Free at Last! But I Have FOGO
It’s finally happened. The CDC has lifted most Covid-19 restrictions just in time to celebrate summer and a better year ahead. But, after 14 months of handwashing, social distancing, self isolation and masks, going out feels kind of weird. Am I right?
While the new, relaxed guidelines apply only to those people who have been fully vaccinated – people who have received two doses of any of the qualified Covid-19 vaccines – being able to dispense with the other protocols like distancing and mask-wearing leaves many feeling kind of vulnerable. After all, most of us have weathered through this past year by shrinking our social circles and staying away from crowds. So, for some, it is going to take time and maybe some therapy to be able to venture out into the larger world. But with some common sense and an attitude of non-judgment, we will be able to venture out safely at our own pace.
Let You Be You!
Let it be said, right up front, that each individual needs to act in a way that makes them the most comfortable. And that means – no pressure to conform and no judgment of choices – as long as you are keeping yourself and those who may be more medically vulnerable safe. If a fully vaccinated people don’t want to give up mask-wearing because they are more comfortable wearing one – that’s fine. End of story. In fact, many people have found that their seasonal allergies have improved this spring because they are wearing a mask. This is one of the many additional side benefits of mask-wearing along with a very low flu season.
But if you still find yourself feeling uncertain about what you can do or can’t do – err on the side of caution and limit your contacts with people you are not sure have been fully vaccinated. Practice whatever protocols work for you. But remember, fully vaccinated people have many more options for travel and social interaction in larger crowds than non-vaccinated folks.
I’ve put together a couple of “hacks” that worked in the old days of Covid protocol and may still help you feel more comfortable venturing out in a post vaccinated world. Remember – it is about keeping ourselves and others safe, not trying to make any kind of statement.
A Trip to the Gym
A trip to the Gym shouldn’t have to feel like you are planning an undercover operation. But with a little pre-planning, your workout can feel safe and give you what you need.
- Find out when the gym staff deep cleans the facility and plan your workout around those times.
- Think about working out during off peak hours when there are less likely to be crowds.
- Bring your own sanitary wipes to wipe down whatever equipment that you are using.
- Maintain distancing protocols leaving space between machines.
- Wear a mask that has a little structure to it so that you don’t inhale the fabric during intense exercise. Nothing makes you want to not wear a mask more than not being able to breathe!
Restaurants and Bars
Nothing says normal like dining out at your favorite restaurant with friends. But brushing up against other people might feel a little uncomfortable just now. So with these few tips, even dining out can still be safe and fun.
- Check out the safety protocols of your dining choice. Do they have separation between tables or an occupancy limit? You decide what works best for you.
- Are employees all wearing masks?
- Do they disinfect “high touch” areas on a regular basis?
- Do they provide touchless payment?
- Avoid salad bars, drink stations, buffets and any kind of common utensil like soup ladles or serving spoons.
- Remember, if you are missing your favorite restaurant fare because you are “just not there” yet, take-out is still a welcome option. Dress up your take-out experience with a fun drink or cocktail. And remember to tip your delivery person. They are making your life easier – and safer!
Grocery Stores and Retail Stores
Going to a grocery store no longer needs to feel like one of those trips that now requires advanced planning and some kind of negative consequence when you come home with artichoke hearts when you really needed eggs. But if you are still concerned with crowds, follow these few tips for an overall better and quicker experience.
- Make a shopping list to minimize time in the store and avoid unnecessary time spent admiring the gourmet section.
- Shop early or late in the day during non-peak hours
- Avoid peak days like weekends.
- See if your favorite local retailer or grocer has delivery options or curbside pick up.
- If you are using a cart or basket, wipe down the handles with disinfectant wipes provided by the store or the ones you brought with you in your “go pack”.
- Did I mention wearing a mask? It still is appropriate if it makes you comfortable.
Salon and Barber
The year 2020 will go down in history as the year that thousands of women discovered the true color of their hair. Those of us that are slightly younger found out just how to rock the 70’s look of shaggy hair and a scruffy beard. The older set already knew how. Lucky for us we now have access to our local salons and barbers. If we want to feel really secure, we can follow these few tips and also any protocols that your salon or barber has in place:
- Wear your mask at all times. Hold it against your face when having your hair washed or cut if it gets in the way.
- Find out if your salon has staggered appointment times
- Avoid blow drying as the possibility for airborne transmission increases.
- Ask about their disinfection protocols
- Touchless payment?
- Check and see if single use gloves are in use.
- Be sure to wash and/or sanitize your hands after your visit
Parks and Outdoor Recreation
Outdoor recreation gives us a multitude of ways to gather safely with friends and family. The CDC has been telling us that the risk of gathering outside is small, and even smaller still if you have been fully vaccinated, following these tips will help you plan ahead and have a great time.
- Find out what is open. Some parks are still open on a limited basis. Make sure that restrooms and concessions are available if you need to travel far from home.
- If you are attending a ball game or sporting event, find out how the seating will work and if you can sit with your “pod”.
- If you are not comfortable attending a “full capacity” event, create a “viewing event” at your home with your friends and family. It is not the same as attending in person, but you never miss a play with TIVO and you always have access to a restroom.
When your whole purpose is to gather in fellowship and sing your heart out, the easing of restrictions on congregant settings is very welcome news. While many congregations who have been conducting video services and archiving sermons and programming that congregants can access at their convenience are still doing so, feel that the underpinning of worship is the proximity to others and the ability to lift up their voices in celebration. If that is important to you and your place of worship has returned to in person services, you might want to ask if these options are available.
- Find out if there is a limit on the size of the gathering and if social distancing is in effect.
- With the warmer weather, outdoor services may be available. Find out if they are an option and if social distancing will be in effect.
- Avoid touching hymnals or prayer books. If you do, make sure you use hand sanitizer when you are finished.
- If there is an after service gathering, make sure that you use single use items like spoons and cups and pre-packaged food.
This is What the Homestretch Can Look Like
Spring and summer of 2021 looks like it will be a brand new world. But It is up to us to see how things will play out. Recommendations from the CDC may change based on the status of infections at any given time as well as your personal vaccination status.
Be safe, be smart and follow the guidelines, get vaccinated if you are eligible and enjoy the summer of 2021. While this summer will be “different”, it will be better than last summer and next summer will be even better still!