Ask Me Nicely – Complying with COVID Measures in Commercial Buildings

We may be midway through this pandemic but it will get worse before it gets better as infections surge in flu season; like one train wreck crashing on top of another.

Mark Twain said, “There’s nothing common about sense.” And here in the USA, it is, unfortunately, proving true. Over the next two to three months, we are likely to see the tragic results of the current administration’s failed approach to containing the pandemic.

National infections have reached a seven-day average of more than 150,000 daily cases, and health experts estimate they may reach as high as 200,000 infections per day. These are leading indicators, the lagging indicators will be full hospitals, shortages of trained doctors and nurses, and of course more deaths.

In too many states common sense has been uncommon. For example:

There is a vocal minority (President Trump, numerous supporters and GOP politicians) minimizing the pandemic and pushing back against public health measures.

They argue these measures infringe upon an individual’s rights and that personal independence supersedes everything else (specifically an individual’s right to make money though I’ve never heard of a dead person buying anything).

But personal independence, as a practical matter of survival, is blatantly false.

personal independence, as a practical matter of survival, is blatantly false

Simply put, our modern selves:

  • Eat food grown by, shipped, and sold to us by others
  • Wear clothes designed, produced, and sold to us by others
  • Use products & technologies created, developed, produced, and provided by others
  • Rely on an almost infinite list of products & services from others

outdoor individualist such as Richard Proenneke was not independent

Even an outdoor individualist such as Richard Proenneke was not independent. He lived alone for nearly 30 years in the mountains of Alaska in a log cabin he built by hand and lived off the land — yet he too relied on tools and supplemental supplies made by others, and flown in.

Interdependent – Not Independent

No one living today is truly independent. We are all, to some degree interdependent on others, on the societies we live in, as well as on civilization’s advances. Personal independence is a myth, societal interdependence reality. 

And public health measures are our shared reality of the moment. COVID-19 highlights our interdependence and collective need to protect public health. It only takes one individual to ignore what works and many others become infected, and some die.

3 Failures of a Worsening Pandemic

3 Failures of a Worsening Pandemic

Before vaccines and therapeutics ride in and save the day, this pandemic will get significantly worse. Our public health is about to get walloped more than it already has. And here are three likely failures making the pandemic worse:

1.     Unrealistic expectations of individuals to do the right thing for the common good of public health — many individuals don’t, see #2 below

2.     Politicized disbeliefs & tribalistic misinformation73% of Republicans & Democrats cannot agree on basic facts

3.     Lack of enforcement when COVID measures are mandated — many states’ agencies don’t, see #2 above

Building Owners & Managers Can Save Our Public Health

Building Owners & Managers Can Save Our Public Health

What if you were safer from COVID-19 in your office-at-work than anywhere else except your home?

Not because commercial buildings have been infection-free — but because building owners and managers have more authority over their occupants’ behavior inside their buildings than public agencies and elected officials have over the public at large.

As a result, building owners and managers can have a tremendous impact on public health because they have the:

  • Authority to enforce indoor COVID measures — it is their property, their job, their rules
  • Capability to enforce indoor COVID measures — most have onsite security officers and/or onsite representatives
  • Moral responsibility to enforce indoor COVID measures — to protect themselves, peers & occupants
  • Legal obligation to enforce indoor COVID measures — a duty of care to avoid future lawsuits
  • Financial requirement to enforce indoor COVID measures — their bottom line, future viability (building obsolescence), ROI, stock price, IRR

Summary Ask Me Nicely


This is an unusual thing to consider – that building owners and managers have the power to save lives and protect public health. Yet in this pandemic, it’s literally true.

Building owners and managers have the power, the means, and the right to enforce their indoor COVID-19 measures.

When you step into a building you don’t lose your individual rights – you gain building-specific obligations

Building owners and managers won’t allow non-compliant occupants or visitors in. When people enter their buildings, they can require them to follow building-specific health and safety rules; or else.

At this moment, as building owners and managers pursue their own best interests, they also serve the greater good of public health.

First published on LinkedIn.

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