[4/7/21 David Kramer, now double vaccinated, at the Dome Arena in Henrietta wearing two VACCINATE NEW YORK: I GOT MY VACCINATION AT THE DOME ARENA stickers. Photo: Staff member]
On Wednesday, I received by second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Dome. Unlike the first visit where lines were long, I had my shot in a matter of minutes. The jab was painless and I received my newly-minted vaccine record card, my “vaccine passport.” In about two weeks, I should have strong immunity. [Note: I had zero side effects for both shots.]After the shot, like the first visit, I was given a card indicating when my 15 minutes of precautionary waiting was over and I was free to go. Upon leaving, I dropped the time card in a basket. Outside, I basked in the summer-like sun, a harbinger of good times on the way. I felt the burden of the last thirteen months beginning to lift off my shoulders and with it a sense of liberation.
I took a moment to reflect on my experience of the pandemic in phases pre-vaccine and post-vaccine.
On one level, my response was high-minded and socially responsible. I studied and followed the CDC guidelines and every morning read the covid section of The New York Times. I stocked up on high quality masks, replacing then regularly after use. I wore the masks over my nose. A designer friend in southern California even made me artsy, teal-colored masks. I socially distanced. I hand sanitized. I avoided high, medium, and medium-low risk situations.I even masked and socially distanced when not really needed. At some point in the pandemic, we learned that contracting the virus takes about ten minutes of close contact. As such, when walking past someone on the sidewalk or biking past someone on a trail, it is not really necessary to put on your mask and move at least six feet apart. Nonetheless, I do so as a sign of social solidarity and committed citizenship.
At the same time, if being honest, wearing the mask did become a kind of social statement, one tinged on my behalf by self-righteous conceit. For me, hopefully on a submerged level, the mask became a badge of my intellectual, ethical and political superiority, offering psychic satisfaction.The mask says that I read the covid section of The New York Times every day. The mask says that I am not a denialist, downplayer, anti-masker or conspiracy theorist. The masks says I was incredulous when Trump declared, ““It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” The mask says I recoiled at his dismissive chant at rallies: “Covid, covid, covid. It’s all they talk about.” The mask says I don’t believe the virus was created and spread by Bill Gates just so a vaccine could be distributed, one designed to corrupt RNA and depopulate the earth. The mask says I am not so morally stunted that I can’t sympathize with people I’ll never meet nor am so politically deficient that I believe exercising freedom means the right to spread a deadly disease. These are not enlightened impulses. Sometimes people do the right thing for the wrong reasons.
In one aspect of the pandemic, I have struggled, specifically in situations where I wanted to demand or strongly suggest that strangers where masks. Generally, I am conditioned to be polite and non-confrontational towards strangers. In two incidents — one direct and one indirect — my response was passive.
One time, I entered a store selling baseball cards. Everyone – employees and customers – wore masks except for one man. Although, I kept a distance – was it the full six feet? – I did spend about 20 minutes chatting with him about baseball history. Afterwards, I reflected that I should have demanded the patron wear a mask. But, because of my social conditioning and because it was a novel situation for me, I refrained.
Instead, I later called the owner and discussed the behavior of the man. The owner said the patron just doesn’t like masks, but will wear one if pressured. The owner did not think the man had covid, but how could he know? My hope was that the owner confronted the man about the complaint that I was too timid to register myself.
More recently, a couple of weeks ago as I biked past the entrance of the Brickyard Trail in Brighton at dusk, I saw two teens stealing the covid STAY SIX FEET APART warning sign. As I biked away from the scene, the thought occurred – despite my non-confrontational nature – that I should return to lecture the boys and make them replace the sign.
After all, it wasn’t any sign but a covid sign designed to stop the pandemic. The two scofflaws looked like wimpy suburban boys. If they gave me any lip, I could easily take them out. At the same time, I had a paranoid image of the boys taunting and daring me to take back the sign. I saw me wrestling away the sign as one of the boys slipped, crushing his skull as he fell on a boulder or ragged tree stump. The law might rule against me.
Instead, I emailed Brighton Town Supervisor Bill Moehle — who placed the sign and lives across the street from the trail entrance – alerting him of the incident. In retrospect, I should have given the boys a beat down, but hopefully their parents discovered their irresponsible thievery and grounded them for a month. As of this writing, the sign is still gone.Now that I am double vaccinated, it is hard not to feel my personal pandemic is over. I was never at high risk, given my age and health. To be honest, the pandemic has had limited impact on my everyday life. Now, almost everyone I interact with is double vaccinated: the elderly, teachers and care givers. While luck is a factor, I’ve been doing something right as I never got the virus. The evidence shows vaccinated people have very strong protection and in the rare cases when they still get the virus, cases have been mild to moderate with almost no hospitalizations and no deaths. Nonetheless, I will continue to follow CDC guidelines, especially in solidarity with those still awaiting their shots.
I have reflected on what might be the best public message to be conveyed about vaccinations. For example, on March 31st, CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky announced:
Our data from the C.D.C. today suggests that vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don’t get sick. And that it’s not just in the clinical trials, it’s also in real-world data. (“It’s official: Vaccinated people don’t transmit COVID-19”, FORTUNE, 4/1/21)
Despite this seeming good news, Walensky still recommended continued masking and social distancinA day later, the CDC clarified Walensky’s statement, saying her statement may have been misleading, and that continued precautions are imperative.
A day later, on the PBS News Hour, David Brooks — apparently not knowing of the clarification — addressed the vaccine hesitant and how Walensky’s apparent good news could help:
But we have got to induce the people who are vaccine-hesitant to say, wow, it’s really great on the other side of the vaccine.
And one way to do that is to have these vaccine passports, so people can go and enjoy life. The research has now, it’s, as far as I understand it, become very clear. You do not get the disease — at least your chances are fantastic [that vaccinated people won’t get the virus] — and you do not spread the disease.
So, if that’s the case, then I say to all of you with the shots, party on. (PBS News Hour, 4/2/21)
I asked a young non-vaccinated man whether he thought telling the public that masks and social distancing are still needed might be in any way counterproductive. The man knows many vaccine hesitants. He concluded that some might be confused. Isn’t the whole point of the vaccine that you don’t need masks anymore? Maybe the vaccines aren’t really all that effective. Maybe I should wait longer before getting jabbed.
The man feels we are in a grey area. He’ll probably get his vaccine, but for now he’ll wait and see.
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