If you talk to people or read the news these days, it will seem like the pandemic is over. Or that it is at least coming to an end here in the United States. Just last week, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people could ditch their masks almost everywhere.
Large companies (Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Target, to name a few) have done away their mask policies, saying that they’ll rely on the honor system to trust that only vaccinated people will remove their masks when shopping.
But children ages 12-15 just became eligible last week to get the Pfizer vaccine. With a second dose three weeks after the first, the first children to be fully vaccinated won’t be for another month. And for everyone under the age of twelve? Well, here’s to hoping vaccine approval will happen this fall.
Again and again, this pandemic has ignored children and their parents – especially their working mothers. Schools have continued to stay closed, or partially open, with the focus being on opening businesses before education centers. We’re more than a year into a she-session; women have dramatically left the workforce since COVID began. This is even worse when you look in detail at women of color with young children at home.
I’m the red line (woman with a young kid). Thanks to my husband’s ability to cut back at work, a roommate who’s been helping out every week, and family members who are local and carrying part of the childcare burden, I’m still working. I can’t imagine where I’d be if I was working from home full time with a kindergartener for more than a year, but I would have lost either my job or my sanity at this point.
As I’ve seen so eloquently put elsewhere, this country doesn’t have a safety net. It has women. And moms, in particular.
The CDC Announcement: No More Masks (If You’re Vaccinated)
This month, things were starting to look up. We’ve ticked over the 50% mark for Americans with at least one dose of the vaccine. Infection numbers are down throughout the country. The weather is warming up and drying out, making outdoor activities that much more fun. Pfizer received authorization to vaccinate children 12-15, with the expectation of (hopefully) September for children ages 6 months – 12 years.
Instead of rolling out changes slowly – perhaps lifting mask restrictions outdoors, where transmission rates are very, very low – the CDC and the White House announced that masks could go away in almost all settings. Immediately. Our Washington Governor, Jay Inslee, announced similar measures, though without lifting all restrictions yet.
For healthy families where everyone is over the age of sixteen (and even over the age of twelve), this is great news. Life gets to look closer to normal. Vaccines work. We can hug and gather and enjoy without holding our breath and waiting anxiously to make sure our less than perfect behavior hasn’t caught up with us.
But for those of us with young children at home, are immunocompromised (and may not be as protected even with a vaccine), or have legitimate reasons for not being vaccinated at this point, that sigh of relief doesn’t exist. Instead, we have to realize that ultimately, this society has chosen to bend to the will of people who have selfishly kicked and screamed about masks and vaccinations.
Because we’ve been given a blank check to people to remove their masks, there is no guarantee that the people wandering around indoors will be vaccinated. All we know is that they aren’t wearing a mask.
March 2020 Part 2
In some ways, this feels like early March 2020, when we pulled our son from preschool and started working from home before it was widespread. Being in the hotspot of Kirkland Washington when the first outbreak occurred in the United States, we were cautious much sooner than many, and I had so many conversations wondering if I was overreaction with my choices. Just a month later, it was clear that I hadn’t overreacted, but had instead made wise decisions to keep my family safe.
Now in May 2021 though, I’m taking those same precautions, but we know so much more now. We know how COVID spreads. We know how to keep things safe. But the pandemic isn’t over. And for our children, our immunocompromised neighbors, the danger is higher than it was just a few months ago, as masks and caution get thrown to the wind.
I’m feeling gaslit here. The pandemic ISN’T over. We have ~56% of FIRST vaccines completed here for 16+. 0% for 15 and under. Transmission rates are nowhere near appropriate levels, pretty much anywhere. And then tell me it’s time to go back to normal.
India, South America, and the Rest of the World
Globally, we’ve had more than 163 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and more than 3.3 million deaths. We’ve averaged more than half a million cases and 13,000 deaths a day just in the last week. Our neighbors to the north in Canada are seeing some of their worst outbreaks yet.
Many parts of our world are just now seeing their first vaccinations. And here in the United States, we’ve reached the point of needing to beg and plead and pay people to get theirs. And they still won’t.
For every person who has the ability to get vaccinated, and declines, it’s a slap in the face to those who are still waiting – our children, and our neighbors around the globe.
The pandemic isn’t over yet. Can we not pretend that it is?