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

The Dupras family has been regulars at the Babine River and have seen plentiful grizzlies over the years. (Jay Dupras photo/Lakes District News)
A family’s close encounter with a grizzly on Babine River bridge

Photo-enthusiasts let the bear access the bridge for photos putting others at risk

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals.
‘Where is Annita McPhee?’: Cullen under fire from opening salvo of all-candidates forum

Four Stikine candidates spar during online debate from Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers

(Wet'suwet'en Access Point on Gidimt'en Territory Facebook screenshot)
Ceremony a right at proposed CGL pipeline drill site: BC Union of Indian Chiefs

Indigenous land defenders cannot be criminalized and targeted, argues UBCIC

(File graphic)
Man dies in Gitlaxt’aamiks (New Aiyansh) after being taken into police custody

IIO and BC Corners Service conducting independent investigations

Dan Stuart (Christian Heritage Party - BC photo)
Strong values underpin Christian Heritage Party candidate

He’s also suspicious of the COVID-19 pandemic

FILE – People wait in line at a COVID-19 testing facility in Burnaby, B.C., on Thursday, August 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
167 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death recorded as B.C. enters 2nd wave

Three new healthcare outbreaks also announced

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

UBC geoscientists discovered the wreckage of a decades-old crash during an expedition on a mountain near Harrison Lake. (Submitted photo)
Wreckage of possibly decades-old airplane crash discovered on mountain near Harrison Lake

A team of UBC geoscientists discovered the twisted metal embedded in a glacier

The official search to locate Jordan Naterer was suspended Saturday Oct. 17. Photo courtesy of VPD.
‘I am not leaving without my son,’ says mother of missing Manning Park hiker

Family and friends continue to search for Jordan Naterer, after official efforts suspended

A bear similar to this black bear is believed responsible for killing a llama in Saanich on Oct. 19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Bear kills llama on Vancouver Island, prompting concerns over livestock

Officers could not track the bear they feel may not fear humans

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Bernard Trest and his son Max, 10, are concerned about B.C.’s plan for students in the classroom. He was one of two fathers who filed a court application in August to prevent schools from reopening if stricter COVID-19 protections weren’t in place. That application was dismissed last week. (Contributed photo)
B.C. dad pledges to appeal quashed call for mandatory masks, distancing in schools

Bernard Trest and Gary Shuster challenged health, education ministries’ return-to-school plan

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
RCMP cleared in fatal shooting of armed Lytton man in distress, police watchdog finds

IIO spoke to seven civillian witnesses and 11 police officers in coming to its decision

A 34-year-old man was treated for a gunshot wound in Williams Lake Monday, Oct 19, 2020. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake man treated for gunshot wound after accidental shooting: RCMP

Police are reminding residents to ensure firearms are not loaded when handling them

Most Read