Today at midday, failing in the energy required to do yesterday’s dishes, I set foot inside a neighborhood bar to have what in pre-pandemic days was my weekly excursion for a cheap bar breakfast, for the first time since the first week of March of last year.
Since the start of the pandemic, my only indoor activities outside the home have been grocery shopping, the rare trip on public transit, and the even rarer trip to a more-expensive neighborhood brunch place. While many people flocked in socially-distanced numbers to indoor dining as soon as such a thing resumed, everything I’d been reading and listening to since early last year pegged COVID-19 as, in James Hamblin’s words, an indoor talking disease. There was never any way I was going to spend any more time indoors than strictly necessary.
It’s understood that necessary is a freighted term. My rare transit rides, for example, were necessary in that they were my only way to go to the zoo, something that pre-pandemic had been a weekly mental health thing for me. Buses, despite being small, indoor spaces, nonetheless are extraordinarily well-ventilated; windows open, you literally can feel that ventilation happening.
Returning to the local brunch place the first several times was for outdoor dining only. More recently, although still prior to the latest round of masking guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, I’ve tried eating inside; it’s only been comfortable the times they’ve seated me at what had always been my usual table—near the front door, I could feel the ventilation happening.
What changed this week was two-fold: as of Monday, I’m fully vaccinated; and that evening, Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on MSNBC to explain to Chris Hayes the reasons for the latest mask guidance for those who, like me, now are fully vaccinated.
When the prior guidance came out not too long ago, I was skeptical of the reduction in masking recommendations for the vaccinated because at that point, as far as I knew, we still didn’t have much information on the capacity for vaccinated people to transmit the virus to others. According to Fauci, this now specifically is what’s changed.
If you’re fully vaccinated, Fauci says, there is an “extremely low risk” of infection and of transmission. Effectively, being fully vaccinated means you’re very unlikely to become infected; if you are, it’s both very unlikely you’ll even have symptoms and very unlikely you’ll transmit the virus to someone else.
I sort of suspect that much of the puzzlement and confusion over the new guidance stemmed in part from a disbelief that we could be receiving news about the vaccines that legitimately is this good.
What it meant for me, this morning, was that a fair amount of my anxiety over all of this just…lifted. I’m not easily excitable: my activities mostly will remain the same as they’ve been for months—certainly, I expect most businesses simply to continue to require masks for the foreseeable—but for the first time in over a year, I can actually resume one of my pre-pandemic routines.