Wednesday, August 4, 2021

What Are We Supposed to Do Now?

I can feel two different things happening in my head lately. They’re occurring concurrently and in near parallel, but I do think that at some point they’re going to converge.

Like many of us who are vaccinated, I’ve been making some small plans to do some real traveling. Airports! Cities! Adventure!

But at the same time, I still watch the news. I’ve been watching Delta spread, I’ve been watching the numbers as hospitals fill up again. And last night I heard for the first time about this “Delta Plus” variant which is apparently even more dangerous and transmissible than the normal Delta, which itself is even more dangerous and transmissible than the original Covid that send us all into our homes last year.

I go to meetings during the day about returning to work in-person and about campus repopulating. I check my vacation time and look at flights. I look at the calendar and ponder when I could take some time off. I have tickets to Hamilton in October for God’s sake!

And yet, I think back on the trip I took with friends to Washington state in early June. We were all vaccinated of course, but that trip required two airports, airplanes, being around strangers … I felt comfortable about it at the time and the CDC said it was fine at the time and Dr. Fauci said it was fine at the time, and yet … I’m not sure if I would make that trip tomorrow under our current circumstances. I’m not 100% sure I wouldn’t either, but I would really have to think about it.

The thing that really worries me is the recent announcement from the CDC that fully vaccinated people who get a breakthrough infection can spread Covid. That’s really bad. When this all started in 2020, when we first learned that asymptomatic spread was not just possible, but common, I sat myself down and had a little conversation about how to be; what was the ethical way to live? This was back before vaccines and before testing was even reliable. 

I realized then that if it was functionally impossible to know if you had it, then the only responsible way to behave was as if you knew that you had it. As much as that sucks, there really was no other way under the circumstances to protect other people.

So I was pretty responsible about my quarantine. There are a couple things that — in hindsight — I would not have done knowing what I know now, but on the whole, I followed the rules, because that’s how you keep people alive.

As I look at the way things have been changing in these last few weeks, I am beginning to feel like our situation is getting worse and worse by the day. It makes me angry, because we didn’t have to end up here, but there are so many people who won’t get vaccinated — people whose calculations about proper and ethical behavior are the polar opposite of mine — that I really have started worrying that I won’t get to see my family at Christmas this year either. 

I don’t think that American society has the will or the fortitude to really do another Quarantine. I think that the last year — to say nothing of the last four — has really demonstrated what a feckless nation of petulant children we are. So I don’t know what happens if our collective situation keeps getting worse day by day.

And yet. There is an optimist in me. So I still check on flights. I still make my lists of places I want to go. I still check my calendar. 

I just haven’t booked any tickets yet.




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