Vaccinations Don’t Make Restaurant Visits Safe Yet.

If you’ve managed to get vaccinated, you’re probably excited about doing a bunch of things you’ve avoided over the past year. And yes, you can finally visit an unvaccinated friend, for example, without having to wear masks . But please don’t take this friend to dinner.

People forget things in their rush to get back to “normal” (and, frankly, things won’t be truly normal for long). And first on the list of things people seem to forget is that the establishments have staff . And other patrons.

We’ve seen this throughout the entire pandemic. Remember how Kim Kardashian sent her friends and family to a private island, asking “everyone” to be quarantined? The photographs confirm that the parties do not rush themselves; at least one (masked) employee is visible in front of what appears to be lunch. Politicians also removed masks (or argued that masks should be removed by others) when “no one” was around, apart from those who were still around them, such as photographers.

If you are vaccinated and come into contact with someone who is not vaccinated, this scenario is relatively safe for you. It is also relatively safe for an unvaccinated person, unless they are at high risk of complications, in which case the CDC recommends that you both wear masks.

And CDC recommendations are clear, and they agree with the common sense that your status as a human graft does not make it safe to bring unvaccinated people from different households in contact with each other.

When you bring an unvaccinated friend to a restaurant, that friend now shares the air with the waiters and other patrons. (Yes, even if you are in a small sidewalk tent . Your waiter must still come in to serve you.) Your waiter must be wearing a mask, but masks only reduce the risk. They do not rule it out completely, and your server already encounters dozens of exposed clients on a daily basis.

In many states, restaurant workers should be vaccinated soon if they haven’t already, but you cannot and should not assume that they have already received the vaccines.

You also don’t know who is at high risk just by looking at them; some of these employees may not be able to obtain vaccines for various reasons, either due to availability or due to their own health conditions. The same applies to other diners in the restaurant or to people you meet in other places where you would like to spend time. You do not know who is vaccinated and you do not know who is at high risk.

In the end, enough people will be vaccinated so that the details won’t matter. Vulnerable people will be protected by the simple fact that the number of cases is small and most of the people around them will be protected. This is the idea of herd immunity , and we will almost certainly get there, but we are not there yet.

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