If Michael Lamb had not been the father of young children, the 36-year-old Aurora resident might have been more courageous in this phase of the pandemic.
“I think I’d be more cautious about what I was doing,” Lamb said. “But I have a 3 year old and a 6 year old and my focus is on them because they cannot be vaccinated. It is their safety first, especially in light of the new variants.
Lamb works in the insurance business, so risk management always weighs heavily on him. But more than 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, so many public health decisions – wearing masks indoors, eating out at restaurants, attending large social gatherings – are now being left up to a person’s level of comfort, it The weight seems even more cumbersome.
Last year, Governor Jared Polis and public health officials made a number of decisions that mandated us to wear masks where we could go and were required to wear masks in public. With the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, state leaders began easing restrictions and people were able to choose what their new normal looked like, in many cases. But as the delta version of the virus flared up this summer, some Coloradans chose to live life a little more carefully.
“It’s definitely stressful,” said Lamb, a British national born and raised in Hong Kong who moved to Aurora in 2018. “But I’m naturally prone to risk, anyway. I experienced SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). I experienced bird flu. I’ve seen how it works. It’s easy for me to say, ‘Kids, I know you wanted to go to Lava Island (indoor playground), but we’re going to ride your bikes outside instead.’ “
Deciding what feels safe at this point in the pandemic can seem like a novel adventure in its own right, with dire consequences. Colorado’s statewide mask order now requires only people who have not been fully vaccinated to wear a mask in a limited number of settings — homeless shelters, prisons, prisons, correctional programs and health care facilities — and mandated that everyone should wear a mask inside residential care facilities. private hospital.
Masks are mandatory for everyone in a handful of counties, including Boulder County, and several metro-area school districts.
For most Coloradans, though, whether to wear a mask when picking up a gallon of milk, kick back with friends inside their favorite bar, or attend that thrice-postponed wedding is now up to the individual. has given.
Public health guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advises fully vaccinated people to wear masks in public indoor settings in counties where there is a high transmission of the respiratory virus — that is, as of Wednesday, except in San Juan County. Was in Colorado. But the federal agency says people who have been vaccinated can “participate in many of the same activities they did before the pandemic.”
live in different worlds
Coloradans’ varying comfort levels with the virus make it feel like they’re living in realities different from those around them.
Parker resident Laura Hackney has been fully vaccinated and has resumed life as usual, she said.
The 64-year-old and her fully vaccinated husband are traveling comfortably, buying groceries, attending local festivals and going to malls without wearing masks. She feels overjoyed to see the games and stadiums full of fans back to enjoy.
She said that Hackney got the vaccine after telling her kids but didn’t care for the feel of the clothes on her face, she said.
He has avoided places that may require him to opt for plane rides, road trips. The Parker resident recently returned from a trip to Michigan, where she ran with a vibrant running community.
“Our lives are very normal,” Hackney said. “We do a lot. I think it’s weird that you see all these people wearing masks when they don’t need it, but I think that’s what it should be if they think they’re wearing one.” Unless they’re asking me. I think it’s weird that perfectly healthy people are wearing masks, but I try not to be judgmental. This whole thing really pissed us off so much Not impressed.”
For the fully vaccinated Brighton resident Lydia Villalobos, the pandemic has struck heart after heartbreak.
He said the 68-year-old woman was taking care of her brother, who has Down syndrome, but her condition got so bad during the pandemic that she had to find a nursing home to care for him.
“That experience trying to find a nursing home during the pandemic – it was horrific,” Villalobos said in tears. “He had some of the highest number of cases, and I had to put a loved one in one, and because of COVID, you couldn’t even visit him. You couldn’t talk to anyone face to face there. I felt blind. it was very scary.”
He said Villalobos was devastated to learn of the death of several friends from COVID-19.
Then, in May, Villalobos’ husband was diagnosed with cancer.
With some of the most important people in Villalobos’ life in vulnerable circumstances, she said she and her family couldn’t be too careful. They wear masks in some places like the grocery store. He hasn’t eaten inside a restaurant since the pandemic began. They are going out for a walk with their kids.
To see his brother weekly at the nursing home, Villalobos said it is his duty to stay as safe as possible during the week.
“I thought once we got vaccinated my summer would be a little different, but then when my husband got sick — we just had to be careful,” Villalobos said. “I get it. People want it to end, but it doesn’t. It’s been a whole new way of living. I come from a big family, and our reunion has been put on hold, and I’ve got to love everyone.” Miss you, but we all have to be safe. It’s frustrating when it seems like people are just thinking about themselves and not others. I try not to be negative, but sometimes- Sometimes it feels like that.”
“Another Layer of Difficulty”
Amanda Rebel, a Colorado-based physician for pandemic counseling, said the vast unknowns and troubles brought on by COVID-19 and the options presented by the virus can be managed through seeking mental health care.
“I often tell people that they can’t control what other people do, but they have choices about what works for them,” Rebel said.
Rebel Coach helps clients find their comfort level in these pandemic times, creating boundaries and enforcing those boundaries with loved ones when stress can sting.
“As human beings, we crave connection,” Rebel said. “It’s really hard to connect with people in a way that feels safe for you or your family, and it can be very hard if the other person you love doesn’t agree with how you connect. It’s another layer of difficulty around COVID.”
Christina Edstrom, a Longmont mother of two, said she and her family decided against attending a family reunion in eastern Colorado a few weekends ago, even though they cherish the time they spent with loved ones.
“Successful infections can happen, and we didn’t want to be responsible for passing on an older family member to being infected, even if we were vaccinated,” Edstrom said. “My 10-year-old girl is not vaccinated, so we are careful to protect her, but we really want to do our part as a family to reduce the community spread of COVID. At this time, most of our family and friends know that we are taking precautions and doing everything we can to reduce community spread. Our motto is, ‘We’ll see you on the other side of it.'”
Edstrom acknowledged that children are less likely to experience severe symptoms from the virus, but said he is concerned about long-lasting COVID, which can still feel the effects of the virus months after infection.
If communicating boundaries requires interaction with family and friends, Rebel suggests using “I” statements that express one’s thoughts or feelings from their point of view, rather than accusatory statements. Let’s move on. For example, Rebel said someone might say, “I feel most comfortable wearing a mask indoors. Will you be ready to wear a mask when we meet?” Instead of going into a conversation attacking one’s views on wearing a mask.
“It’s really trying to keep it more about what one wants and needs rather than a philosophical debate about values,” Rebel said. “While these conversations can be difficult and painful, ultimately, it is a great exercise for all of us to consider what our bandwidth is – what we can and what we are not comfortable doing.”
Lamb and his family are testing the waters to see what they are comfortable doing.
They’re wearing masks indoors, but the Aurora family recently dipped their toes in an indoor outing for the new interactive Denver art exhibit Meow Wolf.
“We were lucky to get one of the first entries of the day, so we felt a little bit better about it,” Lamb said. “We decided to feel it. We saw a good amount of time with the kids and then when the place was filling up, we left when we were getting a little uncomfortable with it. We were obviously wearing our masks. If everyone was just If the science follows, it could end so quickly.”
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