Saturday, May 15, 2021

Early morning view from my patio.

Today I’m lucky to be in in Florida—the other sunshine state. The occasion is my granddaughter’s college graduation, but it also gives me the opportunity to compare two environments in this period of pandemic transition.

Requirements are changing rapidly. Day before yesterday the CDC announced that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or socially distance whether indoors or out. Singing, movies, church, parties— all okay!

New CDC guidelines as of May 13, 2021. (CDC.gov/coronavirus )

Two notable exceptions: public transportation and hubs (such as airplanes and airports) and adherence to local or state laws. It’s a big change for the CDC guidelines. We may soon be seeing signs and floor spacing reminders disappear.

May 14, 2021. Relic of the past?

Predictably, some are saying it’s too soon and some are saying it’s about time. So maybe we’ve reached that “Goldilocks moment,” but here in Florida it probably won’t matter. The masks are already off. The vaccination numbers for the sunshine states aren’t that different: Fully vaccinated: California 37%, Florida 34%. One dose: California 52%, Florida 45%. But their COVID-19 requirements are miles apart.

For example I (fully vacc’d, by the way) haven’t had to put on my mask since I left the Pensacola airport. The taxi driver didn’t care (we asked). The campus restaurant where we had lunched didn’t either. The restaurant where we had our celebration dinner was mask-free except for the employees. At one point I saw a customer (unmasked) run up and hug the receptionist (masked), apparently thrilled to see each other. Ironic, sure — this is a time of transition—but it’s wonderful to see hugs and smiles out in the open again. Maybe with the new guidelines the receptionist can unmask too.

Guidelines for the indoor graduation ceremony

I saw very few masks on campus, but the ceremonies had been spaced out by scheduling them on different days. Entering the auditorium, there was one sign titled “Best Practices” which specified to sit in every other row, wash hands, etc. but did not mention masks, COVID-19, or the CDC. I did see a sign about masks at the Beach Club which mildly recommended masks “in accordance with CDC recommendations.” Contrast this with the stern “FACE MASKS REQUIRED” sign seen on a California mall entrance last summer.

Florida Beach Club, May, 2021
California mall, August 2020

Practices have varied from state to state all along, but perhaps the new CDC guidelines and the increase in vaccinations will bring us closer together again— in more ways than one. Things are looking up.

Not just a postscript: I am not forgetting the serious news this week that the WHO declared a variant from India to be the fourth “variant of concern” on the evidence of greater contagion. Like Florida and California, we live in a world of contrasts at this time of transition. We can only hope that the world can share in moving out of pandemic mode soon.

Today’s Notable Headlines

No headlines—this is a vacation!!

Why am I doing this?

The coronavirus pandemic will be indelibly written on our memories just as the Great Depression or the Battle of Britain left their mark on past generations. I intend to journal the pandemic experience from three perspectives: as a retired medical technologist, as a historian (Ph.D., 2014), and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary world crisis.

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