We’re still human incubators. Think twice before taking off that mask

Emily Parnell
·3 min read

“Do you want to come over? We’re fully vaccinated!”

The cork’s been popped and the party’s ready to flow. Once those shots have kicked in, it’s time to once again wine and dine, mix and mingle. Right?

Proper pandemic prevention has now given the green light for vaccinated people to gather, undistanced, unmasked, indoors, in small gatherings. Vaccinated people are no longer instructed to wear masks outdoors, as long as it’s not too crowded. Now fully vaccinated, my husband and I should be able to rub elbows, and then go in for a hug with our friends and family, who we miss.

Right? Well, hold on there, Nelly. Not so fast.

CDC guidance tells us there’s still a possibility that someone who is vaccinated could become infected and then spread COVID. And thanks to their vaccinated status, they might not even know they’re sick. How likely is this? Like so many other question marks surrounding this virus, nobody knows. But it does happen.

In fact, a friend of ours, a healthcare worker who was vaccinated months ago, was recently exposed to someone was ill, then developed mild symptoms. She tested positive for COVID months after her vaccine.

And while you may be thinking that anyone who wants a vaccination can get one now, as supplies are plentiful. That’s not quite true. Take for instance, my 15-year-old daughter. As of this writing, vaccines are only approved for people 16 and older.

“Yeah, but,” you might say, “kids don’t get it too bad.”

Most don’t, but some do. My daughter has a haywire immune system. When she gets sick, she gets sicker than most people, it lasts longer and it’s harder for her to recover. More than once we’ve had to seek ER treatments for her because of problems triggered by very mild illnesses like common colds. We don’t need to tempt fate by allowing her to be exposed to COVID.

I’m no epidemiologist, but the logical conclusion seems to be that as vaccinated people are exposed to, then contract this virus, the result may very well be unchecked, unidentified, likely asymptomatic spread among those who have nothing to worry about. And really, that’s not a bad scenario, unless you happen to be high risk and unable to get vaccinated, like my daughter.

So, while others’ rules relax, ours must tighten. Our small bubble has gotten smaller, and gatherings must go on without us. We’re the party-poopers who won’t go inside and request masks still be worn. We turn down invitations, complain about having to run inside a crowded restaurant to pick up our takeout and back away from hugs. We flee those wearing their masks defiantly under their noses.

You and I may no longer be at risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID. Yet we’re still human incubators that can harbor and potentially spread this nasty illness, making us a risk to others, such as my daughter, who simply because of her age and a health condition she never asked for, is still vulnerable.

Our responsibility to others continues to be tested. Let’s pass this test.

Emily Parnell lives in Overland Park and can be reached at emily@emilyjparnell.com.