COVID-19 vaccines are awesome! Indeed, they are the entire reason that we’re able to bring residents at Deerfield together, once again, for the important ritual of communal dining and that we now have the flexibility to liberalize other aspects of resident life and the use of common spaces. However, COVID-19 vaccination does not confer absolute safety and it does not offer a free pass to discard the crucial mitigation measures of masking and social distancing.
Vaccinated people should continue to wear masks and to practice social distancing, for the benefit of their own health and safety as well as that of others. This is because we are still living in the time of a pandemic, the vaccine is only about 94% effective in preventing symptomatic infections and COVID-19 vaccines are still so novel that we do not yet know if immunized persons may still be capable of transmitting the virus. With these seemingly mixed messages, it can be challenging for those who have been fully vaccinated to assess the safety and/or prudence of various opportunities for socialization or activity.
Patience should prevail as the vaccine rollout continues around the world, because this battle will not be won until natural plus vaccine-induced immunity is achieved on a scale significant enough to dramatically and permanently reduce the number of new daily infections.
Individuals who have been fully immunized against COVID-19 are advised to continue to heed the following:
• Wear a mask yourself and only spend time with others who agree to wear a mask.
• Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between yourself and others.
• Clean your hands often.
• When socializing, select larger, better ventilated spaces. Outdoor spaces are safer for socialization than indoor spaces; this is especially true if you are gathering with persons who are not yet vaccinated or with vaccinated persons who are engaging in higher-risk behaviors.
• Talk about relative risk. Initiate dialogue with those with whom you plan to socialize. Know if they’ve been vaccinated, if they consistently wear a mask and practice social distancing, and if they have any symptoms that may be related to COVID-19. Open, honest conversation increases awareness and allows you to make informed decisions in order to keep yourself and others safe.
Reasonably safe activities post-vaccination:
✓ Socialize, indoors or outdoors, with other persons who have been fully immunized against COVID-19.
✓ Socialize outdoors with persons who have not yet been fully immunized against COVID- 19. If weather does not permit, socializing indoors with a limited number (2-3) of friends or family with careful attention to masking (no food or drink) and social distancing.
✓ Dine outdoors at restaurants, assuming that the spacing of tables and chairs is adequate to allow social distancing from other diners.
✓ Visit the grocery store or a retail store without anxiety.
✓ Travel with caution, avoiding public transportation when possible and ensuring that the destination/accommodation will allow for the avoidance of crowds and offers ample opportunity for take-out meals or outdoor dining.
Deciding which risks to take post-vaccination is still very complicated. Remember, this intermediary phase will not last forever.
Easing of Restrictions as NC COVID Metrics Stabilize
Governor Cooper announced Executive Order 195, lessening COVID- 19 restrictions in response to several weeks of improving key metrics and the vaccination of about half of the state’s population of older adults. Acting on the encouraging trending, but remaining mindful that the stabilization is fragile, the order, went into effect on Friday, February 26 and does the following:
• Continues the state’s mask mandate, requiring that all North Carolinians wear a face covering in both indoor and outdoor settings if there are non-household members present, regardless of ability to maintain social distancing.
• Expands the number of persons permitted to gather in a single indoor space to 25.
• Lifts the Modified Stay at Home Order, thereby eliminating the 10 pm to 5 am curfew.
• Allows certain indoor spaces to operate at 30% capacity (most notably including bars, movie theaters, and sporting venues) and others at 50% capacity (comprising restaurants, fitness facilities, and museums, to name just a few). Because indoor spaces pose a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission, certain capacity maximums apply.
While hope is here and forward progress is being made, please remember that the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over. Continue to avoid unnecessary risks and encourage others to be vaccinated when it is their turn.
Stay committed to consistently practicing the 3Ws.
- Wear a mask.
- Wait at least 6 feet apart from others and avoid crowds.
- Wash your hands often.
Taryn Tindall, RN, on behalf of the Deerfield leadership Team