By Jeff Davis, CVP, CMP, CVE
For my friends in the faith-based community who are continuing to hold events and services, who are out there saying this is all fear-driven, who are throwing bible verses around … please stop. Please take a moment to understand the facts.
I oversee two public assembly venues with a total capacity of nearly 10,000 people, or the size of a small town. I’m very cognizant in providing a safe, secure environment for events to take place. Less than a week ago, I was promoting the continuation of events. Sure, I was watching the developments of the Coronavirus closely, and we were proactively implementing changes to provide a safer environment – adding hand sanitizer stations, doubling and tripling our cleaning and disinfecting procedures during events, wiping down surfaces, the same actions other venues, stores, restaurants, and churches are doing. I was supporting events and within days, rather, hours, that stance changed.
The decision to support the mass cancellation of events… the decision to close our venues and bring entire industries to a halt was not an easy one. Days later, it’s still very surreal. But one thing I can assure you, it was NOT driven by fear. It was based on facts. It was a result of taking time to educate ourselves, understanding what was happening in other parts of the world, and making a conscious effort to help get ahead of this pandemic. It was about taking a radical step to be part of the solution knowing it would disrupt normalcy for a while. It was the right thing to do.
So please stop saying that this shut down is just a reaction out of fear. Please take some time to understand the “why” behind this effort. There are numerous resources about “flattening the curve” and simulations on how this slows the spread of a virus. Understand that these radical decisions are to give our healthcare system – doctors, nurses, and the industry that supports them – a fighting chance to help treat those who will need that level of care in the coming days as the virus spreads, rather than overwhelming them and crippling the system, as it has in other countries.
Yes, as a society, we are navigating uncharted waters with this kind of a response. And the natural reaction to uncertainty, much of it fed by media and uninformed people, is anxiety, fear, and panic. Don’t be a part of the problem. Don’t throw around bible verses that come across as judgmental. And please don’t continue to hold gatherings thinking you’re safe because “it only affects a small percentage” or “it’s not in our area yet.” Look at China, Italy, Spain and others, and how it all started with ONE person introducing the virus in those countries. And it quickly overwhelmed them. And odds are, it may already be more widespread in your area than you realize. We’re really just now beginning widespread testing for the virus, and still today, there are many suspected cases that are not being tested for various reasons or limited test kits/testing resources.
To paraphrase from a post I recently saw: On the backside of this, we may look back and say we overreacted and did way too much. But I would rather look back saying that, than looking back and saying we did way too little, too late.
Please understand what you can do in this effort. Educate your friends, family, and social groups. Don’t be afraid to take radical steps that will help save lives. Lead by example. Do the right thing. Offer hope and encouragement in a time that many are uncertain of what the future holds.
Jeff Davis, CVP, CMP, CVE, is Executive Director for UTA Special Event Facilities at the University of Texas at Arlington.