Like just about everyone else right now, I'm wondering what life is going to be like once enough Americans have been vaccinated for COVID-19 that people feel comfortable venturing out into public life again.
For many small business owners, this is more than just an intellectual exercise: If you own a restaurant, bar, fitness facility or any business that used to depend on packing the maximum number of people into the minimum amount of floor space, your very existence may depend on getting this right.
I am pleased to say that both my wife and I have been vaccinated (with no side effects). But that doesn't mean we are changing our lifestyle anytime soon.
Here are some decisions we have made about how we will go about living the next one to two years.
We Will Be Wearing Masks for a While Yet. We are all waiting for that glorious day when we can take our masks off and look people in the face when we speak to them. But I don't think that will be for a while.
Until we have a reliable way to identify people who are safe to be around (see below), I will be wearing a mask when I visit a store, post office or any interior space, and I will keep several in my car just in case I forget one when I leave the house.
We Will Be Keeping Children at a Safe Distance. Right now, COVID-19 vaccines are not available for children under 16 because the clinical trials for that age group started later.
The good news is that when kids get COVID-19, it is almost always not a life-threatening event. The bad news is that kids are now going back to in-person classrooms that I think are likely to become superspreaders. Ask any teacher: When one kid gets the flu, everyone in contact with the class gets the flu, including the teachers, the janitors and the principal. And this ain't no flu.
Until we know for sure how COVID-19 affects children under the age of 16, or a vaccine is developed for that demographic, I will not be getting too close to kids and tweens, much as I may love them.
We Will Be Looking for Proof of Vaccination. Here is the biggest thing government needs to do to help get society back on normal footing. When I'm in unfamiliar surroundings, I want to be able to identify — quickly and accurately — who around me has been vaccinated or has survived the disease.
When you get vaccinated, they give you an "I Got It!" sticker, but that usually falls off within 5-10 minutes after application. Laminating your vaccination card is a great idea, but you can't carry it around your neck all the time like a corporate ID badge. The thing is too darn big.
We need a national ID badge that cannot be counterfeited; anybody who ever bought a fake ID to buy liquor when they were teenagers remembers how easy it was to get one, and we can't risk an underground economy in fake vaccination cards. Once developed, the badge should be issued only by physicians (for patients they can certify have survived the disease) and people administering the vaccine.
We Will Be Avoiding Crowds. I will no longer be comfortable standing or sitting shoulder to shoulder with my fellow human beings. I will make it a point to go to the grocery store at 6 a.m. or 11 p.m. on weekdays, when there's nobody there. The same with restaurants: If I do not see at least six feet of separation between tables, my wife and I will be going elsewhere.
Takeout, home delivery and "ghost" restaurants are the future of dining out, at least for the foreseeable future. If you own a restaurant and your state or local government proposes restrictions on your ability to offer curbside service or home delivery, even for liquor, call your elected representatives and resist them as if your very life depends upon them not getting passed. Because it does.
As for gyms, consider opening round-the-clock so people can work out at odd hours when there's nobody else there.
And forget about mass transit. If I have to visit New York City for some reason, I'm driving. Not great for the environment, and the parking fees are monstrous, but I'll sleep better at night.
We Will Be Resuming Travel, But ... as little as possible, and at unpopular times so I'm not crammed into a crowded bus, train or airplane. No middle seats, under any circumstances.
Since we won't be able to visit Europe or go on a Caribbean cruise for a long time yet (Europe has done much worse than the U.S. in fighting COVID-19 and many countries still don't allow visitors from the U.S. without a lengthy quarantine), our travel will be domestic, regional or local. You can get just about anywhere in the U.S. in two to three days if you and your spouse drive in shifts.
With maybe an overnight stay in a luxury hotel that maintains the highest quality safety and cleanliness standards — no more roadside motels or quaint bed-and-breakfasts without a personal reference from someone we know and trust.
Unless, of course, they are staffed entirely by people with badges.
Cliff Ennico ([email protected]) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our webpage at www.creators.com.
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