We’re all shooting craps against Covid these days–playing the odds as we feel our way to deciding what to do (and not to do), and struggle to get back to some semblance of life as we knew it without taking dumb risks. Which of the many longed-for activities we’ve avoided for over nineteen months are worth the ever changing risks? I’m afraid the best way to describe the method I use to make these important decisions is that I’m fickle.
The 50th reunion of my 1970 Dobbs Ferry High School class is coming up at the end of this month. (It’s actually our 51st; our real 50th was just one of the countless events cancelled or, as in this case, postponed, because of Covid). Most of the 125 members of our graduating class were together from kindergarten through 12th grade, and the bonds to our small home town, and to each other, remain strong–thanks in no small part to Facebook which, for all its evils, has resuscitated ties that had lain fallow for decades. For the past year our Dobbs Ferry Facebook group page has been awash with posts from classmates excited to return for the reunion from the far away outposts to which they’ve migrated over the decades: California, Texas, Michigan, and Maine, to name just a few.
But with the Delta variant on the march, my classmates, like so many people, have been nervously reevaluating the risks of following through on their plans. Several have sent regretful posts, like this one:
So sorry that it looks like we’re going to have to cancel our plans to be there, I was SOOO looking forward to visiting with everyone but the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers have made it too hazardous for those with vulnerable loved ones. Still have a few weeks before we’d take off to decide. Sorry that it’s come to this ….
For my part, I’ve been cogitating over whether to attend–and, if I do, will I shun the indoor dinner and hang out with old friends outside? Will I wear a mask?
Our reunion is just one example of the hi-wire balancing exercise all of us go through on a daily basis these days. Should we go to a movie, ballgame or the theater? Should we eat at a restaurant? Outside or inside? Should I take a bus or subway? Should we travel–and, if so, where would it be safe to go?
Some of these “dilemmas” merely reflect the privileged life many of us are fortunate to have. I can make these choices–I don’t have to ride the subway during rush hour every day to get to and from an indoor job. I’m just an oddball who loves to ride the subway to zip from one end of the city to another on my senior citizen pass, for $1.37. My wife and I can afford to go to the theater and eat at a restaurant beforehand. Very sadly, I lost one friend to Covid. But only one. An African American friend told me she’s been to twenty-three funerals.
Talking to friends, all of whom are vaccinated, it seems like almost everyone is weighing the risks differently.
- Some won’t eat at a restaurant, either inside or out–and, in fact, almost no one I know is eating indoors.
- Most shun public transportation
- Some have avoided the city altogether and have remained hunkered down in second homes for 19 months
- Several, including some who seemed the most risk-adverse until recently, may not take a bus or subway but are now getting on planes and traveling abroad
Not surprisingly, the Covid balance most people are striking seems consistent with their tolerance for risk in other respects. I’m generally an optimist and tend not to be deterred by slight risks. Occasionally I pay a price, but so far it’s been worth it. At 69, and having been eligible for a third vaccine, I’ve taken more chances than some:
- I’ve eaten at restaurants outdoors–not yet indoors
- I’ve been to Citi Field to see the Mets (who lost, of course)–outdoors, but very few in the crowd wore masks
- My wife and I bought theater tickets to several plays and plan to go–with everyone in the audience required to be vaccinated and wearing masks
- I’ve taken the subways to sports events and doctors appointments, rationalizing that I’ll only get on the train if the car is uncrowded, and that a well-ventilated subway car is safer than a taxi (although my definition of “uncrowded” has become somewhat flexible).
- We haven’t yet made plans to travel (my wife is reluctant, partly for unrelated reasons; I’m champing at the bit)
Most of us, I think, spent the first year of the pandemic in abject fear, taking few if any risks–wiping down every package; keeping 6’ away, even from friends, while always masked. We were relieved and overjoyed last spring when the CDC proclaimed that we could shed our masks if vaccinated, even when indoors. And now we’re back to constantly playing the odds, each in our own way, for who knows how long. It’s a constant tussle between our rational and emotional selves as we impatiently await the day when we don’t have to shoot craps and can just get back to deciding and doing what we want to do. In the meantime:
- I’m planning to go my reunion and look forward to seeing my old friends, at least outside
- I’m not sure if I’ll wear a mask or venture inside for dinner
- I suspect it will depend on how I feel in the moment
n.b., as with the tape at the beginning of every Mission Impossible tv episode, if I do get Covid, this post will self-destruct within 10 seconds of my diagnosis