not yet possible: see manufacturing rather than more data-centric jobs) to not have people on site. And everyone and their dog getting mad that their acquaintances will take a risk to, for example, see their parents and siblings and best friends once out of an entire year but How Dare You Judge My Unmasked Disneyworld Vacation with 100000 other viral vectors crammed into Space Mountain? Or the conversation that “yes, I’ll have board game night in person with four people I trust, but I’m not going to your ‘we will only take the masks off for the photos’ wedding with 50 strangers.”

          Not to mention people not understanding the role of universally applied PPE.

    8. Le Sigh*

      Even if this were and accurate representation of the risks (and for all the reasons stated above, you are really downplaying the real risks we still face), color me unwilling to take those risks because my boss “misses me.”

    9. lemon meringue*

      I don’t think vaccinated individuals or businesses need to shield the unvaccinated from the consequences of their individual choices.

      I have a couple of issues with this sentiment. For one thing, not all unvaccinated people are antivaxxers–they’re just a vocal minority. For every politically motivated antivaxxer, there are others who don’t have access to comprehensive sources of information about vaccines, who can’t feasibly make it to vaccination sites, and/or who have ingrained skepticism about the medical community, and I don’t think it does us any favours to assume all of these people are the same.

      For another, I think one enduring lesson of the pandemic should be that individual responsibility and individual consequences are pretty much meaningless. Every group of unvaccinated people can create mutations that could lead to greater risk for everyone.

      1. quill*

        22% of all americans are under the age of 18. This means that we’re at 1/5 or more of total persons whose ability to get the vaccine or not is out of their control – whether because it’s not available for their age group yet, or because their parents are legally the ones making the decisions about the vaccine.

        An estimated 3.5% of the US population is immunocompromised, therefore potentially either unable to get the vaccine or unable to trust that it will confer full immunity.

        If we do some quick math we are looking at a minimum of a quarter of the population currently being unable, through no fault OR CHOICE of their own to trust that they will personally be protected by the vaccine.

        Even with perfect rollout and a vaccine that is 100% effective at preventing death you’d still need to shield the vulnerable quarter of the population. And even if you have zero compassion for the gullible, misinformed, or stubborn, let’s try not to condemn the vulnerable by association with them.

        1. allathian*

          I guess I’m happy that I’m in a country where younger kids have a say in medical decisions pertaining to themselves. There have been cases of 12-year-olds getting the HPV vaccine against their religious parents’ wishes because they were deemed mature enough to make that decision for themselves. Cost isn’t an issue here, because the vaccine is a part of the official recommended vaccination program it’s free for the kids.

          I do have a lot of sympathy for those who can’t make it to vaccination sites, or who for historical reasons don’t trust public health campaigns, or who can’t afford to take time off to get the vaccine, never mind stay home if they get more severe symptoms from it. The information campaigns here have been intense enough that you’d have to be living off the grid and in a cave to be able to honestly say you haven’t been informed. Immigrants with language skills have been recruited to inform those members of their communities who don’t speak our language, for example.

          I also have a lot of sympathy for kids who are too young to get the vaccine and for their parents, and for kids who are too young to take the vaccine without their parents’ consent even if they want it, as well as for immunocompromised people who either can’t take the vaccine at all or are unlikely to get full immunity from it, but I have absolutely none to spare for anti-vaxxers or for those who refuse to take the vaccine for religious reasons.

        2. Never Boring*

          Seriously. Am I supposed to continue refraining from being indoors with my fully vaccinated, but 78 and immunocompromised mom indefinitely because my employer thinks it’s preferable for me to schlep to the office to sit alone in a room doing the same damn things I can do just as well at home?

  19. RJ*

    Given the fact we’re officially in a fourth wave due to the Delta variant, this is a ridiculous and dangerous stance to take. OP, push back with professionalism and strength. I have a great number of real estate management and property development folks in my network from all over the country. For the majority, all RTO plans are being pushed back by 30-60 days and mask mandates are either officially or unofficially being put into effect for in house staff.

  20. Lemon Zinger*

    The reality is that pushing back could lead to termination, and that’s not a risk I can take. I need my job and I need health insurance. I will resume traveling for work in a few weeks and I’ll be masked and distanced wherever possible. It sucks, but I knew this day was going to come eventually.

    1. Nea*

      I recommend N-95 masks now that they’re easier for the public to obtain. They’re a pain, quite literally, but they’re the only mask that protects the wearer from inhaling anything bad.

      1. Amy*

        Cambridge Mask Company masks also protect the wearer and are not painful to wear or very expensive. Highly recommend!

  21. HigherEdAdminista*

    I feel you. We are supposed to be hybrid this fall, and I am dreading the days I have to commute on public transportation and go to my job, where employees are not required to be vaccinated and where I know there are some people who will happily take off masks or wear them incorrectly whenever they want.

    In my industry, it seems to be very taboo to want to WFH at times, especially if you don’t have PhD after your name, even before COVID. We are all supposed to be chomping at the bit to get back to our poorly ventilated offices. But I had so many students ask me if they could “get out” of the vaccine requirement and tell me about the conspiracy theories they believe in, and I know so many more people who are just like “the pandemic is over, time to party…” I just don’t feel safe.

    Believe me, I want to be able to enjoy the things I like or just be able to do things like go out in public without wondering if I might be one of those who gets a breakthrough case, but we aren’t there yet, or at least I’m not. I’m tired of feeling like we are all at the mercy of people who decided it isn’t that serious.

    I like the idea of saying your doctor has recommended you not travel. I would reach out to them and see what they can do!

    1. tangerineRose*

      For ventilation, I think dentists are now using some kind of air purifier. I don’t know if that would help.

  22. HotSauce*

    You know, it’s really nice to be missed, but honestly it’s concerning that a company would put “missing employees” over keeping their employees and their families safe. It really tells you a lot about corporate thinking.

  23. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I’m trying to wrap my head around the business decision to spend tens of thousands of dollars on airfare and hotels because “we miss seeing you.”

    1. Essess*

      Exactly. Since they would miss people a LOT more if the people catch the disease and end up in a hospital or dead.

    2. LC*

      Same.

      Even aside from the Covid part (which, WTF!!!), this just doesn’t make financial sense. That is so much money to spend just for funsies. Most businesses don’t love spending thousands of completely unnecessary dollars for company travel. Flights, hotels, per diem, etc. all start to add up pretty quickly.

      You’d think that if they care so little about their employee and community safety, they’d care more about profit.

      (Obviously, I absolutely think that companies should not care about profit over people, I just generally see that when they care so little about people, they make up for it in their concern with profits.)

    3. Airstar*

      The expense of airfare and accommodation could – should – be expanded. The OP et al could – should – ask the company about all the provisions it has made to ensure safety and various safety net, e.g. separate hotel rooms for all, all room service covered, mandatory testing every 24 hours paid for by the company, full medical coverage (inc. indeterminate ICU stays and medical repatriation), long COVID payments (full pay for as long as it takes to recover), two weeks’ paid quarantine on return home, exceedingly generous life insurance coverage (in case of death), huge lump sum payments to the families of any sick or deceased employees.

      We know everything these days is all about the ‘feelings’, but would the company be willing to put the money where the mouth is? Management is playing with people’s lives; make them pay to play.

    4. StudentA*

      Right??? I’ve wondered if there’s some other reason the company wants people around. To show them they’re in control? To make a surprise announcement?

  24. LurkNoMore*

    Could there possibly be some news that the company wants to relay to everyone at the same time? Maybe you’re going public and you’ll all be millionaires!!! :) Or company just got bought out by Big Name Corp, etc.
    The excuse ‘just because we miss you’ seems pretty weak.

    1. SarahKay*

      Well… but that’s what Zoom is for.
      I work in a UK branch of a global (US-based) corporation. Somehow they manage to share big news on a company-wide scale without requiring all 100k+ employees to fly in to headquarters.

        1. CreepyPaper*

          That’s exactly what my company has done. We have an internal Facebook-esque social network and it’s great, we’ve all kept up with everyone’s news from retirements to big birthdays to new babies. And we have monthly company wide calls, and we’re have branches all over the world. So… ‘we miss you’ seems… yeah, what? Zoom exists for a reason and my immunocompromised UK-based self very much appreciates that it means I don’t have to haul myself to, say, Finland, for the annual logistics shenanigan. We did it ONLINE.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Our place (let’s just say it’s railway related) has FINALLY realised that having large company or team meetups in a virtual format has saved them millions in train fares/hotel costs/flights. When I saw the post about that on the company forum I really had to stop myself from a ‘no excrement Sherlock’ response.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My employer did a mass layoff remotely. Certainly the Big Happy News can be relayed to everyone remotely as well.

  25. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Push back with a group!! Others might not realize they can push back at all, and OP speaking up could be the wake-up call they need.

  26. CarolynM*

    This is about the link at the bottom “I went to a job interview where they’re not taking COVID seriously … or how to make a scene when you need to make a scene”

    Alison, I REALLY needed to hear this (again) very badly – from your answer:

    “Some of it too, though, is mental. It’s the work of getting clear in your own mind that it’s okay to assert yourself to protect your safety, even if it feels awkward or uncomfortable and even if it annoys someone else. Most of us know that in theory, but your brain will still often default to Don’t Make A Scene until you take the time to really process what prioritizing your safety means (“it means I will say things like X or Y” and “it means I might create a moment of weirdness, and I’m okay with that”).”
    n i
    My partner has cancer and is scheduled for major surgery. My employer called everyone back to the office – I was able to hold out until I was fully vaccinated (though it took a note from my partner’s doctor to be able to wait until I was vaccinated), but out of the 8 people that work at this location, 2 refuse the vaccine and refuse to wear masks or social distance. We also have events, classes and visitors on a regular basis – HR says that vaccinated people can wear a mask if they choose, but unvaccinated guests and employees must continue to wear masks and social distance and its all on the “honor” system. The only masks worn this place at all are by me and another fully vaccinated employee. HR is not at this location and one of the people most outspoken about the vaccine and having to mask and social distance is in charge of this location.

    The surgery is finally scheduled (and it needs to happen soon – it has recently become time sensitive, a new treatment we were trying to wait for is just getting delayed and delayed and tests indicate its go time) – things are just about to get okay for us after so long – the light at the end of the tunnel might actually be daylight instead of an oncoming train. The thought of him getting sick and having to delay the surgery is paralyzing. Things are starting to ramp back up in my area – we are so close and we need this to happen instead of getting delayed again. If the hospital needs to reschedule because of things getting bad there is nothing I can do about that – the only thing I can do is to take all the precautions I can to make sure the delay isn’t caused by him getting sick.

    I wear a mask at work. I get questioned by visitors and coworkers why I am wearing it. I feel stared at and really self-conscious even though I know that I shouldn’t feel weird about doing what is best for me and my family. I’ve been exhausted and worried and its started taking its toll – I am usually assertive and confident, but I feel stretched a bit too thin these days to be my normal strong self. I have started to feel like I am bumming people out and have noticed that I avoid leaving my office whenever possible so I don’t have to walk around in a mask and get looks or comments. Saying “my boyfriend has cancer” used to shut people down, but the other day I got followed by someone (not masked!) who wanted to give me chapter and verse of their own very different kind of cancer story and tell me that they had cancer (YEARS ago) and they are not living in fear, so neither should my boyfriend and I. Almost bit a hole through my tongue because I was pretty sure if I opened my mouth to say anything, it would have been incoherent screaming and swearing.

    I desperately needed to reread your words to get my head back on straight! I haven’t stopped masking and distancing, but it had started to take a mental toll on me. I am doing the right thing for me and my family and if someone else decides they are going to have feelings about that … they can just have those feelings! I have too much on my plate to manage other peoples feelings. I really needed this – thank you.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Many, many virtual hugs to you and your partner. The burnout from having to fight for the safety of oneself and loved ones is absolutely freaking horrible.

      Deciding you don’t give a flying eff if someone else has their feelings hurt because you still take precautions is difficult, but that’s where I’m at now too. Someone has opinions about me masking even after being vaccinated? I’m not taking on any more additional emotional labour.

      Sincerely hope you and your partner stay ok and the surgery gets done soon and goes well.

      1. CarolynM*

        If you are here too, burning and salting your fields of Fs to give, I have good company (((((hugs)))))

      1. CarolynM*

        Thank you! He has a really good prognosis – we have every reason to expect good news!

    2. HigherEdAdminista*

      Wow, I am so sorry you have to deal with this. I hope your boyfriend will get his surgery soon and be feeling well before long, and be completely cancer free.

      There definitely are people right now who feel extra empowered to try to force our choices to match theirs. It isn’t enough that they have been given free reign by governments and by companies to do everything on the honor system, meaning they just flout the rules because they don’t care –they also seem hell bent on making sure everyone around them does the exact same thing. They can’t be satisfied getting what they want for themselves; they have to win. It has to be forced on everyone.

      It is so disheartening, but you are definitely doing the right thing for yourself and your family. Let these other folks be uncomfortable or be forced to be reminded of their own lack of care… the important thing is you are doing what you need to do for yourself and your loved ones to be safe.

      1. CarolynM*

        Thanks for the good wishes! Disheartening really is the right word – I learned a long time ago that trying to save people from themselves is the road to hell paved in good intentions, but there will always be a part of me that wants to be the catcher in the rye … and just watching people gleefully run toward the cliff edge and take others with them makes my heart hurt.

    3. My Brain is Exploding*

      ARGH! That’s terrible. Remind people that if your boyfriend tests positive for COVID (and they WILL test him a few days prior to surgery) that his surgery WILL be delayed, and you certainly don’t want that. You are doing what’s right for you. Good for you!

      1. CarolynM*

        Thank you! And yeah – delaying the surgery would be a nightmare. Coordinating the 2 surgeons and the specific OR needed already has us pushed to 9/20 … trying to herd all those cats for a second time!?!? Gah! I have enough chill left in the tank so that if circumstances delay us, I can deal … but if he catches Covid and that is the delay I will lose it.

    4. quill*

      I have no constructive comments other than that you have my social distancing whacking stick at your disposal.

    5. knitcrazybooknut*

      I’m tempted to suggest that you get a really weird, garish mask — whatever you like and might make you or other people laugh and/or run away in fear! If you are tired of being stared at, make it so you’re ALWAYS stared at, but you love the reason for it. If a skull face wouldn’t be appropriate, try rainbows and unicorns. Whatever makes you happy and comfortable about the staring.

      Best wishes for your boyfriend and his surgery. All the good thoughts in your direction.

  27. Essess*

    Is your company big enough to have an HR or Legal department hotline. You could try calling them about the concerns that people are being ordered to travel without an actual business need and that it could put the company at risk if anyone ends up catching covid due to the mandatory meeting.

  28. Bookworm*

    I don’t have any advice beyond what has been given, OP, just saying so sorry you’re dealing with that and good luck. Not much, I know, but jeez. Just wishing you the best.

  29. Girasol*

    Is it possible that someone is not keeping up with the news? After all, we did go fairly quickly from “Covid will be all over by the fourth of July” to “Well, it’s almost over, anyway, and we can relax the mask discipline” to “OMG, there’s a much worse variant on the rise! Masks back on! Even for the vaccinated!” Perhaps the boss suggesting this meeting hasn’t quite made it through that sudden mental U-turn yet. I wonder if the “I can’t do that because of covid” message should include a few links to up to date news articles including advice from the experts at CDC and NIH (or whoever is the voice of expertise in your country).

    1. tangerineRose*

      Wow, people actually believed that Covid would be over then?! Yes, of course they did. Ugggggh.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Oh my yes. Had one (now ex) member of staff convinced that it would all vanish after the US elections.

        We’re in the UK!

        1. quill*

          Did they think that the virus would get bored and go home?

          (I mean, Brexit exists, so maybe don’t answer that.)

      2. Hen in a Windstorm*

        I don’t think it was that it would be “over by then”, but that date was based on Biden’s goal of getting X number of shots in arms by July 4. It was a PR target to get people vaxxed to be “free” from the pandemic by Independence Day, with the idea we could start to return to normal at that point. And then Delta happened.

        1. quill*

          I mean, based on how low they set that target (nowhere near the percentage of a population that you need to actually slow spread reliably, and the fact that even though specific counties have different programs people cross county lines on a daily basis) it was a very bad goal from a science communication standpoint. As was “You can stop all other precautions afterward.”

  30. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    They miss you? That’s cute. I miss my dad. He got Covid in a nursing home after they relaxed visitation at Thanksgiving and died before Christmas.
    Bite me, you tone deaf loons.
    This is not a game.

  31. Allie*

    My government employer is actually talking about how convenient it will be to keep everything remote. For instance we do hearings that previously were in person and are now 100% remote. People will no longer have to either travel to our location or pay for attorneys to go. Huge win for us.

    1. Jlynn*

      Our courthouse has just reimplemented a mask mandate in courtrooms and common areas. So this isn’t going away any time soon.

  32. TPS reporter*

    OP if you can at all, and I certainly recognize if you have circumstances that make you keep this job, take a stand. Refuse. If they absolutely need to see people then they should require a vaccine. One of the only ways that we’re going to combat this thing if employers require vaccinations. It would be so great if we can as an employee market push this to happen- either they require a vaccine or they let us work remotely. They cannot have it both ways. My sincere hope is the tide is turning in favor of the employee here.

    These anti-vaxxers hate government. Fine. You want to be “free”? How are we free if our corporate masters are pulling the strings? We have to be as strong as we can as employees. The corporations must fear a mass exodus.

    1. JustaTech*

      I wonder if the OP could bring up all the major employers that are requiring vaccination for people to be on-site, like Facebook and Google? Show that other, major, profitable companies are taking this step, and maybe their leadership would be encouraged to do it as well?

  33. M.J.*

    I work for a public university in Oklahoma and we cannot mandate masks or covid vaccines. All entities/businesses/agencies that receive state money cannot mandate them either due to the state not requiring it. The governor is out of the country at the moment and there are now some trying to get the lieutenant governor to pass a law making it illegal for private businesses to mandate masks and covid vaccines. Basically it comes down to what mandates individual states have put in place so there’s going to be a patchwork of different policies across the country.

  34. Anon for this*

    I work at a public health nonprofit and we had a big meeting about the Delta variant and what it means for our mission/stakeholders last week. Then this morning we were told we are expected to return to the office by Friday of this week, because “company culture is important.”

  35. Cant remember my old name*

    Either the boss is being misleading about the real reason for the in-person meeting, or she really is asking her team to travel to satisfy some social need. Either way, bad call!

  36. Ruth*

    I am so thankful that today when discussing an upcoming conference I was able to say “I am absolutely not going to Florida” and no one batted an eye!

  37. Not really a Waitress*

    “For the love of ramen, what the hell is wrong with your company?

    Thank you for this gem today.

  38. Anonny*

    The more sh*t like this I see, I start wondering if the actual virus itself is bribing bosses and politicians.

    1. Pikachu*

      This is extremely likely. Bribes made with the profits that the virus earned from 400,000 unmasked Lollapalooza attendees.

    2. Trixie, the Great and Pedantic*

      Sometimes I wonder if it’s like that parasite in cat poop that makes the mice not afraid of cats or the one that turns the ants into zombies.

      Yes, I know this is not how biology and virology work.

  39. Frank*

    My previous employer brought us back to the office on a 50% basis in May 2020 but could not provide any concrete reason why, if we could do our jobs from home half the time, we couldn’t do them full time. They officially had mask rules in place but they were routinely ignored, including by senior leadership. They put in a capsule system separating the office in two, routinely ignored it, and then, when there was an outbreak in one group, made my group come in every day for a week, despite the fact that at least one person in my group had been a close contact of one of the positive cases (they did at least let that person stay home). The next time there was an outbreak, which affected people in both capsules, they didn’t close at all.

    Oh, and when I pushed back on coming into the office during the outbreak, using the exact language recommended by Alison (“My doctor recommended I not come in”), they got angry at me and told me my doctor doesn’t know the situation and it wasn’t up to me to make that determination. All this despite knowing I had recently lost a close family member to Covid.

    Did I mention this was my EX-employer?

    OP, give them a chance to correct their mistake, but if your employer won’t prioritize your health and safety, in the words of Liz Lemon, that’s a dealbreaker

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      They told you your *doctor* didn’t understand the situation of a pandemic as good as they did?!

      Bloody hell mate, I’m glad you’re away from that bunch of reality deniers.

      1. Frank*

        I think the line was something like “Your doctor doesn’t know about our capsule system which means you couldn’t possibly have gotten infected.” But yes, it was very condescending and tone deaf

  40. El l*

    “We miss seeing all of you.”

    —“The list of people who get to use that line on me is short: My spouse and my mother. And that’s it.”

  41. Mannheim Steamroller*

    “We miss you….”

    Translation: “We can’t micromanage you remotely.”

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Alternative translation: ‘it’s easier to make sure you HAVE to stay and listen to us in a physical room where we can lock the doors than a virtual room where you could be watching tv and we’d never know’

      (Okay, cynical, but my last place loved big company meetings for exactly the reason of having a captive audience)

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Hahaha, I think you nailed it. A big company meeting is not usually one where important work-related information is being shared, or where everyone is hanging on the edge of their seats in rapt attention – especially when the attendees are calling in remotely. They do want a captive audience.

  42. AnonPi*

    OP I hope you can push back on this. And this post was something I needed to hear today as I just pushed back myself and was hesitant to do so. But the more I think about it the more pissed off I’m getting about the whole situation (being asked to work at a public reception desk that isn’t necessary, especially since the whole company is closed for visitors, but for *optics* lets put us at risk and stick us there anyways).

  43. Sille*

    ‘You’ll miss us more when we’re dead. From COVID. That we caught when travelling to and working out of HQ’.

  44. DinoGirl*

    To be clear, this isn’t because “they miss you.” They want to get back to business as usual.
    Which is crazy in a pandemic, but that’s where we are at.

  45. SassyAccountant*

    Sounds like you’re traveling to Orlando Florida. I hate this state (I’m in Florida) and I hate it even more with all this going on.

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