Feeling Free…ish

Masks are set on fire during an event sponsored by the San Angelo Republican Women held at the VFW on Wednesday, March 10, 2021.

Chicago entered Phase 5 reopening on June 11 – a grand way of saying we shrugged off most COVID-19 limitations for the “vaccinated”.

We were the first major US city to take the plunge. 

I’m at once overjoyed to face fewer restrictions, and deeply concerned because — as of today — just 47% of Chicago’s population has all its jabs, and mass vaccination centers in the area are pulling up stakes at a fast clip.

Other Chicagoans clearly share my unease. While local grocery stores no longer require masks, I estimate 75% of shoppers still wear them voluntarily. Meanwhile on public transportation – where a mask mandate is still in place – the percentage seems about the same. 

person in a hazmat suit

The latter is so crazy to me. I often joke I’ll be the last person in Chicago riding the “L” in a mask. I’d wear a hazmat suit, if I had one.

I try to be rational but like most vaccinated urbanites, I can do basic math. If I’m in line to order at Shake Shack, there’s a good chance the person ahead of/behind me is not fully vaccinated. Depending on your news source, vaccine efficacy against the new Delta variant could be less than 80% — not terrible, but low enough to give me pause. Should I just keep my mask on?

Luckily, it’s summer so I’m spending as much time as possible outdoors. And while I’ve returned to the office one or two days per week, it’s a massive space that allows easy social distancing.

I keep reminding myself that I got vaccinated for a reason: to protect myself and others, and to live a freer life. For now, I’ll continue to mask-up when shopping, commuting and enjoying any in-your-face pampering I’ve been denied since 2020 (e.g. eye exams, brow waxing etc.) And of course, I’ll wear a mask whenever asked to by someone still at high risk.

But I’ll ditch masks in the one place I find them truly horrible – the gym. They give me splitting headaches, and adult acne.

In fact, I’d pay extra to join a gym or yoga studio that requires proof of vaccination. Surely some entrepreneur in my city of 2.7 million has had this brilliant idea already?

My closet is full of grown-up clothes without elastic, that are desperate to make an appearance… just as soon as I can squeeze into them. So, I’m depending on it.