I knew for weeks that things were starting to look worse with the pandemic. The positivity rate where I live, in the NYC metropolitan area, had shot up from 0.3% to over 2%. There were outbreaks at our local camp and at several other area camps, most of which had gone “mask optional” for the summer.
Delta was here, and everyday, the percent of COVID cases that could be attributed to the variant was increasing. And we all knew Delta had done in places like the U.K. and Israel, both of which had large percentages of people vaccinated …
Still, I don’t think I started to really despair about it all until yesterday, when the CDC announced its new mask guidance. It wasn’t the mask guidance that caused me to despair, though. As someone who has been super cautious during the pandemic, I had never stopped masking indoors, even after getting vaccinated, and I welcomed the guidance that everyone should be doing the same, regardless of vaccination status.
No, what got me feeling as though the walls were caving in was when I heard the rationale behind the guidance. As The New York Times reports, the CDC’s decision to encourage fully vaccinated people to wear masks indoors in places of high transmission was based on new research pointing to the fact that fully vaccinated people can become contagious if they get infected with COVID.
As Apoorva Mandavilli explains in the Times: “C.D.C. officials were persuaded by new scientific evidence showing that even vaccinated people may become infected and may carry the virus in great amounts, perhaps even similar to those in unvaccinated people”
The Washington Post points out that this was not the case before Delta came to town. At that time, the CDC had evidence that fully vaccinated people rarely transmitted the virus to others. “Such transmission did not happen in any significant way with earlier versions of the virus,” the Post explained.
You guys. This sucks. This really, really sucks. Remember when vaccinated people were very unlikely to spread the virus to others, even if they caught a breakthrough infection? That time is over, apparently.
To add insult to injury, fully vaccinated people can now transmit the virus to others, even if they have asymptomatic infections.
“People who are vaccinated, even when they’re asymptomatic, can transmit the virus, which is the scientific foundation of why this recommendation is being made,” Dr. Fauci told the Post.
My heart sank when I took all of this in. And I know it’s not just me. Parents everywhere are feeling the weight of this all.
I've composed, then deleted, more than a few tweets today about the CDC's updated mask guidelines and the data showing vaccinated people infected with the delta variant can possibly transmit infections to others, and tbh it just feels like an incredibly depressing and grim time.
— uché blackstock, md (@uche_blackstock) July 28, 2021
My family was one of the ones who took the virus very seriously before vaccines were available. We had been on full lockdown until my husband and I got vaccinated. Soon after, my teen got vaccinated too.
That only left my unvaccinated 8-year-old. He has asthma (he’s been rushed to the hospital before with asthma attacks) and we aren’t taking any chances with him contracting the virus. But when we were told back in May that it’s very unlikely for fully vaccinated people to spread the virus to others, we started doing more out in the world and opening up our social circle a little bit more.
As the numbers in our community started to plummet starting in the late spring, we signed our family up for the local pool. We planned COVID-safe vacations. Our teen signed up to be in an in-person play. Yes, COVID was still here and our little one was unvaccinated, but we felt comfortable participating in low risk activities.
Our kids started hanging out with their grandparents. We had a family reunion with aunts and uncles and grandparents—everyone was fully vaccinated except my 8-year-old. But we were confident that was just fine for him, because none of his vaccinated family members could transmit the virus to him.
Now, I have no freaking idea what I’m going to do to keep my family safe. We are not going back to full lockdown. Three out of four of us are fully vaccinated. Even though the vaccines don’t protect from infections as well as they used to, they still protect really well against severe disease, hospitalization, and death.
I kept my kids inside for over a year and they need to experience life. I don’t want to keep disappointing them. But I also know that there are areas where I will need to pull back now, to protect my unvaccinated child. After all, if any one of us catches a breakthrough infection, we now risk passing it along to the unvaccinated member of our household.
Will I need to ask his grandparents to mask up indoors no matter what and not socialize unmasked with others if they want to keep seeing my unvaccinated child? Will I need to ask vaccinated friends and family members to take a COVID test before seeing us? Can my vaccinated teen safely see his vaccinated friends, like I hoped he would? Should we cancel our upcoming vacation if the COVID number spike even higher than they are now?
UGHHH. These sort of prospects make me dizzy and nauseous and super freaking stressed.
The truth is, I don’t have the answer to any of these questions right now. I’m sure, like every other stage of the pandemic, I will need to make risk assessment calculations, listen to what experts say about it all, discuss our family’s specific situation, and keep revising what makes the most sense.
Right now, I just feel the heaviness of the news. Last night as I was getting into bed, I thought to myself, “Here we go again.” Rather than feeling panic the way I did when COVID first hit and we went into lockdown, I just felt depressed. I knew what was coming. I knew that I’d once gain have to change aspects of our life. I knew again that I would likely have to disappoint my kids.
I’m feeling grief more than anything. There was a light at the end of the tunnel and now it’s dimmed. I expected our lives to be weird for a year, a year and a half, whatever. But I didn’t think it would get this bad again, so quickly.
I was patient and hopeful for the first 18 months, but now I’m really starting to mourn this part of my kids’ childhood. I know it will be okay in the end. My kids are resilient and will endure. My little guy will get vaccinated. It’s not likely that any of us will become seriously ill even if we contract the virus. We are incredibly lucky and I’m grateful.
But I’m sad. And tired. And frustrated. And angry. And grieving. And I know I’m not the only one.