It's hard to believe it's been more than a year since the start of the pandemic. It's reassuring to see that as more Americans get vaccinated, the infection rate is declining, restrictions are being lifted, and the end of the pandemic appears to finally be drawing near. Unfortunately, people around the country now recognize a new point of concern, re-entry anxiety.
After more than a year of cocooning in the safety of our homes, the time has come for us to begin to safely re-enter society and experience post-vaccine life. For some, this comes as a sigh of relief, but for others, the thought of re-entering the world is confusing and scary. It could come from an extreme fear of the disease or the anxiety that comes with the idea of reacclimating into society. Others have come to enjoy their new lifestyle and the changes that came about in the last year and are afraid of losing what they have gained.
The pandemic has taken a substantial mental toll on Americans. According to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control as of June 2020, nearly 41% of adults in the U.S. had reported they were struggling with mental health related to the pandemic. The hope of returning to a somewhat “normal” world outside of isolation may be just what the doctor ordered, but it comes with some challenges ahead.
Facts Over Fear
Just as adjusting to the pandemic was painful, adjusting to a post-pandemic world will be uncomfortable. We should expect that there's going to be a transition period, and it’s likely for things to feel foreign and awkward. I find it helpful to recognize that everyone likely feels the same way to some extent. Now we're trying to figure out what normal is again while embracing what we took for granted. We have a lot to navigate, trying to hold onto new habits, new traditions, new ways of working, and new ways of connecting.
With the number of vaccinated folks growing daily, it's hard to know which activities, such as gathering indoors with friends or going out shopping, are safe after being vaccinated which I believe is contributing to re-entry anxiety. I wanted to share what experts say about getting back out there after you've been vaccinated because I believe data provides perspective and has the power of reassurance.
How safe is it for vaccinated people to get together?
CDC guidelines state that fully vaccinated people may gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask. You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from the virus. Be sure to consult with your doctor about your risk factors as everyone’s personal situation is unique.
How many people need to get vaccinated for herd immunity?
Herd immunity means that enough people in a community are protected from getting a disease because they’ve already had the disease, or they’ve been vaccinated. Herd immunity makes it hard for the disease to spread from person to person, and it even protects those who cannot be vaccinated, like children under the age of 16. While experts don’t yet know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, it is estimated to be around 75 percent of the population.
What Experts Know and What They're Still Learning
Vaccines are effective at preventing infection, especially severe illness and death.
They are still learning how effective the vaccines are against variants of the virus. Early data show the vaccines may work against some variants but could be less effective against others.
Prevention steps such as social distancing and wearing masks help stop the spread of the virus, and that these steps are still important, even as vaccines are being distributed.
Early data show that the vaccines may help keep people from spreading the virus, but they learn more as more people get vaccinated.
The Journey Ahead
The vaccine isn't a golden ticket back to life in 2019, but it's providing a promising path to a new normal for us all. Recently, Washington Governor Jay Inslee held a press conference and announced updated guidance for long-term care facilities and communities like Aegis Living. We are thrilled that Washington has now approved indoor, in-person visits when either the resident or visitor has been vaccinated. We have started working to finalize our plans to reunite residents and their families as soon as possible. While we are eager to bring residents and families together right away, we also must be sure we are doing this in the safest way possible for all.
If you're feeling anxious about re-entry, be sure to take things slowly and be patient with yourself and others. Choose caution over fear, and in times of uncertainty, remember to have more empathy towards each other as we all try to navigate our way through the unknown together.
Until next time, Live Well, Live Long!