Springtime and Renewal During the Continued Pandemic

Thirteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, how are you doing?

Although people are getting vaccinated at an impressive rate around the country, I’m wondering when the constant worry of exposure to the virus will be replaced with the confidence to interact with the outside world the way we once did. For me, I suspect that it will take a very long time.

Spending time outside during the spring

Springtime is knocking at the front door and opening its fragrant arms to invite us all to enjoy this time of year to celebrate renewal.

As the weather changes, people are outside, tending to yards, talking to neighbors, going shopping, and walking or biking on the local trails. And if you live in certain parts of the country, you just might be trying to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible before the 17-year Brood X Cicadas emerge in May and June 2021.

COVID-19 changed how I enjoyed being outside

This time last year is when I basically went into hibernation mode and hid from the joys of springtime. Anytime I went outside, it seemed there were too many people trying to find an escape from the newly imposed ‘stay home if at all possible’ recommendations.

Trying to bike the local trails was like playing leapfrog with hordes of meandering walkers, dogs, strollers, joggers, rollerbladers, electric scooters and skateboards, and other cyclists. It seemed like hardly anybody was wearing masks nor trying to distance themselves from others. It was like riding a figurative virus minefield so I stayed away.

During the winter, I got outside and cycled almost every day which was great for my mental well-being. From January through March, I cycled about 1000 miles. It was great to be outside with few other people to contend with on the trails. And everybody was wearing masks for protection from the cold and from potential virus exposure.

But now, the hordes of people are back. This time around, some are wearing masks and respectfully trying to give each other space. But other people are back to previous no-mask behavior. It makes me nervous.

Nervous about potential exposure

I have been fortunate to begin the vaccination process having received a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. I should receive the second dose in 3 weeks. You would think that this would build my confidence in life returning to ‘normal’ soon.

RA treatment may impact vaccine response

However, I know that my response to the vaccine will be limited due to the medication I take for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (i.e., rituximab). Whatever immune response I develop will be better than nothing, but it won’t mean that I can suddenly act carelessly and without concern for exposure.

People who are immunocompromised are still at risk

As much as I want everyone to feel free and unencumbered, I also want people to feel a responsibility to protect those of us who remain vulnerable despite vaccination. But our culture doesn’t necessarily focus on the needs of smaller minority groups. Our culture loves to focus on majority populations and point to the good done ‘for the masses.’ As a member of a minority population (i.e., immunosuppressed and higher risk), I need the masses to care for my well-being too.

A reminder to stay vigilant

So to answer my own question, I am doing well but feeling conflicted. I want as much as anybody else to be able to move beyond the pandemic. I also know that I must stay even more vigilant to protect myself because others may not. The crisis is not yet over.

For my own well-being, I need not to hibernate as others swarm outside. I need to experience the sense of renewal that is unique to this time of year. I need to continue to mask up, wash my hands frequently, move away from people who invade my personal 6-foot bubble, and sanitize strategically.

So how about you. How are you doing this 2nd spring of the pandemic? What is different about your activities this year compared to last year? Please share your story in the comments. We learn from each other and stories help to confirm that none of us are alone on this journey.

Be well,

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