In mid-May the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines stating that fully vaccinated people were not required to wear masks in most settings, including indoors at restaurants and in other public spaces. The decision was soundly rooted in science, although it felt jarring to many—even those of us writing and reporting about COVID-19 on a daily basis. After more than a year of masks and social distancing, the idea of overnight returning to mostly normal was a shock to the system. We were not alone. A substantial number of individuals recently told researchers with the American Psychological Association that they were hesitant to resume to their old ways of life despite being vaccinated, as Melba Newsome reports in this issue’s cover story (see “‘Cave Syndrome’ Keeps the Vaccinated in Social Isolation”). Personally, trusting the science and the effectiveness of the vaccines, in terms of both preventing severe disease (even from variants) and transmitting the virus to others, has given me the comfort to get back out there.
For those of us lucky enough to live in a country where case numbers keep declining, the aftereffects of the pandemic are coming into focus. After nearly 600,000 have died, millions in the U.S. have lost a loved one, and the grief has only just begun to set in (see “Covid Has Put the World at Risk of Prolonged Grief Disorder”). For those of us looking to finally walk out the door and face the world and for people coming to terms with the devastation of loss, time and self-compassion are in order.
This article was originally published with the title “The Quiet after the Storm” in SA Mind 32, 4, 2 (July 2021)