All Vaccinated Up. Now What?
We realize life will never quite be 'old normal' again. But we're still far from 'new normal.'
When, after getting their second Covid shot, friends excitedly tell us their travel plans — Florida, California, The Berkshires, etc. — I tell them my wife and I are considering a trip as well…To Costco.
What’s the rush to travel? I wonder. It’s only been a year of living in a bubble, with limited human contact and unlimited Netflix bingeing. Maybe I’m not ready to venture out, even though I have less of an excuse now to stay home. I worry about the lingering effects of a self-imposed quarantine. After several years of finding deep satisfaction in being part of a vibrant and caring community and congregation, what will it take to get me back to shul?
I’m beginning to understand that navigating the return to some form of normalcy after a long, difficult and often frightening year, varies greatly for each of us. Much of it depends on our health, community, personality and psyche. And I guess I’m one of those people more comfortable tip-toeing into next steps than racing toward them.
It’s all a bit confusing. Advice from medical experts varies and sometimes seems contradictory, in part because the scenarios people pose can get quite complicated. Like, “If my friend had two shots and his uncle, who has a pre-existing condition, had one shot, can they have dinner indoors in a semi-ventilated restaurant with my friend’s teenage son whose classmate was quarantined the previous week -- if they wear masks (granted, a bit messy)?”
I can imagine a “Covid Code of Jewish Law” with hundreds of pages of specific queries and detailed responsa that will keep our rabbis and doctors busy til a year from Yom Kippur.
The medical experts do seem to agree, though, that after receiving two vaccine shots, people are highly unlikely to get Covid. Still, we are urged to wear a mask wherever we go, in part out of societal solidarity, and so as not to alarm others who see us and don’t know we’re all vaccinated up. More importantly, we could be transmitting Covid to others unknowingly.
I get all that, but it’s hard to get my head around feeling safer now, after becoming so used to the anxiety and inner stress of this past year’s combination of profound medical and political crises. Is it safe to read the news again and go out for a bite, leaving our pajamas at home? Even after two vaccine shots, I hesitate to mingle. And even after Donald Trump has been a private citizen for six weeks, far from Washington, I worry about his ongoing influence on our fragile democracy.
How do you achieve herd immunity when 29 million Texans are told to forget about masks and social distancing? The politics and the pandemic have morphed into an existential threat to our way of life.
In practical terms, it would help if those of us fortunate enough to have completed our vaccinations could receive the kind of Green Pass app that the ingenious Israelis came up with, allowing fully vaccinated citizens access to gyms, concerts, hotels and more. (How is that Israel is way ahead of us and every other country on the vaccine front, yet can’t seem to form a government that lasts more than a year?)
It’s hard to step back at this point and assess our situation. Time has flattened out. Every day is Blursday. Our mental health and social instincts have been challenged. Tragically, not only have we lost more than 500,000 Americans to the pandemic, including family, loved ones and friends, but we’re still too numb to fully feel the depth of those losses.
We can imagine the end of the tunnel but we know we’re still in it.
With it all, we have so much to be thankful for, starting with the humility we have in honoring those who created the life-saving vaccines, and the medical workers who continue to risk their lives to treat and comfort those who fall ill. The enthusiastic applause and noise-making we exhibited each evening for months has faded into the routines of our daily life. But the gratitude remains, as does our appreciation for the simpler joys of life we too often took for granted -- time with family, re-connecting with old friends, a loved one’s touch.
When my wife and I received our vaccine shots, we were filled with emotion, feeling blessed and thanking God for allowing us to reach this moment. We celebrated, 14 days later (as required), by hugging our local grandchildren (and their parents) for the first time in a year. Priceless.
Gradually, I’m preparing myself as best I can for the next phase of this return to something approaching normal.
Gary, glad to see the return of "Between the Lines". All is well with our Tribe. I trust likewise with yours. No Costco in Israel. Looking forward to meeting folks for coffee at Aroma or wherever. Stay healthy. Be well, Howard