Asking People About Their Vaccination Status Makes Me Anxious

Recently, a local elected official posted photos on social media – without masks – attending a social event outside. And then supported legislation requiring masks at outdoor spaces.

Now that’s a little bit of a head spin, but more importantly to me is the failure to qualify the original posts. Are the people in the post your household members? Are they vaccinated? Did you take your mask off for the photo? Did you wear a mask even though it isn’t required? Did you assume your followers would intuit all of this information?

And do we realize that how we move through the world of social media requires as much care and caution as face to face contact? Are we offended when someone pushes back against content that literally implies that we aren’t following best practices? In a world of anti-vaxxers and ant-maskers refuse to listen to data or reason or even common sense, something we mock and despise, is it fair to get our backs up when someone on “our side” asks us questions?

We are literally requiring people to carry their vaccination cards to participate in activities and attend events, while we make giant assumptions about how our social media content will be read. When I see someone post without a mask, I assume they aren’t wearing a mask. And I make a social interaction calculation update. If they take 60 seconds to either show their mask in the photo or reference it in the written content, that’s helpful.

Another friend posted a photo of a street festival without a caveat and seemed affronted when I interpreted their post as condoning the event. And more affronted that I didn’t assume they are safe. It is my responsibility to give them the benefit of the doubt.

We are in a massive death throe of yet another variant of the pandemic because we gave people the benefit of the doubt again.

Today, I read that UPMC Children’s Hospital has opened Emergency Room tents to accommodate patients. Children are receiving emergency care in tents because of COVID-19 infection rates.

I don’t assume anyone is safe. I’m not safe. I went out into my backyard to handle a situation and did not wear  mask even though other people were involved. I fucked up and I regret it. I find myself slipping too often – walking out of the door without a mask in hand just in case. I resolved that by stuffing extra masks in my purse and my glove box and other containers.

I’m also incredibly uncomfortable asking people to show their vaccination cards. I can’t assume they are operating on the same COVID-19 protocols as me. But it is the social media content that really frightens me, the affirmation of my deeply held fear that people are lying to me to pacify my anxiety and then doing whatever the fuck they want. I don’t want to be pacified, I want to be protected.

Yes, I’m an anxious person. I grew up with caretakers who did not meet my basic needs, physical or emotional. I learned not to take anything for granted from an early age so I’m certainly not going to rely on the common sense and community awareness of people I barely know. Or know well.

There’s a space between irrational fear and fear grounded in reality than seems more gray than usual. I am pretty content not going anywhere most of the time because of my baseline anxiety and unprocessed trauma – that sounds so selfhelpy, right? – got stuck during the pandemic. I rarely had to go anywhere so I didn’t make progress working on those concerns.

So although I intellectually understand that people want to get back out of there and do things, I can’t emotionally get there with them. In part because of my own stuff and in part because of a pandemic that continues to kill a lot of people. I don’t want to spend time around people who don’t believe in vaccines or do believe in Donald Trump, but I also don’t want to be around people who can’t sit still and just patiently wait for this terrible time to pass us by.

I know it is hard when you’ve taken all of the recommended steps – vaccines, masks, planning your worklife, etc. You are doing the best you can, but it isn’t enough. Coping with the anxieties of people like me is something you have to deal with, too. Tightening things up to get those infection rates down and those children’s ER tents down is necessary. Resting on our laurels isn’t okay. Assuring each other is good physical and mental health, even if it takes a little more time.

It isn’t like the children are responsible for their surging numbers. And their surging deaths.

If you are in a good place, isn’t it reasonable to ask you to be careful of those who are not?



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