Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, is pictured on his office in Augusta on Sept. 10, 2020. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

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At last week’s COVID-19 media briefing, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah appropriately thanked the health care workers, state public health employees, volunteers helping to get their fellow Mainers vaccinated and tested, and members of the Maine National Guard for all the work they’ve been doing.

In addition to that important message of gratitude, he also shared some noteworthy thoughts on another critical resource at this stage of the pandemic: Grace.

“There’s a final group that I think needs our grace during this difficult time. And that’s the people in your life — your friends, your family, your community, each of whom right now is probably looking at the future of the COVID pandemic in different ways based on their own risk,” Shah said. “These days it seems like when it comes to COVID, each of us feels like we’re on an island. Everyone who is taking COVID more seriously than you, is an over-reactionary worry wart. And everyone who is taking COVID less seriously than you, it’s easy to cast them as someone who doesn’t get it, someone who’s denying science. Of course, neither of those extremes is true.

“What is true is that everyone approaches COVID differently. Through their own lens, a lens that reflects and refracts their own health status, their family’s health, whether they’ve been vaccinated, as well as a host of other factors. No two people right now will think of COVID and their own risk in the same way. And that means that no two people will take the exact same set of steps, especially as we go into the holiday season,” Shah continued. “Now, this can be bewildering, in some cases it can be downright infuriating. But it’s important to note that when you’re encountering those folks, folks who are taking COVID more seriously as well as folks who are taking it less seriously than you, that we all bear in mind that they’re all looking at COVID through their own personal lens.

“Rather than being frustrated, rather than being bewildered, my ask is that you approach those folks in your life not with frustration but with grace,” Shah added. “Recognize that they’re coming at this world — a messy, bewildering world — with a different set of thoughts and values than you, maybe. It can be frustrating, but it’s also a time where grace will get us much further than will irritation.”

Those words are especially important to keep in mind right now, after relentless COVID-19 misinformation efforts (particularly around vaccines), entrenched divisiveness and shifting, and often poorly explained, guidance have made a bad situation even worse. Add in the new omicron variant that public health experts continue to learn more about — that so far offers a complicated picture with concerning evidence of increased transmissibility and hopeful signs of less severe illness — and you’ve got an information landscape that is tough to navigate for even the most plugged in consumers of news.

In short: It’s not always easy to know what the right thing to do is right now. During a season of giving, let’s also give each other grace when our approaches to the current COVID situation aren’t exactly the same.

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Opinion Editor Susan Young, Deputy Opinion Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked for the BDN...