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To go or not to go, that is the question

Getting the two vaccine shots were such momentous occasions for me.

As the vaccine went into my arm, I visualized it traveling around in my system and submerging itself into my very cells. Protect me, protect us all! What a glorious event this is, to have a vaccine in less than a year from the start of the pandemic. We are lucky, and yet I am aware of my white privilege and also older age, as so many others have not yet been able to be vaccinated.

So, after the two vaccine shots and waiting for two weeks after, I am ready to bust out! My family beckons me and I long to hug my grandchildren. We have all been cooped up for so long. I really need a change. And many of us are feeling strong and healthy and not as vulnerable having had the vaccine. Please, can we go now?

All the experts are saying we shouldn’t return to life as we knew it. The virus continues to spread all over the world, new variants seem to be cropping up everywhere, and we all need to remain vigilant until 70% of us are vaccinated. We should still wear masks, maintain social distances and avoid large groups and indoor gatherings. OK, I can do all that, but what about travel?

Can we hop on a plane with double masks and/or face shields, not stop for coffee in the airport and trust that our 95% protection will shield us? Dr. Anthony Fauci says, “Ultimately, yes.” (Note the “ultimately.”) And, “There is little risk hugging a fully immunized grandparent,” says an epidemiologist from University of California.

The problem lies in the fact that we unfortunately don’t know for sure if the vaccines protect against transmission. We could still be asymptomatic, yet carry the virus. So, we could be giving something to our kids. This remains unclear. Perhaps having a COVID-19 test right after landing in an airport could squelch this unknown?

If we are mindful of where we’re going and who we’re seeing, it may be OK. Areas where infections are on the rise, or visiting loved ones who are very vulnerable to severe disease should be off-limits.

And, the warmer weather will encourage people to gather outside.

On the negative side of traveling now, people tend to relax their safety precautions around close family and friends. Also, we’re not sure yet how protective these first two vaccines are against the variants. And, traveling is one of the fastest ways to spread the virus. Most health officials are warning against nonessential travel, even after we get the vaccines.

It seems that younger people, ages 20 to 40, were out at bars and partying big time for months last summer and fall, increasing the virus spread, while we elders were being so careful and responsible. Now, maybe the tables are turning, as we are getting vaccinated first and jumping on planes to see our loved ones. Is this carelessness moving from one generation to the next?

It’s exhausting having to weigh every little thing for risk vs. safety before doing it. It’s been a year now, and look at the devastation, grief and sadness we’ve all been through. Wondering how much more can we take? And, we’re not getting any younger: What if the virus goes on indefinitely?

So much to think about, and so many steps to be where we want. Little by little and gradual emergence is the way to go. May we all have the patience necessary to heal our families, communities, country and world.

Martha McClellan has lived in Durango since 1993 and has been an educator, consultant and writer. Reach her at mmm@bresnan.net.