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Philly will lift all COVID-related restrictions on June 11, but it won’t be business as usual. Nor should it be | Jenice Armstrong

I will follow the lead of former first lady Michelle Obama who says if people want to be around her and Barack, they need to have been vaccinated.

Former first lady Michelle Obama said Monday that people who aren't vaccinated against COVID-19 can't hang out with the Obamas.
Former first lady Michelle Obama said Monday that people who aren't vaccinated against COVID-19 can't hang out with the Obamas.Read morePaul R. Giunta / Paul R. Giunta/

Just because Philadelphia restaurants will be allowed to start packing them in again on June 11, it doesn’t mean I will be joining the crowd.

Believe me, if I eat out at all this summer, it will be al fresco.

My social life won’t change much from the last 14 months. I will continue socializing mainly with my pandemic pod whom I’ve been hanging out with mostly virtually over Zoom for the last year.

I also will follow the lead of former first lady Michelle Obama, who said Monday on CBS This Morning that if people want to be around the Obamas, they need to have been inoculated. “You wanna hang out with us? Get your vaccine,” she told Gayle King.

I made a point of hanging out only with vaccinated people while vacationing recently in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. I make exceptions for work, of course, and for one of my besties, who’s seriously anti-vaccinations. COVID-19 cases in the Philadelphia area may be on the decline, but this thing is far from over. Not by a long shot. We have failed to control the virus as evidenced by what’s happening in India and elsewhere. Herd immunity isn’t likely to become a thing anytime soon.

Vaccines have proven to be extremely effective in battling the coronavirus, but they are not a 100% guarantee. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is still a slight risk of even fully inoculated people contracting COVID-19, and that’s something a whole lot of folks are going to keep in mind even as all capacity-related restrictions on businesses and activities are lifted a month from now.

“It makes me a little uncomfortable, too, because at 15 months in, we have to remember that while we’re over COVID, COVID is not over us,” said Florencia Greer Polite, a gynecologist with Penn Medicine who will participate in a Zoom discussion May 19 at the University of Pennsylvania to encourage more Black and brown Philadelphians to get vaccinated.

“Even in the initial trials, we were really excited to see that [the vaccines] have a 95% effectiveness [rate],” she said. “But we have to remember that 95% effective means that five out of 100 or 50 out of 1,000 or 500 out of 10,000 people still wouldn’t mount a full immune response. And so 95% is amazing and really good, but you can see it becomes a bigger and bigger deal as you vaccinate larger and larger populations.”

“Not everybody will mount an immune response,” Polite added.

At my house, we’re more cautious than most because a high-risk person — my 95-year-old father-in-law — moved in with us during the pandemic. I hear concerns from some of my hard-partying single friends who changed their ways during the last year. I’ve been surprised by how many of them aren’t rejoicing about bars and restaurants being allowed to reopen at full capacity. I threw it out on social media and heard things like, “I’ll ease my way back out there with a mask on, of course.”

Attorney Danyl S. Patterson said: “I will continue social distancing. Not taxing the health-care system doesn’t mean it’s not taxing my personal health and risks. And I am ready to party with my select few, vaccinated and socially distant friends and family. … We haven’t reached herd immunity and the stats bear out that there’s a slowdown in vaccine excitement, so it’ll take a while, and I still have an 8-year-old to be concerned about that can’t be vaccinated.”

The city will lift all of its remaining Safer at Home restrictions, but the mask mandate that requires face coverings indoors in public places will remain, which shouldn’t be a huge deal. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says he’ll lift it after 70% of the population has been vaccinated. Philadelphia officials haven’t given a timeline for when Philly’s would be lifted, but Mayor Jim Kenney shrugged it off Tuesday, saying, “We are not asking people to carry a piano down the street.”

He’s right. We should be used to wearing masks. I have them all over — in my car, in my purse, in my pockets. I plan to wear them indefinitely.