Harrop: As hope rises, can we responsibly let our guard down?

As daily cases drop and more of us are vaccinated, how will we react to our own reopening to others?

By Froma Harrop / syndicated columnist

Are we at the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning? Let’s call it the middle.

The covid-19 numbers are going decisively lower, both infections and deaths. Millions, meanwhile, are getting the vaccine and becoming mostly immune to the disease.

Still, the seven-day average of American deaths from this virus continues in the thousands. And it would be much higher if more of us let our guard down by ignoring calls to wear masks, socially distance and sanitize hands.

We each make our own policy for how far to go. There are the absolutists, who take no chances. They see no friends and never enter a restaurant, much less step on a plane.

Then there are moderates, like yours truly, who always wear a mask in public but do gather with their “pod” of careful friends. We eat in establishments that take precautions.

Finally, there are those who don’t care at all and do nothing. They risk their own life and the lives of others.

As we move into a somewhat less scary phase of this disease, we moderates probably have the most to think about. That’s because we were always open to weighing more options.

Consideration No. 1: mask-wearing. Of course we’ll continue wearing masks. But two masks with one of tight-fitting cloth, as Dr. Anthony Fauci advises? On public transportation, OK. But as the risks of infection heads down, perhaps we can lighten up and wear just a lightweight mask while on a walk.

Infectious-disease experts now believe that outdoor activities rarely cause the disease to spread unless people are in close conversation. They say that with a few exceptions, we can safely jog or bike without a mask.

That said, hospitals are still rationing medical-grade N95 masks even as their stockpiles grow, according to the Associated Press. Why? They remain traumatized by the terrifying mask shortage of a year ago and don’t want to be caught short-handed again. They also fear a future surge in cases. (More on that later.)

We moderates continue to frown on the maskless multitudes who crowd at superspreader events. A recent example would be the bar parties following the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Super Bowl win. Health officials in Florida warn of a possible coronavirus spike as a result. For people like me, the difference now is we take all that reckless behavior less personally.

Consideration No. 2: traveling. Early in the pandemic, I flew across the country on a JetBlue flight with few passengers and distanced seating. I would not go on a crowded jet. Now that I’ve had my first shot, I worry less about flying. When I get the second one, I’ll hop right on.

Consideration No. 3: guilt. As frontline workers, the elderly and other vulnerable people get their protective vaccinations, less stigma is attached to easing up a bit on the restrictions.

However, unsettling thoughts remain. New coronavirus variants are reportedly more infectious and not as easily tamed by some of the vaccines. Variants are reportedly reinfecting people who survived the early version of the disease. And, undoubtedly, more variants are coming at us.

To reach herd immunity, 60 percent to 90 percent of the population must be vaccinated or protected by prior infection, according to medical experts. If the 15 percent of Americans who say they’ll never get the vaccine follow through on that vow, that goal could be hard to reach.

The hope in this country is that the pandemic will end around summer. As the scourge shows more definite signs of weakening, we who tried to do the right things may be able to relax; if just a little. This will be a strange time.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. Email her at fharrop@gmail.com.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

toon
Editorial cartoons for Saturday, March 6

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

A magazine ad from the 1930s uses an illustration of a physician who recommends Lucky Strike cigarettes as "less irritating."
Editorial: Reject Big Tobacco’s plea to clear nicotine’s name

Altria wants the FDA to help it promote new products as ‘healthier’ alternatives to smoking.

Schwab: CPAC put death of the Republican Party on full display

Devoid of any actual conservatives, the conference cemented Trump’s unrelenting hold on the GOP.

Comment: Message behind Trump statue as old as the nation

The golden idol is a continuation of the myth of personality fostered by past presidents.

Shift the school year to get around worst of covid

It’s time to change the school year. The covid pandemic has illuminated… Continue reading

Vaccination site at Arlington Airport was well run

I want to thank all the people who are involved in make… Continue reading

March 4, 2021: Mask mandate
Editorial cartoons for Friday, March 5

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Rep. Tarra Simmons, D-Bremerton, holds blank voter registration forms as she poses for a photo Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, at her home in Bremerton, Wash. Simmons, believed to be the first formerly incarcerated person to win election to the Statehouse, is now working to help restore voting rights to people in Washington state who are out on parole or probation after serving prison time. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Editorial: Restore voting rights to those who served time

Denying the vote to those who owe fines keeps many from fully rejoining their communities.

Everett Comics owner Charlie Knoedler and his wife Tracy talk with Everett Police Officers as they drop by to talk about the recent theft of a 4-foot tall Funko Batman Statue on Monday, Oct. 5, 2020 in Everett, Washington.  The statue was stolen in a “smash and grab” early Sunday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Editorial: Training, support must follow policing mandates

The Everett Police Department’s use of an intervention training program should be a model for others.

Most Read