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Here’s Your COVID Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card

In one year our world has gone from normal as we knew it to fully locked down Armageddon doing battle with a deadly bat virus.

COVID will be remembered in history as vividly as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the stock market crash of 1929, 9/11, and the day your favorite team lost the championship game.

We’ve been in pandemic mode for over a year, and even with fast-tracked, effective vaccines (one shot or two, and we’re not at a bar ordering a Scotch and soda), we must still remain vigilant and prudent.

Many of us are transitioning from fully vaccinated, yet among us are those who choose not to be vaccinated. Therefore, the COVID vaccines are not get-out-of-jail-free cards at all, but they might allow you to pass GO carefully.

We will long remember these days. We learned how to order groceries online. We craved a meal in a restaurant. We wiped down groceries and doorknobs. We lost friends and family to COVID and attended online funerals. We lost our sense of community, or at least it evolved on Zoom visits with grandchildren.

New guidelines from the CDC are outlining what we can do now—and what we still have to do to be safe:

  • Vaccinated people can mingle with other vaccinated individuals without masks or physical distancing. But is there a magic number of visitors above which the risks increase? We don’t know yet. The vaccine is approximately 90-95% effective, but not a guarantee of total protection.

  • Let’s say a couple is vaccinated. They invite a low-risk, healthy unvaccinated couple into their home for dinner. Does this scenario pose a risk to anyone? Social distancing and masks would still be appropriate. With spring and summer ahead, outdoor activities would be preferred.

  • As restaurants open, we need to be especially vigilant. The greeter doesn’t ask, “Vaccinated or not?” There is no vaccinated section. My advice is to order takeout and stay safe or eat outside.

  • In a setting such a gym, church, or restaurant it seems unlikely that there is a high risk. But since no vaccine is 100% effective, to go to these places is reasonable if you wear a mask and maintain social distance.

  • Since about 90% of the country is still not vaccinated, strangers in public places must be viewed as a potential threat. To protect yourself, vaccinated or not, double mask and keep a distance. You can still contract COVID if you have been vaccinated.

  • What is especially clear are the dangers of travel. Without question, whenever there are holidays, major athletic or social or political events and large crowds of unrelated individuals, there is a clear spike in COVID-19. The spike is deadly.

  • There are multiple imponderables as the scenario plays out. How effective is the vaccine in the face of the emergence of viral mutations or variants. Equally important is how long the vaccines maintain protection. We just don’t know.

We are well advised to remember the recommendations from the referee at the onset of a boxing contest: “Protect yourselves at all times.” This advice clearly applies to each of us today as we enter a new day of uncertainty. But what is certain is the effectiveness of the vaccine (if you do get COVID, you may not have a severe case or be hospitalized) and the continuing crucial importance of wearing masks, maintaining social distance, washing hands, and maintaining our social bubbles.

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