The word spoken all too often in the past two years has been COVID-19: A topic which has been beaten to death in every which way and is never absent from conversations and observations alike. It has been without a doubt the single greatest impact on life in its mere two-year infancy and appears as if it will be a continued source of pain for years to come. However, for most of the vaccinated population of Americans, COVID-19 is a name they want to solely exist in history books as life begins to promise some semblance of normalcy.
With state-wide restrictions being lifted in most states, specifically in Massachusetts where life has resumed to a more normal pace, vaccinated individuals are taking advantage of the freedoms they are being granted. From my own experience it is liberating, in a sense, to take off the mask which felt like a barrier, not only to disease but also to interpersonal connection. But, my eagerness to return to a more normal life is not shared by all people and is not even shared among all vaccinated people as I have come to experience in my work this summer. Now naturally, not everyone will agree on every issue nor will everyone always fall into one of two camps concerning an issue; but regarding everyone’s re-entrance into society I find it important to distill the differences and prepare some to help others.
My experience with this topic came from my work this summer. I was employed at a fitness club in the tennis department with one of my jobs being to work at their tennis camp for young kids. Most of the kids in the camp are under 12 years old, so only a very select few of the older kids are fully vaccinated. Parents with unvaccinated kids occasionally send them to camp with masks to be worn when they are inside changing or if we are forced inside due to rain. One of those masked campers recently forgot their mask during a changing time as we prepared to bring them all into the pool. This camper told his father and his father pulled his son from the camp citing a lack of vigilance for masking at the club.
When I read the email from the father saying just that it forced me to take a step back and think about not just how this father reacted to coming out of COVID policy but how the cautious population feels currently. Their hesitancy stems from their concern for their health which is the most reasonable and understandable reason; and it is true that although restrictions are being lifted the pandemic is not over and some level of vigilance should be kept. There remain individuals who are still at risk and are in need of our help to keep them safe from this ever mutating and evolving virus.
The problem in their eyes is those who have gone mask-less and are now more likely to transmit the virus, although personal infection is decreased to an almost negligible number for those who are vaccinated. However, it is not those who have re-entered society swiftly after being fully vaccinated who are causing a problem. It is an internal fear in the more hesitant families that coming out of the pandemic too fast will come back to bite everyone in the rear end; although credence exists in that thought it is important not to shame them for their prudent judgement on this issue.
Rather, as an individual who decided to re-enter “normal” society somewhat quickly, it is important to remind others that society will not leave them behind because they are hesitant. It is important for them to take their time and not feel pressured because others have jumped right back in. For that one camper who was pulled out, he should never have been in camp to begin with due to how concerned his parents were, but I hope they do not feel compelled to enter before they are ready.
Distilling this down to a single message is easy: if you are someone who entered the normal world quickly, do not gaslight, bully, taunt or pressure reserved individuals to enter before they are ready. It is far better for everyone’s health to take it at their own pace and not remove their masks until they are ready. And for those who are hesitant, please take your time, it is not worth rushing back into this scary world until you are ready. No one is going anywhere and there will be no shortage of connections to make the later you wait. So be patient with others and take your time as one of my campers taught me, as he was planning to make his move and ask out a lifeguard.