This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML

Govts, companies shifted COVID risk management responsibility to individuals: study

Researchers say organizations could have been more proactive in ‘owning’ responsibility

A new Canadian study has found that over the first five months of 2020, government and corporate approaches to COVID-19 went from taking decisive, collective action against the pandemic to emphasizing individual responsibility.

The researchers say that Canadian policymakers and firms should take more ownership of the challenge, but in the end, “it takes everyone to protect everyone.”

The study, titled “Passing the Buck vs. Sharing Responsibility: The Roles of Government, Firms and Consumers in Marketplace Risks during COVID-19,” is published in the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research.

Its authors analyzed speeches and tweets by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, as well as tweets and emails from a handful of major corporations, from January to May.

They found the messaging went through three distinct phases, beginning with an “externalization” stage that lasted from the start of the year until early March, in which the virus was largely seen as a foreign problem.

After the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, researchers found the message shifted to one of “responsible organizations” — a phase characterized by daily policy announcements, states of emergency, and major shifts in the way corporations operated.

This lasted until mid-April, when researchers found the emphasis was increasingly placed on “responsible consumers.” This phase began “once organizations established the ceiling of their efforts and demanded consumers’ co-operation,” according to the study.

“It was more like, ‘do your job. Do your part. Help each other,’” Charles Cho, an accounting professor at York University and one of the study’s authors, said in an interview on Thursday.

“What we find in general is, we first externalize the situation, then we take control of the situation. Eventually, we sort of ask the consumers to co-operate to help mitigate the risk.”

The authors said the study’s aim is not to lay blame, noting “citizens must bear some of the burden of trying to contain the spread of the virus.”

However, Cho said, organizations could have been more proactive in “owning” responsibility.

“That owned responsibility was just there temporarily, and then it quickly shifted,” Cho said.

The study also found that governments and organizations failed to properly emphasize the interdependence of different groups, instead focusing on the risks to vulnerable populations such as seniors and health-care workers.

This “overemphasis” had one unintentional consequence, the study found: making young, healthy people underestimate their own risk of getting COVID-19 — as well as their role in spreading it.

That’s led to “failed responsibilization, transgressions, and reduced compliance to guidelines such as physical distancing and mask-wearing,” the study found.

Adam Burns, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A monument was unveiled during a ceremony in Tofino last week honouring Jo-Ann Fuller and Ivan Polivka. The monument will be placed on Hwy. 4 near Kennedy Lake. (Photo courtesy of Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of BC)
Somber ceremony held in Tofino to mark 10th anniversary of fatal ambulance crash

Beloved paramedics Jo-Ann Fuller and Ivan Polivka died in a tragic ambulance crash on Hwy. 4.

New Bulldogs forward Oak MacLeod fires a shot on the Grizzlies’ goal during the first period of a preseason game at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on Tuesday, Oct. 27. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
BCHL: New guys get game winner for Alberni Valley Bulldogs

Alberni records a 5-4 overtime win against the Victoria Grizzlies

From left to right: Mark Walter, BJ Gillis, Kyle Munro and Danny Gillis of the Alberni Valley Disc Golf Club stand beside a disc golf basket at Dry Creek Park. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Disc golf expands to Port Alberni’s Dry Creek Park

New 18-hole course will be ready to play by spring of 2021

A Trio of Roses (CYNTHIA BONESKY)
ARTS AROUND: Stop and smell the flowers at the Rollin Art Centre

Next exhibit features Port Alberni artists Cynthia Bonesky and Jan Vriesen

PanAmour, featuring some familiar Port Alberni faces, will perform online via Zoom Oct. 30, 2020 at Char’s Landing. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Cure the blues with PanAmour at Char’s Landing

Tickets for virtual concert available online

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Hirdeypal Batth, 24, has been charged with sexual assault and forcible confinement in relation to an incident in August 2020. (VPD handout)
Man, 24, charged with sex assault after allegedly posing as fake Uber driver in Vancouver

Investigators believe there could be more victims outside of the Vancouver area

Pilot Kevin Maher participated in a flyover of a ceremony at the Cobble Hill cenotaph on Oct. 22 in a 1940 North American (Noorduyn) Harvard aircraft. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Cobble Hill remembers lost military members with ceremony, flyover

Annual event commemorates those who died in non-combat roles

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Adam Ireton holds his son Weston, along with Kristen and Beckett as they celebrate Weston's last day of treatment for lukemia. (Kristen Ireton photo)
799 days: ‘Super’ Weston defeats cancer

‘Weston is disease-free now, so we will be going into a period of checkups and things until he’s 18’

B.C. Premier John Horgan and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee arrive for annual Cascadia conference in Vancouver, Oct. 10, 2018. They have agreed to coordinate the permanent switch to daylight saving time. (B.C. government)
B.C. still awaiting U.S. approval to eliminate daylight saving time

Clocks going back one hour Nov. 1 in Washington too

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

Most Read