Avoiding a PR Crisis Amid New Pandemic Guidelines
The CDC recently announced a new set of mask guidelines , stating that anyone who’s fully vaccinated against Covid-19 is no longer required to wear a mask in most places. The announcement has created yet another layer of complexity to the current global health situation. This is especially true considering how many of the previous announcements and recommendations have created political divisions and public controversies.
The newest announcement has also created potentially challenging crisis situations for companies that have to handle these events on their own the best they can. Even President Biden made it clear that people should be wearing masks until they get vaccinated.
Additionally, according to the CDC only about a third of all Americans have been vaccinated so far. The number of people who haven’t received their second dose has been increasing in recent weeks. However, this new guideline doesn’t come with any compliance regulations, which means that state and local governments might continue to follow their own pandemic-related regulations despite the announcement.
That can also mean additional confusion for the public, and uncertainty for businesses in terms of how to approach the new guidelines. Plenty of the largest retailers around the country have already announced that they will still require masks in their stores despite the new national guidelines. However because the guideline is based on the honor system, plenty of organizations are also worried about enforcing the mask rule, given historical pushback against wearing them.
Plenty of lawyers and thought leaders have already expressed their opinions on the confusing situation concerning these new relaxed guidelines. The issue is that the CDC isn’t the only governing body whose recommendations should be followed around the country. There are also state and local guidelines, as well as requirements from OSHA that could override the new mask mandates due to workplace requirements.
There’s another layer of complexity there too, as plenty of workplaces have a mix of people who have and haven’t received their vaccines, which creates concerns about enforcement.
Another issue that can create a PR crisis for companies is the fact that the sudden announcement from the CDC didn’t give businesses enough information on how they should continue operations.
Business owners are currently stuck between two difficult decisions. They have to decide whether to follow the new guidelines and risk making their employees potentially feeling uncomfortable if they’re around unvaccinated coworkers or consumers. Then, on the other hand whether they should keep the former guidelines until more people receive the vaccine. Every company around the country has been left to evaluate its business model, the associated risks with the new guidelines, and what sticking with the old guidelines might mean for them.
How Businesses Should Proceed
Companies should be taking several steps moving forward with the CDC announcement, including creating a unified message that will inform the consumers, key stakeholders, and employees on where the company stands. Companies should also be taking local policies into consideration when creating that unified message, and following up with public conversations to see how others are handling this issue.