I woke up the other night with a nagging thought. It gripped me. I was instantly awake. It was urgent and insistent, and the weight of it remained with me when I woke up again to get up and go to work.
I will get back to the thought that woke me from my sleep in the middle of the night, but first I need to explain the backstory.
We have established protocols and precautions for COVID in my office based on the consensus of advice from the experts. We decided that we would only set appointments according to the protocols that are designed to keep our staff and the people who meet with us safe from the risk of exposure to COVID.
We don’t allow walk-in appointments. We encourage “meetings” over the phone or video conferencing. Certain meetings, though, have to be in person, such as meetings to sign documents. I do a lot of estate planning, especially lately, and we must have two witnesses and a notary to sign Wills and Powers of Attorney. Everyone must be together in the room at the same time to satisfy the statutory requirements for those documents.
The protocol includes advising clients when the appointment is scheduled to wear masks, to bring their own pens (or use one of ours and take it with them) and to answer a list of questions. The questions include the following: have you tested positive for COVID; do you have a fever; do you have symptoms, like a dry cough, fever, loss of taste of smell, etc.; have you traveled out of the area in the last 14 days (and, if so, where); have you come into contact with anyone who has tested positive for COVID in the last 14 days; etc.
Our staff is instructed to call people who are scheduled to come in to the office the night before the appointment to ask all the questions, and to explain the protocol in detail. When people come in, we make sure they are wearing masks, we take their temperature, ask them to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer, and we have have them sign off on the same list of questions.
We have been taking the threat of COVID seriously and doing what is in our power to protect people and ourselves from possible exposure. The battle of the experts and expert opinions in the media and conflicting “facts” about COVID, including reports of intentional embellishment of the number of cases reported, raise many questions, but the protocols are the least we can do to love and protect the people who work for us and our clients from the potential risks.
Our staff and I developed the protocols. All the attorneys in the office agreed that we should follow these procedures, and we have been following them.
I have some very long term clients. It isn’t unusual for me to meet with staff at their offices or for them to meet with me at my office. Most of my appointments are set up by my legal assistants, but I work very directly with our bigger, long-term clients on an ongoing basis, as I try to be as responsive to their ongoing needs as possible. We have represented one entity continuously since the 1960’s, so our diligence and conscientious work has been rewarded.
One staff member I work with often asked for a meeting with me sometime last week. He suggested meeting with me at my office to review the documents we were going to discuss. He set up the meeting through an Outlook calendar invitation, and I accepted it.
I didn’t think anything of it. This is how I have done things with them for years, and I didn’t follow the protocols we set up. I didn’t think about it.
You can probably see where this is going.