I am sure that many of you have had the opportunity to watch the 1993 movie, Groundhog Day. For those who haven’t, the movie portrays a cynical television weatherman (Phil Connors), played by Bill Murray, who was assigned to cover the annual February 2nd Groundhog Day celebration in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. Somehow, Phil gets caught in a time loop that forces him to relive the same day over and over.
Many of us can relate to Phil’s weatherman experience. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, lots of folks have been waking up in the same place, sitting in/at the same chair, table, bar or desk, and staring into the same computer screen to do repetitious work…just like the day before and the days before that. Recently, I had a conversation with a staff member who shared they had been wearing the same two pairs of sweatpants for over a year; yet another example of how the weatherman’s experience has impacted our society in numerous ways.
This “Groundhog Day” phenomena has not been limited to work-related activities. Socialization, visits with friends and family and even religious services have occurred on the same computer monitor used daily for work. As the CEO, I have been concerned about the impact of isolation on our staff and the effect on their well-being and mental health. As the boss, I also am concerned with the impact on effectiveness and productivity. However, these work-related issues are not my biggest concern.
Most of you have heard me speak about the importance of the culture of NASBA. Like my predecessor CEO, David Costello, I have enjoyed and attempted to nourish the familial feel that NASBA members and staff have brought to NASBA meetings, conferences and annual employee events. Not only does it make such events enjoyable, but I believe that the unique cultural aspect of NASBA is paramount to the many successes we have achieved together.
After more than a year of travel restrictions and endless Zoom meetings, we have new state board members, board staff, and new outside stakeholders – like state society executives – who have never had the opportunity to experience NASBA’s familial culture, which boasts with comradery, friendships and the opportunity to collaborate. It was a tough decision to make this year’s June Regional Meeting(s) virtual. Now that we are a month away from the June date, it is becoming obvious that it was the correct call, albeit painful.
Despite the pandemic’s continuous strain on our nation, we have now begun to hear more and more positive news. More than half of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated, and many others have developed antibodies as a result of having been infected by Covid-19. Recently, many medical experts have predicted that herd immunity will occur by late summer for some states and in most states by late fall. We are banking that their predictions are realized.
Very soon, you will begin to see notices regarding NASBA’s 114th Annual Meeting. We are planning on hosting the Annual Meeting in-person in San Diego, CA, as originally planned in 2020. Be assured, we would not/will not do that if we believe it is not safe. Our expectation is that there will be different comfort levels among our members. To accommodate, we will strive to create a high-quality virtual experience for those who do not feel safe attending in-person. It is too soon to ascertain the protocols or possible limitations that will be required for the Annual Meeting, but we will keep you informed as we get closer to the event. It is my hope that we can rebound with a robust and meaningful gathering that we can all celebrate.
As of this writing, I am happy to report that we have had no NASBA staff member or volunteer infected with Covid-19 as a result of a NASBA activity. Regrettably, the State of Tennessee’s vaccination rate lags behind many other states, which will ultimately impact herd immunity. We have recently announced to staff that we are extending the current remote work status for another six months with the hope that it will be safer in the late fall. Additionally, I am very happy to report that the quality of the work and performance of our amazing staff continues to be high, two thirds of our staff have been fully vaccinated, and all staff are now allowed to come into the office to work, if they prefer.
Our state boards have also done a great job managing through this pandemic, and NASBA has tried to help in any way we can. I know that we are all looking forward to getting back to whatever the new “normal” looks like. Hopefully, ‘we will soon see our shadows’ outdoors in the sunlight and our Groundhog Day will soon come to an end.
Please be safe my friends!
Semper ad meliora (Always toward better things).
— Ken L. Bishop
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