AARP Eye Center
| For the first time in two years, this summer feels like an actual summer.
Graduation celebrations. Dinner parties. Picnics and barbecues.
But given that the highly contagious delta variant is driving up COVID-19 cases — and is expected to steadily accelerate through the summer and fall — is it appropriate to ask the friends we want to gather with whether they've been vaccinated?
Nationally syndicated etiquette columnist Thomas P. Farley, also known as Mister Manners, calls the matter — a potentially delicate, offensive one — “a fair topic.”
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Just know that these conversations can get fractious, making etiquette and diplomacy even more important.
“With the anti-vaccination and pro-vaccination camps by now settled firmly into their respective realities, the opportunities for conflict and divisiveness among friends and families are even higher than before,” says Farley. “Whereas conversations during the spring and early summer may have consisted of sharing information or swapping stories, the opposing sides are entrenched with — forgive the pun — little chance of moving the needle to sway a differing opinion.”
Farley suggests slipping in the question, seemingly as an afterthought: “You could say, ‘I'm kind of just putting my toe back in the water of getting together with people again. Can you tell me whether we will be indoors or outdoors? Will people be masked or not masked?'"
The ‘quick interaction'
What makes this question tricky is just how polarizing it can be. What's acceptable for one person may be a line in the sand for the next.
For example, many see no problem with asking or answering questions about being vaccinated; others can't imagine why they'd be requested to divulge a part of their private medical history. Some categorize the whole debate as an ethical issue.
For her part, Kathy Yager, 61, has learned to steer clear of heated exchanges around the vaccine and mask-wearing.
"I don't want to get into a conversation with anybody about what my beliefs are and what their beliefs are, especially if I don't know them very well,” says Yager, of North Ridgeville, Ohio.
Instead of asking a question, Yager issues a statement: “I just tell them I'm vaccinated and that opens the door for them to tell me whether they are or aren't."
And that tends to lead on its own, organically, to the answer she's seeking.