Things are not back to “normal” in this not-quite-post pandemic moment.

First published in June 2021.

While many of us are fully vaccinated, many are not. While new cases are down (thanks to the vaccine), there sill are new cases. While deaths, thankfully, are down, there still are deaths.

That’s why, when I walked into the grocery store the other day, I wore my mask. As I headed to the deli counter, half a big-box store away, I all of a sudden saw people wearing masks – and NOT wearing masks. This was not the normal I have been living the past year. When I got to the counter, I asked the fella getting things I requested if we needed masks anymore. He said only if you’re more comfortable that way. Being fully vaccinated, I removed mine.

Then I walked around the grocery just wandering for a few minutes as I took in the new environment of non-mask wearing. I still, of course, wonder if the non-mask wearers were vaccinated or not. There’s obviously no way to tell.

It’s also not back to normal because I still see, every time a TV news story comes on about the pandemic, accompanying video of needles going into arms. Literally. This has been going on since the vaccine became available. Close-up shots of nurses putting needles in arms, the insertion causing an initial depression of the skin. Every time I see it, I react as if I’m being punctured. Seeing the pictures hurts more than the vaccine shot did, which the first time I didn’t know even went in.

I went into our local fish store yesterday, not a huge space. Prior to the “lifting” of restrictions she allowed only four individuals into a store at a time, masks required. I wore mine in yesterday, and asked the policy. Masks required only if you wanted. The store workers still wore their masks. The woman helping me said, “We see more people every day than others” so she was wearing the mask. She thanked me for asking if I needed a mask, though.

Again, that’s not a “normal” question. I likely will be asking it for a while before I feel “normal” again. I need, and I suspect some of you need, some time to remember what was normal before this hideous pandemic arrived.

With most restrictions being lifted, I still worry about more serious outbreaks around the country, with the victims those who refuse to get vaccinated. With bars, stadiums and other venues unlimited in number who can attend, the risk just multiplied many fold.

To try to motivate those not yet vaccinated to get their shots, many states are offering incentives. Like a million dollar lottery or two. I saw one kid, still in grammar school, won a full-ride college scholarship!

What gets me most about those programs to incentivize the unvaccinated is that we even need them. I don’t care that they may get a million bucks while I got nothing – well, except being protected against a deadly disease! That was plenty of incentive for me.

The feeling I got just scheduling the first dose was freeing.

President Biden and others are saying it’s a patriotic duty to get vaccinated. I agree. It’s also a human duty.  It protects you and me and that person in the grocery store who I don’t know.

Mostly, it protects you. If you haven’t please get vaccinated. Don’t trust the vaccine? Look around, millions have gotten the vaccine with no ill effects at all.

You can enjoy the “freedoms” I now do without getting vaccinated. But there likely is a limit on that freedom. It isn’t risk-free

B. Jay Cooper, former deputy White House press secretary to Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.


[This piece was originally published in Medium and re-published in PMP Magazine on 2 June 2021, with the author’s consent. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Flickr/Joe Biden. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)

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