Waiting for the herd effect is a new experience, and odd new norms jump out again
I became “fully vaccinated” earlier this month, thanks to being moved up in the queue through Meals on Wheels, where I volunteer. Being fully vaccinated means per the CDC that I and other fully vaccinated people can hang out without masks and so forth.
But until the herd effect fully kicks in, the world hasn’t changed significantly — masking in public is still a requirement and expectation, for instance, and testing protocols haven’t shifted much, if at all. If I want to go anywhere fun, I still need to get my brain stabbed.
But the “Covid industrial complex” is becoming a bit more obvious now that I’ve passed the vaccination point.
Are you really going to require me to take a “sanitized” pen? Why? Pens were never the problem, and the whole “surfaces” thing was a bit misleading anyhow. Now that I’m vaccinated, please don’t bother. We can move on.
Take my temperature entering your store? No longer necessary, thank you. The only fever I’m likely to have now is for more cowbell.
Mask up approaching me on the sidewalk? Even if you’re also vaccinated? If only there were a way for us to know, and a way for us to stop masking without looking like we’re being reckless or political. If only we trusted the invisible benefits of the new vaccines as much as we trust the old vaccines we got as children.
It’s going to take us a while to get over the trauma of the past year — to drop the masking, the sanitizing, and the nose-probing. Will we be able to stand in lines again that are shorter because we’re standing close to one another? Or to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers in a crowd without wearing masks and face shields? We used to do such things without a care. Now, it seems bizarre and frightening at some basic level.
When will the stickers on the floors come up? When will the plexiglass barriers in restaurants be removed?
Maybe we won’t ever drop some of our new habits entirely. It might become more normal — as it has in Asia, most obviously — for us to wear masks on airplanes and in some communal settings. People were wiping down airplane seats during cold and flu season prior to Covid, so that’s likely to be more commonplace. I can imagine wearing a mask on a flight during flu season now. That might be a smart move, and I have plenty of masks lying around these days. Our supply closets have changed a little.
What about going back into the office? Traveling again? Eating at a hotel restaurant? Hanging out at a conference bar with old friends, laughing at jokes and jabs? What’s the point of normalcy we’ll be able to embrace?
And how and when do we ratchet back as a society? Or has “Covid anxiety” become the TSA of this decade, a bit of “security theater” we participate in to feel like we’re safer somehow?
Are we going to have a Covid industry around us for years now?
It’s hard to know. Will the Covid vaccine become an annual affair? Part of the childhood vaccine battery? Will we be able to relax again, and trust the science of vaccination after experiencing the before and after for the first time in our lives?
Was it hard for people to give up the iron lungs and crutches after the polio vaccine proved successful?
It’s going to be interesting to watch us transform back out of the pandemic. Barring any variant that turns Covid-19 into Covid-21, we may be on the road out of these particular woods. The herd is immunizing, and things are changing.
Will we be able to believe it? Trust it? Relax again?
It’s worth a shot.