Seizing and Freezing with COVID

by Paula Harkins

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from my employer requiring me to report my vaccine status. Ummmm… what?!?

Let’s back up a moment. Since March 2019, I have been working from my home in Northern Virginia for a D.C. government contractor. I have limited my visits with friends, family, and the public. I had turned off the news. I had reduced my exposure to social media.

I am a fitness fan, so shortly after my employer went to a mass telework environment, I decided to stand up and lead a #INTHISTOGETHER program to encourage employees to keep moving in a pandemic environment, whether that was on a treadmill or on a hiking trail and to share experiences and pictures. We had over 800 participants! Folks stayed active, safely. This was my way of turning a lemon into lemonade. I was able to do something positive in a world that was struggling to feel and be “normal.”

Let’s fast forward to March 2020. Vaccines became available. I wasn’t sure about someone injecting me with a vaccine that had not gone through full trials, but I considered the odds and how it might affect me and the ones I love and decided to get vaccinated. My choice.
July 29, 2021… We had a new variant of COVID. Cases were rising again. I only knew because I noticed folks were wearing masks more, some businesses have gone back to requiring masks to enter, and my employer was pushing out comms. So, I payed closer attention. Conducted my own research. Read news articles. President Biden’s message: “Get your workers vaccinated if you want to work with the federal government.”

Ummmm… what?!?

Still working from home, I received an email from my employer… YOU ARE REQUIRED TO REPORT YOUR VACCINE STATUS NLT [INSERT DATE HERE]. Ummmm… what?!? Where was the choice? Oh… wait… there wasn’t one. Okay, society, you told us to stay in our homes. You told us to cancel Christmas, weddings, birthdays, church gatherings. You told us to stay away from our loved ones while they died alone in hospitals and nursing homes.

Now I’m told to report my vaccine status. I get to provide data about my health to a Human Resources department. Who will see this data in the HR department? How will they use this data? Where is HIPPA in all of this? Where do my rights begin and requirements like this end? I struggled with these questions for two weeks.

Then I told my supervisor, “No. I won’t do it and you can’t make me!”

I know what you’re thinking, “Geezzz, you sound like a child.” I agree with you. I felt like one, too. Like a parent telling me what to do and I didn’t want to do it.
The irony is… I’m a 49-year-old woman with my own thoughts and ideas. And I’m smart enough to know that I can change my mind if I can find the justification.

So, I started reaching out and asking both my conservative and liberal friends. Yes, I still have liberal friends… lol… How do you feel about this? What have you learned through all of this? Where are you getting your information?

Not only have I been thinking about the many questions that arise from the COVID epidemic, I’ve been thinking about how we think about the virus. I want to share something that I read today…

Questioning ourselves makes the world more unpredictable. It requires us to admit facts may have changed, that what was once right may now be wrong. Reconsidering what we believe deeply can threaten our identities making it feel as if we are losing a part of ourselves.

The author, A. Grant, went on to argue that we update our possessions, for example, our wardrobes and our homes, with no problem; however, we cling to our knowledge and opinions. We favor the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt. That author went on to argue that we laugh at people who use Windows 95, but we still cling to opinions we formed in 1995. Psychologists call this seizing and freezing.

Hmmmm… Seizing and freezing… what is that exactly? Let’s do some quick research! Seizing and freezing is a theoretical framework on cognitive closure, more specifically, the need for closure as a quickly as possible… a desire for definite knowledge on some issue as soon as possible and to maintain the inclination for as long as possible (Kruglanski & Webster, 1996).

This made me wonder if I was having a cognitive break where I craved closure and conviction. After all, who doesn’t want closure from the COVID-19 pandemic? This blog post is not meant to convince you of anything or to make you feel a certain way about the pandemic, post-pandemic, or whatever you call our society today. My hope is that you think about this topic in ways you haven’t before. Research. See if it changes your mind. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. It’s your choice. That’s the beauty of the mind.

Dr. Paula Harkins lives in Northern Virginia.


Grant, A. (2021). “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know.”

Kruglanski & Webster, 1996. “Motivated Closing of the Mind: Seizing and Freezing.”

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10 responses to “Seizing and Freezing with COVID”

  1. tmtfairfax Avatar

    The employer should address the HIPAA aspects. Biden likely thinks HIPAA is a nice name for a hippopotamus.

    1. vicnicholls Avatar

      and the author use HIPAA correctly …

  2. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Well, for one, they provide your health insurance…

    Tell your employer you won’t drug test either. Stand up for your Right to Work in this Right to Fire State.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    So , can your employer require you to get a drug test or answer whether you use drugs or have a health condition that might affect what kind of work you could do or be vulnerable to in the work environment like perfumes or the application of insecticides, mold or other problems in the HVAC, etc?

    Paula implies she’s not political but then says she STILL has liberal friends…hmmm….

    Does not listen to news but does engage in social media… “some”… and is using some familiar themes and talking points…

    I dunno. My antenna are up.

    I suspect your employer is contemplating how they might get back to an in-person environment and like almost every other employer and institution, concerned about employees becoming infected and spreading it to others.

    That does not seem unreasonable to me.

    1. Stephen Haner Avatar
      Stephen Haner

      I issue again my “RFP” for somebody who understands the case management systems to report on whether there has been a flood of litigation hitting places of business and workplaces. I won’t be surprised but don’t know how to find out.

  4. William O'Keefe Avatar
    William O’Keefe

    You stand on your rights and start looking for another job before you get fired which is what your employer should do.

  5. The US has made it legal for nearly 400K unborn babies to be killed each year on the premise, “My body; my choice.” Where is that premise regarding vaccination?

  6. Where is “My body; my choice” regarding vaccination?

  7. Kathleen Smith Avatar
    Kathleen Smith

    Questioning ourselves makes the world more unpredictable. It requires us to admit facts may have changed, that what was once right may now be wrong. Reconsidering what we believe deeply can threaten our identities making it feel as if we are losing a part of ourselves.

    Take that advice. The world is changing. There are new norms. Request HIPPA POLICY from your employer. Then give up the record. Keep it simple. He has a job to do and you have privacy rights. This could be a win win.

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