Some COVID-19 Restrictions Have Eased, but I’m Still Cautious

Charlene Marshall avatar

by Charlene Marshall |

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It was around this time last year that some people began to envision what life might be like after the COVID-19 pandemic ended. While the first COVID-19 vaccination wasn’t officially administered until last December, talk about the jab was on the horizon last fall. That’s what prompted some to think about life beyond COVID-19 for the first time all year.

As a patient with a chronic respiratory disease, I am eligible to receive a high-dose flu shot every fall. I remember a conversation I had last fall with my doctor about the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, which was still in progress at the time. A year later, over 2.8 billion people have been fully vaccinated around the world. Some have taken this as a sign that at least some things are returning to normal in some countries.

For most people, being fully vaccinated offers peace of mind and a level of comfort when participating in activities they’d missed most during the lockdowns and the school and business closures. Because I have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), that level of comfort feels a little different to me. I’m not ready to participate in some of the activities I previously enjoyed, albeit cautiously, especially during cold and flu season.

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Last year, I could only guess what might change after the pandemic. I wondered whether masks were here to stay or whether people would halt physical contact in public, such as handshakes and hugs. Because I’m immunocompromised, I always wore masks in public, so if those stick around after COVID-19, at least I’ll avoid the stares I used to receive.

Regardless of what precautions remain in place, and despite the number of COVID-19 vaccinations given around the world, I’m simply not ready for some activities. As an IPF patient with minimal antibodies despite three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, there are just too many respiratory risks I’m not willing to take.

Following are some of the pre-pandemic activities I’m still not ready for, despite how much I enjoyed them prior to ever hearing about COVID-19.

Movie theaters

Here in Canada, movie theaters began operating at full capacity in the last month, although all guests must show proof of vaccination. Experts say that vaccinated people can still spread the virus to others who are at a higher risk, such as the elderly and those with respiratory conditions like IPF. Despite the vaccination requirements, movie theaters have too many people sitting in close proximity for me to be comfortable with it right now.

International travel

Someone mentioned to me that COVID-19 won’t be eradicated until a plan is in place to ensure equitable vaccine distribution around the world. Because of this, I am still not comfortable enough to travel internationally. Not every country has ample access to COVID-19 vaccines like Canada and the U.S. do.

In 2017, I was involved in an auto accident while in another country, through no fault of my own, and the cost of spending a night at a hospital emergency room was astronomical. I simply can’t risk getting sick from COVID-19 or any other respiratory infection while overseas. The financial implications are just too great.

Buffets 

Many of my germophobic friends couldn’t believe that I enjoyed eating at buffets before the pandemic. I was always as careful as possible when I ate at a buffet, and my favorite meal was breakfast. Now that I am more aware of viral transmission, however, I no longer feel comfortable eating at buffets.

Department store shopping

Like movie theaters, department stores allow too many people for me to feel comfortable right now. Plus, I have two other concerns about department stores. The first is that here in Canada, shopping malls and some large department stores don’t require proof of vaccination outside the food courts. The second is that stores have removed the directional arrows indicating flow of foot traffic down aisles. This has meant that people don’t keep a safe distance from one another.

Despite some COVID-19 restrictions easing, if you are a fellow IPF patient, what activities are you unwilling to participate in? Please share in the comments below. 

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Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.

Comments

George Beck avatar

George Beck

All of this seems very sensible to me, Charlene. The loss of Gen. Powell after he was vaccinated but immunocompromised indicates that we have good reason to be very careful.

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Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi George,
Thank you so much for reading my columns and reaching out via the comments. I completely agree with you re: the importance of being careful despite being vaccinated and with being immunocompromised. Very sad news about Gen. Powell indeed.
Stay safe,
Char.

Reply
Steve Dragoo avatar

Steve Dragoo

Hi Charlene,

I certainly identify with your concerns.

My concern with any accident or covid exposure here in this third world medically poor country the Philippines is most likely deadly. No pulmonologist has treated ILD or IPF and when I had an acute exacerbation a year ago we were mostly on our own. But my wife did her very best and because of her constant attention (she would come home from work 3 or 4 times a day to check on me) and prayers - I survived.

We are vaccinated and working on her papers but the US seems risky but go home I must for medical help. Most international flights do a complete disinfection after each flight and the flight attendants generally will not touch anyone so we feel mostly ok if we get her papers finished timely.

Stay well and safe,
Steve

Reply
Charlene Marshall avatar

Charlene Marshall

Hi Steve,

Always nice to hear from you my friend, thanks for reading my column and sharing your thoughts via the comments. I'm so glad you got through the exacerbation, I know how scary that was for you and thank goodness for your wife as you say! I hope she can gather her papers and you can return to the US for the medical help you need against this cruel disease. I will say some prayers for you, and yes, I agree, airlines typically are very safe with the amount of sanitation that goes on in their new protocols. Keep me posted.
Wishing you well!
Char.

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