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City of Los Angeles – California – USA
Photo by Enric Cruz Lopez on Pexels.com

These past 15 months under lock-down, social distancing, and mask-wearing due to the COVID-19 pandemic have tested my mental and physical health. Weekends spent outdoors gardening have saved my sanity. To my knowledge, only five neighbors got sick with the coronavirus. None of them were hospitalized. I give thanks that they have all fully recovered.

I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on February 25 and the second dose on March 18. Though the vaccine is now readily available to all Californians 12 years and over, my adult sons have yet to receive their first shot.

The County of Los Angeles is now dangling Vaccination Sweepstakes. Those who get vaccinated from June 11 to June 17 will have the chance to win a pair of Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers or Los Angeles Clippers season tickets for next season. If you’re a resident of Los Angeles County, is 18 years or older, and is a football fan, now is your chance.

The State of California’s vaccine incentive program, Vax for the Win, is better yet! All Californians who have had at least one vaccine dose are automatically entered. On June 15, ten more winners will be selected to receive $1.5 million each. That’s not money to ignore in these harsh economic times. Since the program was launched, roughly 2 million people have reportedly taken the shot. As at June 11, our state has administered nearly 40 million vaccines. Over 70 percent of Californians 18 years and over have received at least one dose.

“California is on track for a safe reopening next week [on June 15] thanks in large part to the efforts of so many residents who have done their part in getting vaccinated,” said Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, Director of the California Department of Public Health.

On June 9, in preparation for California’s reopening to business, Dr. Aragón issued “Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings – Effective June 15, 2021.” Although I have been looking forward to this day, I am wary about sharing space with large, dense crowds. Since becoming fully vaccinated, I have only left home on two occasions to go to the drugstore and a bodega, both within walking distance. I wore two masks for added protection. When chatting with neighbors, I still maintain a safe distance.

According to the latest directives from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), as a fully vaccinated individual, I will only be required to wear a mask in the following settings:

  • Public transit; schools; healthcare facilities; state and local correctional facilities and detention centers; and homeless centers.

I haven’t used the bus since March 11, 2020, when I last attended our writers’ critique group lunch-meet at Gloria’s Restaurant on Venice Boulevard. Returning to normal activities would mean using the bus again. Just do it, I tell myself.

Like so many of us, I need a haircut. During the lock-down, I have twice chopped off about a two-inch length of hair. It’s not even, but my curls hide the misshapen tresses. Under the new guidance, businesses where masks are required only for unvaccinated individuals may choose to:

  • Allow vaccinated individuals to self-attest prior to entry:
  • Verify vaccine requirements; or
  • Require all patrons to wear masks.

I’m pleased to note that “No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.”

Over the past 15 months, I have found that wearing a mask has had other advantages. I did not catch the flu during the flu season and I did not suffer from my usual outdoor allergies. Besides, the mask conceals my gaunt cheeks!

The “Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings” also include a list of individuals exempt from wearing masks at all times:

  • Persons younger than two years old;
  • Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition or disability that prevents them from wearing a mask;
  • Persons who are hearing impaired or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired; and
  • Persons at risk in relation to their workplace safety guidelines.

Next week, I plan to join the line at the Department of Motor Vehicles in my neighborhood to get a REAL ID before the extended deadline of October 1, 2021. I plan to wear a mask and keep as safe a distance as possible from individuals without a mask. Handshakes and hugs will take a while.