If you have not yet received at least one vaccination shot and waited the appropriate two weeks after to resume more normal activities, do not resume these activities as if we are completely out of the woods and you have nothing to fear – I do not care where young or invincible you think you are.
We are in the middle of a make-or-break moment for the Bay Area and for California, and potentially one of the most dangerous moments in the pandemic for people who feel carefree and cavalier about the state of things and their relative risk. It̵
Half of the San Franciscans can enjoy a little more freedom in the coming weeks – as of Tuesday, 50% of the city had reportedly received at least one vaccine dose or single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Hopefully this includes everyone who has to work outside their home. This is good news, but it still does not correspond to herd immunity – and it is still unknown how well the vaccines work against the P.1 “Brazillian” variant or the newly spread “Indian” variant that was just identified in the Bay Area.
But with Governor Gavin Newsom’s big announcement Tuesday about the “complete” opening of California to business by June 15, many of you may feel psychologically as if the worst days are behind us.
Everything can change and people can still die, and Bay Area infectious experts warn that the home stretch does not mean you can celebrate yet if you have not been vaccinated.
The CDC says young people are driving outbreaks in the Northeast and Midwest because they have not yet been vaccinated and they are all throwing caution against the wind. And just as experts predicted two months ago, the B.1.1.7 variant, first found in the UK, has become the dominant strain throughout the US because it is 50-70% more contagious. And if you feel young and dumb and need some motivation not to catch the virus, a new study suggests that a third of people with mild COVID cases suffer from long-term “brain disease”, including brain fog, anxiety, paranoia, and increased loss of odor or taste. Do you like these odds?
Also, if you get infected, you risk infecting your vaccinated or non-vaccinated friends – so-called “breakthrough cases” in which vaccinated people get sick are, according to experts, rare according to the New York Times, but they still happen and we still do not know what happens to the worst of the variants.
“For the unvaccinated and never infected person, nothing has changed,” says Dr. Bob Wachter, president of the Department of Medicine at UCSF, speaking to the Chronicle this week. “What has changed is that the virus they may be exposed to is probably better for their job than the one that circulated in 2020.”
Everyone in San Francisco is eligible to receive a vaccine from next week, April 15, and hopefully supplies will accelerate and the process will be fast.
But until you are two weeks away from your first shot, at which point you have relatively decent immunity – or great immunity if you got the J&J shot – your behavior should not change. You do not have to party indoors. You probably should not eat indoors at restaurants. You should not travel anywhere and never quarantine. You should not be out drinking every night with different people across a table at an outdoor bar.
If you have had a Pfizer or Moderna shot, your behavior should not change significantly until five to six weeks later or two weeks after the second shot.
And everyone still needs masks in public probably most of this year, unfortunately. YES, it stinks. But this is not theater, as Dr. Anthony Fauci told a stubborn Rand Paul last month – unfamiliar with the variants means none of this is theater.
please let’s come to June without a new tip, without Mayor London Breed and Dr. Colfax will have to take another gloomy zoom session and scold us all to fuck this up. We’re so close.
UC Berkeley infectious expert John Swartzberg – who admittedly has been one of the more cautious and pessimistic among local experts – tells the chronicle: “I feel uncertain about what will happen this month, what direction things will go.” He says April will be “crucial” for California, and “If we can get through this month without a significant increase, we will be in very, very good shape.”
So let’s do it! Let’s get through this month. If you haven’t gotten a shot yet, try spending a little more time at home than you want, and keep doing things outdoors if you go out. Things can still go south of the Bay Area and you do not want to be partially to blame for that!
We have summer to look forward to. And a fall that is already beginning to look filled with events. Just chill.
Photo: Drew Coffman