This post is also available in podcast format in which I read the post. Search for "rising shining" on most podcast platforms and subscribe!
Around June I remember thinking that I should write one last pandemic check-in post since it seemed that life was heading back to normal. All the adults in my family and many friends were fully vaccinated. New cases numbers for our county seemed to be holding steady in the low hundreds, which was a significant improvement from making headlines in the New York Times as a hot spot months earlier. Mask requirements were significantly eased in Arizona and we were looking forward to a pretty normal school year for the boys.
And then of course the delta variant started to surge and things seemed very worrisome again and u-g-h. Since then I've felt so COVID-weary I could not bring myself to write a blog post. I'm still feeling weary but I'm lately I have more hope now that a pediatric COVID vaccine is available for my boys. They've had their first shot and will be fully vaccinated by the end of the month. I am so thankful and relieved! When the vaccine is approved from Maeve's age group we'll plan to have her vaccinated as well.
Still, our life continues to be impacted by COVID. Figuring out how worried to be about COVID since the delta surge has felt fraught and confusing because it seems like so much of our community in Gilbert is not concerned about COVID-19. That leaves me wondering if we are being overly-cautious or if we should be especially worried since so few people wear masks and given our vaccination rate (currently at 58% for people 5 and older). Currently in our community I still see many store employees wearing masks but infrequent mask-wearing by patrons. Masks are also optional at public schools and very few people (students and teachers) wear them. That reminds me: I spoke at a school board meeting earlier in the school year! I'm really proud of myself. The board was considering mask guidance and I spoke in favor of encouraging masks. (Our governor has banned mask requirements so the school board would not have required masks but I asked them to more strongly encourage them.)
Only 10 days into the new school year we were notified that Dash had been exposed to a classmate who tested positive for COVID. Therefore Dash was required to quarantine at home although Cedric was not. We decided to be conservative and all stayed quarantined for four days and everyone got a COVID test. I noticed myself having some fear and angst while we were in our short family quarantine. I had to remind myself that we would not be home for months and months like we were before. After four days none of us had symptoms and we sent Maeve to daycare and Cedric back to school. After we got Dash's negative COVID test result he was able to go back to school. I feared that we would experience frequent quarantines this school year but that hasn't happened. I know the school rules about who quarantines has also changed so that is a factor as well. Recently Emily Oster wrote that school quarantines should end which makes sense to me based on the data we have.
We are still having the boys wear a mask every day to school but I think we'll stop after they are fully vaccinated. Since "my mask protects you and your mask protects me" I'm not sure how useful it is for them to be wearing masks once they are fully vaccinated. If there is evidence to show that my boys wearing a mask will still significantly help them and others stay healthy then I would love to hear it. We have been passing on indoor birthday parties for the boys but now that they're half-way vaccinated I think we'd feel comfortable accepting invitations again. I think we'll have the boys wear masks if they go into stores since the case rate continues to be high here and they don't mind wearing them, but if they aren't at school does that even make sense? I want a logical, fact-based approach to masking for myself and my kids but it feels hard when our community has opposing views. Honestly I'm feeling tired of carrying so much worry over COVID and the mental load of remembering masks and washing masks when so few others are sharing that load.
At Maeve's daycare all adults are required to wear masks and there are still temperature checks upon entry. Maeve's daycare is the one place in our daily life where it feels like the protocols meet or exceed what I wish would be happening. Maeve is so used to us wearing masks that when we arrive anywhere other than home and go to get her out of her car seat she reminds us, "Mak?" if we aren't wearing one. She doesn't like you to get her out of her car seat until you are wearing a mask. Little pandemic baby!
My current personal practice is that I generally wear a mask everywhere I go with the exception of exercising. No one wears a mask at my Orange Theory or during High Fitness and so I'm not sure how much difference a mask would make. My risk of exposure is higher during those times when I'm in close proximity to people and everyone is breathing heavily. However, my increased risk is fairly low given that I'm vaccinated and, in my opinion, is outweighed by the significant health and happiness my workouts bring me. Chris said that lately he's often forgetting to wear a mask and doesn't worry too much about it although I remind him. I have also been to some social gatherings, like soccer games and practices, an outdoor birthday party, and an outdoor baby shower, where I did not wear a mask. At Cedric's basketball games I have worn a mask but was one of maybe two or three people and at the last game I went to I did not wear a mask.
One fun place where we wore masks was to see Hamilton! I think I forgot to include that in my Currently: September post. It was our second time to see Hamilton at the same venue. Masks were required for all attendees. It felt a little strange to be around so many people for the first time in a long time. But it also felt triumphant in the sense that despite a pandemic we could gather with hundreds of other people, everyone willing to wear a mask to protect others, for the sake of art and entertainment.
Chris continues to mostly work from home which we both love. He is starting to go to the office about one day per week although many people are back to work full time in the office at ASU. Currently ASU requires masks indoors and has also issued a vaccine mandate. They also have randomized COVID-19 testing of employees which Chris seems to get selected for often.
I wrote in my previous pandemic check in that we felt comfortable going back to the gym because our case rate per 100,000 was at 10 or under. I just checked our numbers and we are currently at 43 new cases per 100,000 people which is considered "very high" risk level. AHHHH. I am honestly not sure how to use this information to inform our activities. It's disorienting to see "high-risk" case numbers for our county but then not see that apparent risk reflected in county or state regulations. Traveling to different cities this fall has brought the variation of restrictions into stark relief. In Colorado Springs I saw even fewer people wearing masks than in Gilbert. But then in Portland, Oregon masks are still required at Orange Theory and everywhere indoors unless you are eating.
And so now I'm wondering where we go from here. Once all three of our kids are vaccinated can we feel fairly confident that our family's risk of severe COVID-19 is low enough and we have done our part such that we can relegate our worry of coronavirus to the level of seasonal flu? That feels like where Chris and I are headed. At this point I think the only thing "missing" from our lives in terms of COVID-19 are a few activities I would love to do with Maeve like library story time, which is still all virtual, and taking her to children's museums. I think the Phoenix Children's Museums does have adults wear masks so I've been thinking I would feel comfortable taking here there.
I just went back through my previous pandemic check in posts all the way back to March of 2020. I'm so glad that I captured what life was like and how I was feeling. As the world was changing and closing down all around us I remember thinking that I would be so thankful to look back on that time. Thinking that helped me remember that staying at home would be temporary even as the weeks and months passed. Now I am sitting in the gratitude of life feeling pretty normal. I'm also reflecting on how much has changed in the past year. One year ago we did not yet have a vaccine and the boys were still doing online school. Wow! It honestly feels like two years ago.
Living through a pandemic and having it affect three school years (can you believe that?) has warped my sense of time. Do you feel that too? It can be hard to remember how long ago March 2020 was although, conveniently for me, I can just remember how old Maeve is since she was born on April 5, 2020.
So that's where we are as a family living through the COVID-19 pandemic for over a year and a half. How are you, friends? Do you feel stress about COVID-19 and how your city/state is responding, whether, in your opinion, they are not doing enough or are being too restrictive? I would be curious to hear.
Stay at home check in #6 | Stay at home check in #5 | Stay at home check in #4 | Stay at home check in #3 | Stay at home check in #2 | Stay at home check in #1 | One week down... | Adjusting | How are you?