Skip to content

Prepare to practice post-pandemic patience

Jody Vance: As we near the transition from pandemic to endemic, we’re also going to need to transition away from policing different levels of personal risk tolerance.

Remember when risk tolerance was personal?

When contemplating risk assessment, one would weigh the pros and cons, the possibility of injury or negative impacts over the exhilaration and excitement. And from there, decide individually how to proceed and navigate that risk within our personal boundaries.

For example, I can tell you with 100% certainty: I will never jump out of a plane. Not for a million dollars. I have done the math, and it’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

What’s your permanent no? Everyone has one. They’re all different.

What’s important is realizing that what scares you might not scare me, or be considered good fun by someone else.

I think we’re headed back there. At this stressed out, maxed out portion of the pandemic, we stand ready to dream of reclaiming personal risk tolerance. It’s coming.

It’s like the leash is about to be unhooked and let us all run free. What that freedom will look like on an individual person will vary greatly.

This Middle is about preparing to be tolerant about individual risk tolerance.

During these months of measures, so much intolerance has been stoked. Most public health measures were backed by science, but still, no shortage of armchair medical experts have alternately screamed “lift it all NOW” – or “it’s too dangerous to dine-in!” Both are wrong, and right. They’re wrong in wanting everyone to do as they wish, but right about different standards of individual risk tolerance.

The only thing we can all agree on, I think, is how there absolutely is no one-size-fits-all public risk assessment plan that doesn’t come with pushback.

My sense is that most can’t help but be excited about the prospect of a return to a normal. There will be an adjustment period as everyone takes time to assess, and re-assess. Dynamics with family, friends, or neighbours not on the same page will require patience. We’ll all need to act and react responsibly.

This will be a departure. In the last month or so, the level of “my risk level must be your risk level” has ramped up – think of the cautious parent being judged by the free ranger. To carry my skydiving analogy forward, someone would be forcing me to jump out of a plane.

Do we need these pushes? Have we lost the plot a bit when it comes to our differences? Like the family dinner table with room for both vegans and carnivores, it can work. It doesn’t need all to be a fight.

The weird want, or need, to get everyone in one lane is one of the pandemic’s many unfortunate side effects. As soon as it’s no longer a life and death situation, consider the need to ease up a bit on the need to control.

Don’t panic. Just like I will never, ever, move toward an open door of a plane, there need not be a challenge to your personal post pandemic risk tolerance.

Risk tolerance is personal. I also have zero plans to swim with sharks, climb Everest, let a tarantula walk on my arm, or even watch horror films. I also know nobody will ever force me to do any of these things.

I bring this up as a model for when risk tolerance is allowed to safely return to being a personal choice, not mandated policy. There should be respect for those who don’t want to ever go to a packed concert or live event. It’s okay to not want that. It’s okay to reserve the right to change one’s mind.

State of Emergency, Pandemic, Endemic, whatever phase we are in — the risks associated with this virus will remain in many areas of our society. The measurement and assessment of risk tolerance will be unique to each person navigating through their unique circumstances. We all need to be patient and understanding as interpersonal dynamics evolve and change alongside it all.

It’s okay to see this process for what it is: healthy evolution.

Today’s Middle is an ask, for once we’re through the public health measures: reserve judgement on those whose risk tolerance isn’t aligned with yours. Soon, there will be no need to correct anyone else’s risk tolerance – and in fact, it will be wrong to try.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.