Returning to Normalcy

It is now mid-May 2021 and COVID-19 Pandemic has caused me to lockdown in my home now for 14 months, since mid-March 2020. My perspective in the first few months of the Pandemic are expressed in my blog titled ‘One Year in a Pandemic.’ Since being fully vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine on April 14th, two weeks after my second shot on April 1st, I’ve been coming out of my cocoon and slowly returning to normalcy.

This started with working as a volunteer at the Southern Worcester COVID Vaccine Clinic since April 14th. I’ve now worked 36 hours at this clinic and another 10 hours at the Metro-West Westborough COVID Vaccine Clinic in various roles including:

  • Front Door Greeter (4 hours)
  • Vaccine Room Greeter (4 hours)
  • Vaccine Runner (4 hours)
  • Directing to Recovery Room Greeter (5 hours)
  • Recovery Room Greeter (9 hours)
  • Second Appointments (20 hours)

All this interaction has likely exposed me to at least a few people who were infected and transmitting SARS-CoV2 virus. Though both the people being vaccinated and I wore masks, some with better mask wearing behavior than others, the proximity of many of my contacts with them was well within a 6 foot physical distance, so transmission is likely if they were infected long enough to be transmitting. Yet, I’m not worried because the vaccine protects me and I’m also confident that it also substantially reduces the likelihood that I would transmit the virus even if I were infected, mildly if at all. My understanding of the effects of vaccination, is that if I get infected, the immunity resulting from the two shots of vaccine, removes the infection before the virus replicates enough to be transmissible.

For the past year my wife and I have had very limited and infrequent access with my stepdaughter, her husband and son who was only 11 months old when the Pandemic lockdown happened. After she was vaccinated a few weeks ago, we visited them – only an hour and a half away from us – and I was finally able to enjoy sometime with my now two year old grandson. We will be visiting them tomorrow for Mother’s Day. My stepdaughter just got her second vaccine shot on Friday, and her husband got his in the last two weeks as well. Before we had the vaccinations, I did not want to risk the connection considering their son’s unknown contacts with potential COVID-19 carriers at his daycare center. I am no longer concerned about the health of any of us now, with the risk of severe COVID-19 being near negligible.

Its been sixteen months since I saw my son who visited us last in January 2020, and now I am planning to go visit him in New York, a five hour drive, next weekend for a few days. I think he is fully vaccinated, though that’s not a concern since I know he’s been good about remaining isolated and he has even gotten tested a few times so he could visit with his girlfriend who has been living in Pennsylvania. I’m hoping this will be the first of many regular visits I make to him, something I was not doing before the Pandemic, but the separation from him, and the pending move to Australia is motivating me to have more contact with him.

Also, I have been starting to feel comfortable going into stores with my mask on to get what I need, rather than ordering everything online. I’ve always been willing to go into the Muffin House to order a muffin and coffee, then recently started with picking up mobile orders at Starbucks. More recently I’ve been going into Aldi’s, Stop & Shop, Wegman’s and CVS. I continue to try to maintain social distance, though I’m not as concerned if this breaks down as when I was unvaccinated.

Finally, I’ve been starting to engage my men’s circle in a conversation about returning to face-to-face meetings. I’ve put out a survey, and a number of men are not yet vaccinated, though all are willing to meet face-to-face outdoors, considering the CDC’s lessening concern about outdoor transmission, which they say is extremely rare in the tracing work they have been monitoring. The conversation seems to be leading us to an indoor meeting in July because outdoor meetings at this time of year in the evenings threatens mosquito bites, and those can transmit Eastern Equine Encephalitis disease (EEED) which is quite a serious issue in Massachusetts. One man thought we should consider making vaccination a requirement for attending. We will have an extensive conversation on our regular Zoom call in two weeks to see if we can come to some agreement.

One of the men indicated that they were ‘vaccine hesitant’, wanting to wait and see because he is worried that getting this vaccine might make it harder to develop immunity to future variants. I spoke with him on the phone about his concerns and told him some of the knowledge I have gained from watching a course on Virology (see Learning About Virology) and especially the class on Vaccines (see Learning About Vaccines). There is actually some truth to the thinking that a vaccine can hinder the optimal response to an infection, because the body’s immune system will respond with a dominant antibody response, rather than the best antibody response. However, vaccine developers are coming up with novel vaccines that could obviate this problem and even work against most variants by developing the antibody response to a portion of the S-protein that does not mutate to produce new variants, and yet is still exposed to attack by antibodies and killer T-cells.

I told this man, that I’m not worried about being indoors with him because I am protected. I guess we could ask men who are not vaccinated to wear masks, if they feel comfortable being with other men who are not vaccinated. I do think the better answer is, that if you want to attend, you must be vaccinated. We could be doing our part to encourage people to get vaccinated. I’m fairly certain that international travel will require vaccination, so such a requirement is something that many people will want to do if they plan to travel.

Author: T.P. Caruso

Retired from a healthcare and biomedical research career and now enjoying connections with anyone interested in history, geneology, healthcare, leadership or consciousness.

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