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Don’t Assume and Don’t Beat Yourself Up

By Cherie Binns

We have been spending a few days at a home we have owned for several years and used to use as income property but now just use for us as a getaway. I have been making masks since September of 2020 in full force (about 7000 as of this writing) and the staff (housekeeping, maintenance, and office) have been using my masks for months. I remember in April of 2021 asking our property manager if our staff was able to get vaccines and she told me they were. There was one who was antivaccine but she was continuing to mask (this was back when nationally a mask mandate was still in place). 

With each trip to this vacation home, I was seeing our staff unmasked and freely moving about among guests and owners without masks so I “assumed,” based on that conversation in April, they were all fully vaccinated (this in a state with one of the highest vaccination rates in the country). Last month when we came up, I had a conversation with one of our housekeeping staff and she revealed that she did not believe in vaccines and treated her health and wellness “holistically.” 

As a person with MS who is on a B cell depletion medication (Ocrevus, Rituxan, Kesimpta), I am fully vaccinated but have not developed any antibodies against COVID-19 because of the action of my disease modifying-therapy, so have continued to mask when outside my home as a result. If I am outdoors and know those with me are fully vaccinated, I may forego the mask. I have been doing that with some of our “staff” for months. Yesterday we had an issue with the cable TV in our home and had put in a work order to repair it. Jason (our head of maintenance) stopped by with a new employee as we were finishing lunch. Here no one wears masks any time. As they were entering our unit, I casually said, “You are vaccinated, right?” and his response was, “I am not comfortable answering that!” (He is not vaccinated and was in my home for a half hour with my husband and myself.

I let that confrontation rent space in my head. I got angry and offended. I got scared. Covid has killed one in every 500 Americans as of this writing and I have no antibodies after being fully vaccinated. The next few hours were very uncomfortable. I told my husband that I would not be coming back to this home until COVID-19 was under control and had become endemic. I was intense and deliberate in my thinking.

The next morning I woke with a sense of clarity on all of this. There is not any greater danger now than there has been since we have owned property here. I assumed from a conversation several months ago when vaccines were finally being made available to the general population and not just those in high-risk groups that our employees were vaccinated because they were moving freely among us without masking. Yesterday I was told by our property manager that “several of our employees are not vaccinated” but because the state had not issued official mandates or guidelines, they did not have to abide by CDC guidelines to mask when in the presence of others regardless of vaccination status and would not be asking employees to mask when around guests and homeowners.

Nothing is different than it was before many of us were vaccinated. We have been around these individuals for months and their behavior has not changed. Neither has mine. I continue to put on a mask indoors around anyone who is not a part of my household. All the time. I am not at a greater risk than I was four months ago or even last month. I had let my assumptions lull me into a false sense of security. I should not be offended or fearful. I am responsible for me and my household. I was given the opportunity to remind myself that I cannot let down my guard and I am responsible for me and mine to get vaccinated, mask, and distance. This is not the time to blame or find a scapegoat for my anger. This is a reminder to me to continue to be vigilant and protect myself and my family by continuing to distance and mask when around others.

Each if us is responsible for our safety and that of our family or household. No one else is responsible for that. I encourage you to do what you need to do to keep yourself and your household safe by keeping your distance, mask when around others and get your vaccine and a third dose if your doctor thinks it may be advisable.