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Taking thoughtful risks is usually worth it

Lynnda and I got our second COVID vaccine shot two weeks ago.

Like the first, the process at the Charleston Civic Center was efficient, taking about two hours with more people in line. It reminded me of the Space Mountain Ride line at Walt Disney World snaking all through the Civic Center. They kept things moving.

We heard rumors of people having some side effects to the second shot. That was a concern since we were driving to Florida as soon as we finished. Before scheduling our shots, we had already scheduled an expiring timeshare week we couldn’t use last year because of COVID. Fortunately, we had no side effects other than a sore arm like any other shot and drove all the way to Florida without incident.

My wife and I had friends tell us not to get the shots. They said the shots were risky. We looked at available information and our leaders setting the example by getting themselves vaccinated. We evaluated all of the risks, considered our ages and Lynnda’s diabetes. It was an easy decision to get the shots.

We felt it riskier not to.

There are risks to almost anything we do. Driving to the store, going to church or visiting our family doctor all require some transportation risk but are worth it. Since COVID we are learning it is riskier for people not to see their doctor since cancer and other diseases are going undiscovered and untreated.

Attending school is a risk. For some, especially special needs or abused kids, home is a greater risk. More students are failing classes or otherwise falling behind because of virtual classes.

What future increased stresses and associated health risks might this create?

A friend of mine’s wife had not been out of their house since the pandemic out of fear. There is a mental and physical health risk to not leaving the house. My friend finally convinced her to take a risk and go out to dinner with him at a local restaurant.

The restaurant staff wore masks and the tables were spaced according to guidelines. It was a low-risk trip. My friend’s wife enjoyed getting out. She is ready for more trips.

In early January we took a long-delayed trip to Disney World with our youngest son and his four kids. We all quarantined before the trip to protect each other, wore masks and social distanced when in public. Everyone knew before entering Disney, “Anyone not wearing a mask will be asked to leave.” Masks were mandatory unless eating or drinking. Eating or drinking while walking was prohibited. The parks were at lower capacity but still busy and safe. Lines were set up to keep people apart and outside as much as possible. On attractions we had to ride with our family only. Riders from different families were physically separated. Plastic barriers were set up where necessary. Hand sanitizers were everywhere. All cast members wore masks. There were no parades or fireworks to avoid getting people in a crowd. They had surprise short parades with the characters. We got to see Mickey. Food had to be ordered on mobile app. We felt safer at Disney than at our local grocery stores.

Disney decided how they could remain open and keep people safe. We can ask the same question. How can we eat out, travel, visit family and friends, get our kids back to school, etc., and keep ourselves and others safe? At the height of the pandemic I saw three women at a local park, 10 feet apart wearing masks with their coffee. They found a safe and healthy way to socialize with friends. My daughter did something similar in Maryland with her running group. They are staying healthy and able to socialize with friends safely.

When we take risks, bad things can happen. We could have a car accident so we take precautions like wearing a seatbelt and having a car with airbags. We saw what can happen this week when Tiger Woods had a serious car accident. The seatbelt and airbags saved his life. Coming home from work nine years ago Lynnda rolled her car three times. The seatbelt and airbag saved her life.

In industry and in health care there are risks and hazards. Workers wear personal protective equipment (PPE). Health care workers can’t social distance. Industry has known existing hazards like noise from machinery or bright light from welding. PPE can protect workers from known hazards and COVID or the unexpected.

After recent weather events we saw another risk. There are those who want to see a greater use of renewables like wind and solar for power generation. We still don’t have the battery technology to store significant amounts of wind and solar energy. These are good supplemental sources. When used as base load energy sources they become dangerous in extreme conditions without a backup source of dependable, 24/7 guaranteed energy like coal, nuclear or natural gas. We know the sun can shine at best only 50% of the time because of night. The wind doesn’t always blow. We need electricity most not at 70 degrees, but when it is very hot or very cold. At 90 degrees or at 10 degrees people can die in their homes without electricity. I’m not willing risk my family’s lives on wind and solar power in extreme weather. Just like seatbelts, we need dependable backup power for renewables.

Taking risks is part of life. How can we best deal with risk? Here are some questions I ask. You might find them useful. What is the best that can happen? What is the worst that can happen? Is the risk worth the benefit? What can we do to minimize the risk like wearing seatbelts, a mask or getting vaccinated? Taking smart risks leads to a more fulfilled and fun life.

Asking Lynnda to marry me was a risk. It was worth it.

Greg Kozera, gkozera@shalecrescentusa.com, is the director of marketing and sales for Shale Crescent USA. He is a professional engineer with a master’s in environmental engineering who has over 40 years’ experience in the energy industry. He is the author of four books and numerous published articles.

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