David Staples: Hinshaw’s admirable response to unfair criticism shows how we can pull through COVID crises

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At once, however, misinformation spread, including inaccurate media reports claiming that physical distancing rules would no longer be enforced in classrooms.

Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling took to Twitter to react: “I’m stunned by this reversal of physical distancing in classrooms by (Hinshaw).”

“Hinshaw has officially lost all credibility,” said Calgary resident Jordon Stevens.

“This is profoundly irresponsible,” said Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.

Hinshaw’s response?

She refrained from lashing back. Instead, she apologized for any anxiety and confusion that might have been sparked by the order, then gently said what is obviously true, that there’d be no reversal here: “I must be clear that the order this weekend does not change our policy or my advice. Reports that indicate otherwise are not accurate. No policy has changed since mandatory masking was announced on Aug. 4.”

The reason for allowing masks to be off in some situations was in part a practical consideration, as Hinshaw explained: “The intention is to allow students a break from mask wearing in the classroom.”

That kind of accommodation for students sound reasonable, especially as there’s no end in sight to COVID.

Hinshaw’s response was in no way defensive or angry. In fact, it was a model for the attitude we might all adopt.

Almost everyone is now on edge due to health and economic concerns. The stress is compounded by the fact that there’s no perfect solution for the crisis, or any guarantee of safety for anyone, and we’re all struggling with new rules.

Is the return to school going to be perfect? No. Will there be outbreaks? Definitely.

But have Hinshaw, the government and our school boards come up with a reasonably sound plan? Yes, it’s not any kind of wild-eyed outlier, and if there are major issues, Hinshaw has shown she can learn and adapt.

In the meantime, if we adopt Hinshaw’s kind, tolerant and measured approach, we might just pull through this crises with our collective sanity intact.

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