I am now fully vaccinated. The pandemic is still ongoing. The one does not change the other, in the same way that the statement, “I want the pandemic to be over” does not end the pandemic.
I bring this up because there is a fresh and sudden wave of bullshit-scented judgment water splashing down on us in the form of, “Wow, you liberals just can’t quit lockdown,” or, “Gosh, you sure all seem to be pandemic addicts.” The assertion comes, presumably, from the idea that here, at the pandemic’s end, some of us are choosing to maintain a portion of our mitigation measures like masking or reduced travel. Which further suggests we are in a co-dependent relationship with said pandemic, or worse, that we are literally addicted to it, the way one becomes addicted to heroin. (I’m not going to link to any of the articles or tweets. I don’t care to give bad, disingenuous actors traffic. If you wanna track down sources, you can find them, I’m sure.)
Here’s one problem, though:
We are not at the pandemic’s end.
It’s still fucking happening! This isn’t the series finale! Holy shit! What the fuck! Yes, it’s very, very good we are getting vaccinated. It’s great! I’m into it! It’s my new kink! Vaccination is the machete that is cutting a path to normalcy through the thicket of this pandemic. But be sure: it remains an active, ongoing pandemic. Globally, it is as bad as it has ever been. In India, it’s a brushfire, using human beings as kindling. Here in the United States, we’re starting to see a much-desired downturn in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Though in my state and in many others, the pandemic is still kicking: we’re still above last summer’s “second wave” levels by a good bit, and here in PA we aren’t even back below our March numbers. And we’ve had a rise in school cases — hell, a small wave just went through my kid’s school, and have seen similar effects through several local school systems.
We are at roughly 100 million fully vaccinated adults in this country.
That still leaves about 100 million adults to go.
It still leaves our entire population of children unvaccinated.
It still leaves out those who cannot get the vaccine, or who are immunocompromised in a way that the vaccine will not afford them essential protection.
It still leaves those who don’t want the vaccine due to being bad actors themselves, or being subject to mis/disinformation campaigns by the likes of Russia, or worse, our own little toady goblin white supremacist, Tucker “I Always Look Like I’m Peeing A Little” Carlson.
We’re still at a point that nearly a thousand people a day are still dying in this country.
The vaccines are 100% effective against death and severe disease, which is to say, statistically, but not literally — there have been hospitalizations and death in those who have been fully vaccinated, and I say this not to invoke panic, but just to ensure we’re all on the same page as reality. The numbers are low enough that, risk assessment-wise, you’re likelier to suffer pain and death from far rarer sources (lightning, cows, I dunno, probably rogue toasters), but the asterisk is still there that people who are fully vaccinated can still get it, can still get sick, can still get dead. And there remains no clear messaging or data on what this does for, or about, Long COVID — if five out of a hundred people can still get sick with COVID after being fully vaccinated, can they still suffer from the multifarious effects of long-term illness? We don’t know. Certainly it means that your chances overall are lower, which is great. But lower doesn’t mean zero, and that’s a calculation we have to make, especially when we remember that a hundred million people still aren’t fully vaccinated, and one hundred percent of our children aren’t fully vaccinated.
Never mind the fact that, psychologically, we’re still experiencing a massive unfolding of global illness and death. We’re mired in a changed world, a world that will remain changed after the pandemic. This is a mire of trauma, especially for those who listened to the science (gasp) and (double-gasp) took this shit seriously and (triple-gasp with a pants-shitting-pirouette) didn’t engage with the fantasy of a disease that the global scientific community just wholesale invented in a false-flag operation where they hired 3.2 million crisis actors to pretend to be dead but who are presumably now just chilling out on a beach on the Planet Venus while the rest of us pump our bodies full of tiny Bill Gateses in order to unknowingly transform ourselves into fleshy panopticons. We watched people get sick. Some lost parts of themselves and their minds. (Pant, pant.) Some had to watch loved ones die over iPad screens because they couldn’t be with them as COVID snatched their last breaths away.
Never mind the fact that the CDC and WHO haven’t always been entirely clear as to what is okay and what is not okay. I’m pretty sure the latest CDC flowchart suggests we can take our masks off outside provided we are vaccinated and standing in a 12′ by 12′ area and that the breeze is from the Northwest and that Mercury isn’t currently in retrograde and that we’ve never personally left a one-star Yelp review that contains the phrase, “I would’ve given it ZERO STARS if I could have!”
So yeah! We’re a little fucking anxious! We don’t like this. We’re not addicted to it. We want this shit to be over, too. So maybe take that judgey little face you’re making, wad it up into a fleshy spongy Madball, and gently screw it into your own asshole like a lightbulb. I don’t know who needs to hear this, but it’s okay if you’re feeling trauma-bombed by all this. It’s okay that you’re a little hesitant to throw your mask in the garbage disposal and go running into a field of moist human bodies with your arms held high and your mouth hanging agape in order to catch the saucy mist of sweat and saliva and partying microbes. It’s fine. It’s normal. We’re not sitting in the dark, aroused by our own isolation. It’s just, we remember Jurassic Park. There were just dinosaurs eating people like, ten minutes ago. We’re not so eager to re-open the park just because you say it’s safe. We’re gonna take our time, whatever time we need, because that’s how a lot of people do things.
For the record, I’ve changed some behaviors since getting vaccinated. I don’t wear a mask outdoors if I can be sure that I won’t be in other people’s hideous mouth range. I hate wearing masks. Yet, I still bring a mask. I’ll still wear a mask inside, even vaccinated. I still won’t eat inside a restaurant, but I would now eat outside. My kid isn’t vaccinated. Our numbers in the area are still high, though they are dropping. I’ll keep an eye on all of that. If the numbers stay low, great. If vaccinations continue apace, great. If I can be comfortable that there isn’t some new Fresh Hot Variant that now evades the vaccines and will melt your face, super-fucking-duper. Then I’ll leave the shallow end of the pool and move to deeper water. I don’t see anything panicked about that, or lacking sense, or indicative of me being some lockdown-loving pandemic fetishist. I just think, wow, a lot of people died and are still dying and we’re not anywhere near where we need to be, so I’m going to play it slow and suspect that there still could be one or two dinosaurs out there on the island.
People aren’t addicted to the pandemic.
They’re surviving it.
They’re healing from it.
Maybe have a little fucking sympathy.
It took an immense personal and psychological toll.
We aren’t just grist for an economic mill. Maybe don’t hang the MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner while we’re still losing 800, 900 people a day in this country alone. A 9/11 every week.
It’s okay if you’re uncertain how to proceed, or you want to gradually return to some semblance of normalcy (because be assured, what will result must be labeled a New Normal, because the Old Normal is a ghost, it’s gone). It’s okay to still wear a mask, whether to protect yourself or to make others feel safe. It’s okay to wear a mask next year, during flu season, because you want to neither catch nor give someone the flu. It’s okay to not simply handwave away COVID cases in children, because that’s pretty scary. It’s okay to be not okay. And fuck anybody who tells you different. Meaning, Brian Stetler. Fuck you, Brian Stetler, of CNN, a network one might argue is addicted to having shitheads like Rick Santorum okay fine I concede I’m a little off-point.
Be safe, be smart, it’s okay to go slow.
Love to you all.