My kids have been vaccinated now for several weeks and the initial excitement they felt is waning, especially for my youngest. Understandably, he was hoping that his vaccination would help and that he might not have to wear his mask as often, specifically around his closest friends. Viruses get stronger with each new person they infect. Even though my children are safer now and less likely to transmit Covid-19, they still can. I recognize that some view those who have remained unvaccinated as willing participants in their own demise, but it’s not that simple. Basically, the more people who get sick, the longer this pandemic lasts. As more become ill, the vaccine my kids just got last month loses its efficacy because each new sick body is an opportunity for the virus to learn how to bypass the barriers vaccines create. More than likely, Covid-19 will become endemic and around to threaten us for years to come. Breakthrough infections do happen. The CDC is asking that people in areas of substantial or greater transmission rates wear masks in indoor public areas, regardless of vaccination status. If we can prevent the virus from infecting more people, we reduce its chances to mutate. As unbelievably frustrating as it is, being vaccinated is not enough. We still need to act as if we’re all contagious inside public places. We’ve played this game before. If everyone doesn’t get vaccinated, everyone stays in the game for inning after inning after inning. When a player goes down, they just get replaced by another. There was a vaccination for smallpox by the end of the 18th century, but it took approximately two hundred more years for the disease to be eradicated. We’ve actually had at least five pandemics over the last century, give or take a few years. We’re fortunate that vaccines for Covid-19 do exist and that, so far, they’re holding up to each new mutation, or we’re at least able to make adjustments to the vaccinations not too far behind the virus itself. In other pandemics, we haven’t had the advantages of a vaccine. People had to utilize non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as wearing masks and social distancing. When they didn’t, it was catastrophic. The 1918 Influenza pandemic had multiple surges, usually following removals of quarantine protocols. It’s shocking but true- more people died from the pandemic than WW I. About 20% of the world’s population was gone in just over 2 years. The global population is much larger now than it was a hundred years ago. Our death rate is not as high during this current pandemic. I’m sure that to any of those who have lost a loved one, it feels like their whole world died. To anyone who is immunocompromised, people being unwilling to adjust their normal experience is devastating. It’s basically suggesting that the routines and traditions that make people comfortable and give the illusion that things are well are more important than someone’s life. It’s such a fuzzy line, this thing called inclusion. There are some situations where what is most inclusive for one person can feel exclusive to another. Our experiences impact what we view as most important. I have dear friends and loved ones who could die in this pandemic, regardless of having three shots against this ever transforming virus. Because of this, I do tend to look through a lens of physical safety first. I know for others, the physical distance necessary to create that safety causes emotional danger. My anxiety, the way my brain works, sure doesn’t help. I regularly dream of people I love in hospital beds. When the hospitals fill, I dream of them in helicopters being flown away without me, never coming back. It is unbelievably hard for me to be patient and incredibly frustrating. Right now, some people do need to be together and some people do not. Inclusion and exclusion must occur at the same time. Either way, this pandemic is still here and more people will die. My part in those possible deaths is ever present in my mind. Nearly the entire map of the United States is bright red, indicating high transmission, on the CDC’s site. You may be able to suspend disbelief today and tomorrow, but I can not.