Chief physician hosts COVID Q&A with business community

Dr. Cauwels advises on safer workplaces when 'the goal is to help stop this virus'

Sanford Health chief physician listens to a guest on a laptop computer screen. A screen behind him shows the Sanford Health logo.

Sanford Health Chief Physician Jeremy Cauwels, M.D., continues to lead discussions with the business community about their part in ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest conversation included topics like the virus, busting myths, navigating vaccine hesitancy in the workplace and how to plan meetings and events with safety in mind.

Watch: Business webinar on COVID-19, Oct. 26, 2021

Every business is unique

Sanford Health took a different approach than other businesses from the beginning.

“Our business is to keep people healthy,” Dr. Cauwels said. “Because of that, we felt that mandating the vaccine was absolutely what we needed to do to move forward.”

The same can be said from a public health standpoint. As an example, Dr. Cauwels referred to the Biden administration’s move to require larger businesses to mandate the vaccine.

“It’s important to recognize that everybody comes into this with their own group of facts, their own group of ideas that they have, and they believe as wholeheartedly as I do in the vaccine,” he said.

“It’s important to sit down and have a real conversation with people and try to meet people where they are and try to help them understand that the goal is to help stop this virus from circulating through the population in a way that’s going to continue to get people sick.”

Sanford Health was recently invited to join a national collaborative with other Fortune 500 leaders and companies — like United Airlines, Tyler Perry Studios and Tyson Foods — committed to establishing and maintaining healthy and safe workplaces for employees, customers, patients and communities during the latest surge in COVID-19 cases.

The COVID Collaborative has mobilized dozens of public health and science experts and former officials from the Biden, Trump, Obama, and Bush Administrations to provide business leaders with clear and actionable measures they can adopt to keep their workers, customers, patients and communities safe.

Holding events in person again

Dr. Cauwels’ recommendations for safe, in-person gatherings include requiring proof of vaccine or mask wearing — or both.

“If you’re vaccinated, you can come into the meeting and you don’t have to wear a mask. If you aren’t vaccinated, we would request that you still wear a mask,” he suggested.

Get your vaccine: Sanford Health offers flu and COVID-19 shots

He referenced renowned outdoor music festival Lollapalooza, which recently required proof of vaccination to enter.

“When they did that, interestingly enough, they put concerts full of teenagers, 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds all piled together and what they didn’t see in Chicago for the two to three weeks after that was a bump in their COVID numbers,” he said.

“(The vaccine) clearly did its job in preventing a large outbreak or further spread.”

The latest numbers in the Dakotas show a decline in the rate of positive cases, which is promising.

“If you’re having a big get-together, be cognizant of others’ vaccination status,” he said. “I think it’s the best way to protect you.”

Treating colleagues with respect

Regarding the vaccine, his biggest piece of advice is to meet people where they’re at with respect and grace.

“They’re your workers. They’re the people you work with every day. Treat them like the same people you would at happy hour, playing on the company softball team,” Dr. Cauwels said. “These are people you’ve invested time and money into so treat them with that kind of respect.”

He said this vaccine has been mandated and pushed in a lot of places.

“It feels heavy-handed,” he said. “As much as I’m a vaccine advocate, I want to make that clear, but that the most important thing you can do is treat your co-workers with respect. Understand that they may come at it from a different view than I do.”

He encourages engaging in thoughtful conversation with those who have different viewpoints.

It’s about understanding just how much we understand the science or how much we know about the safety of the vaccine.

“Almost nobody has ever changed their opinion in five minutes, because we pushed a bunch of information at them very quickly,” he added. “Everybody has to digest it. Everybody has to understand it. If they come to you and they say, ‘I’d really like to take some time off to go talk to my doctor about this,’ grant them that grace, that ability to go have a thoughtful conversation on their way.”

Watch more from the business Q&A.

Information in this article was accurate when it was posted. As the COVID-19 pandemic changes, scientific understanding and guidelines may have changed since the original publication date.

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Posted In Community, Coronavirus, Expert Q&A, Immunizations, Workplace Health

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