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After Vaccination, Tiptoeing Back to Normalcy

Many find relief and get a taste of pre-pandemic life after getting their shots

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Wes Forgey has gotten two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and now he's back in the gym. The Vancouver, Washington, resident had stopped his regular exercise regimen to avoid contracting the coronavirus. But after two shots, Forgey, 62, visited the facility to find out what virus precautions gym management was taking.

He found that only a limited number of clients were permitted inside at one time, that social distancing and mask wearing were strictly enforced and that the equipment was meticulously cleaned between users. Those steps, along with his being vaccinated, gave him the peace of mind to return to exercising there.

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spinner image Wes Forgey
Courtesy Wes Forgey

The second vaccine “gives me some sense of relief,” says Forgey, who works in a health care facility. At work “we had positive patients and positive staff and many close calls. It was nerve-racking."

Cautiously venturing out

Millions of Americans have now received their first and second doses of one of the COVID-19 vaccines, and they're slowly figuring out how it will change their habits. People are emerging from nearly a year of social distancing and taking precautions and are weighing what they feel comfortable doing. Forgey, for one, is ready to dine in at some of his favorite restaurants, but he's still careful to follow coronavirus prevention protocols.

Many who are fully vaccinated remain wary. The science around how long vaccination protection will last and whether those who are vaccinated can transmit the virus is still developing. It remains vital to follow safety protocols, medical experts warn.

"I feel good that I got the vaccine,” she says. “I feel less anxious, more relaxed and a sense of relief that it's done."

"The most prudent thing to do is exercise caution, both for your protection and the protection of others,” says Scott Kaiser, M.D., geriatrician and director of geriatric cognitive health for the Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. That means continuing with masking, handwashing and keeping a 6-foot distance from those outside your household.

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Vaccine provides peace of mind

Even so, people are beginning to emerge from social seclusion. Lisa Drouin Heath, 61, a health care worker in Rochester, New York, has also had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. She remains reluctant to see elderly family members or otherwise socialize, but she recently spent nearly a full day helping her son and his roommate move into an apartment.

Heath didn't rely solely on the vaccine to keep her or those she interacted with safe: She wore a mask and kept her distance from others, including the roommate's parents, who did not wear masks. If she had not been vaccinated, she would not have been comfortable being around others who were unmasked.

spinner image Cora Shinaberry
Courtesy Cora Shinaberry

"I feel good that I got the vaccine,” she says. “I feel less anxious, more relaxed and a sense of relief that it's done."

High school teacher Cora Shinaberry, 65, of Austin, Texas, has returned to regular church services and volunteering to help the homeless, since she received her second vaccine dose. She's also doing gym workouts and dining in restaurants. While Shinaberry doesn't feel invincible, the vaccine is giving her peace of mind. She's currently teaching students remotely but now looks forward to their return to the classroom and has taken some steps to return to certain things she did before the pandemic upended the world.

“I’ve continued to exercise outside every day, and since getting the vaccine, I have returned to the YMCA for an exercise class and I am going back to church in person,” she says. “I feel like there is going to be a return to normal life.”

Watch: Why You Should Stay Vigilant After the COVID Vaccine

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