Chances are, you and your loved ones may have had the opportunity to become fully vaccinated over the course of the last few months. Though these efforts have offered a glimmer of hope amidst the pandemic, there are still some considerations to keep in mind as we move forward.
When it comes to returning to "normal" life after being fully vaccinated, Dr. Josh Kooistra, Chief Medical Officer, Spectrum Health West Michigan, says it will all depend on what percentage of the population gets vaccinated.
"The greater percentage, the less necessary social distancing restrictions and masking become," said Dr. Kooistra, noting the chance of a group of individuals who are fully vaccinated spreading COVID-19 amongst themselves is extremely small. "I suspect until significant herd immunity is achieved, masking will continue, especially in public indoor settings. Temperature checking and symptom screening will also continue into the foreseeable future."
Dίna Aper, BS, MLS (ASCP) CM, CIC, Senior Infection Preventionist, Metro Health – University of Michigan Health, says we must continue to show compassion and grace to others. And though certain guidelines aren't as strict, most things will look the same.
"Wash your hands—that will never go away; wear a mask in public and limit gatherings," said Aper. "If you're going to get together, keep it to smaller numbers in larger areas to maintain social distance; gather outside whenever you are able and open windows if gathering inside; and only gather with those that have been vaccinated or are at lower risk."
We've been forever changed by this event and it's important to come to terms with some things being the new normal. Nika Fesler, MA LPC, Clinical Director, Adolescent & Family Behavioral Health Services, says to keep in mind that every individual has experienced the pandemic and loss in different ways.
"As we move into a time of being able to more safely interact (based on CDC recommendations), it may not mean that people feel safe yet," said Fesler. "Moving into more opportunities for socializing might create some feelings of anxiety or stress and it could be helpful to talk through these feelings and plan on doing some coping ahead."
With the warmer weather, Dr. Kooistra says to take advantage of being able to gather outdoors.
"Enjoy all of the outdoor activities that West Michigan has to offer," said Dr. Kooistra, "If you have the opportunity to get vaccinated, please do so. The more of us that do, the more our lives will look like they did before the pandemic."
Aper emphasizes trying to have fun (safely) this summer.
"Please continue to keep safety in mind as you plan your summer," Aper said. "Be mindful of travel and avoid areas that are reporting high numbers. And be extra careful around those who are still at risk."
When it comes to making plans, Fesler suggests understanding your own needs and boundaries so you can effectively communicate them to your social circles.
"I once had a friend tell me, 'I've never regretted checking my blind spot before switching lanes'—I think that applies to this situation," Fesler said. "I don't imagine checking in with family and friends will be ill-received or something to regret. I think we can expect to have days where we know what to do and days that we don't. When you don't know what to do, give yourself some time and space to listen to your own needs."
*The information in this article on CDC guidelines was accurate at the time of publication.
Potential comfort-level conversation starters:
Provided by Nika Fesler, MA LPC
"I'm interested in having you and your family over for dinner in the upcoming weeks. What do you think about that and what would your needs be to make that feel comfortable and safe?"
"I'd like to plan a trip, it would be so much fun to do that together. Would you be interested in joining and how are you feeling about traveling safely right now?"
"If we meet up, would you like me to wear a mask?"
"I want to let you know I'm happy to talk about your safety needs and I hope I can talk about mine, as well."
Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.
This article originally appeared in the Jun/July 2021 issue of West Michigan Woman.