D.C. Residents Navigate Their Return To Social Life As Restrictions Are Lifted : NPR

Fully vaccinated people in the DC area have gone back to bars and restaurants to enjoy life exposed.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And it’s a good morning here in America. We have spent many Sundays over the past year and a half bringing you the bad news, loss, and pain of what has caused COVID-19. But we think it’s important to tell you when things are getting better and when they are getting better. The vaccinations are complete. Deaths and hospital stays are falling. In a moment we will be met by infectious disease expert Dr. Hear Carlos Del Rio about our progress and the things that might get in the way, but first vaccinated people venture out exposed for the first time here on the east coast. And now a warning to our listeners – the voices you hear might make you smile. This is Jenny Gathright from the member station WAMU.

JENNY GATHRIGHT, BYLINE: Last year Michele Hall and Emily Wilson had to get creative to hang out. Michele lives in Prince George’s County, Md., Just outside of DC, and Emily lives in Baltimore. You set up FaceTimes and phone calls. And when they saw each other in person, they did so in the open air. This is emily.

Emily Wilson: We got food and ate in a park. We got food and ate in our cars side by side in a Safeway parking lot.

(LAUGH)

GATHRIGHT: That changed last weekend. The two are now fully vaccinated, so they went to Baltimore to celebrate Michelle’s 29th birthday and recorded their experience.

MICHELE HALL: OK, so we just got to the Bluebird Cocktail Bar. This is Michele. As soon as we sat down, Emily tore off her mask.

WILSON: OK, I didn’t rip it off.

GATHRIGHT: A majority of people in the DC region have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. And the CDC says it is safe for fully vaccinated people to do pretty much anything. But of course it comes with confusion. Is it really okay to take the mask off?

HALL: I mean, I think I’ll have to take mine off to drink, but at what price?

GATHRIGHT: Krysten Copeland celebrated her 31st birthday alone last year.

KRYSTEN COPELAND: We just had a zoom party. I fell asleep over my cake.

GATHRIGHT: For the 32nd time Copeland was fully vaccinated and traveling in DC. She was partying at a rooftop bar with a relatively new friend of hers, Ashley Robinson.

ASHLEY ROBINSON: I say yes to everything because last year I had to say no to everything. So these were new experiences, new friends, just to be out and about with a revitalized attitude to life.

GATHRIGHT: But Robinson realizes it may take some time to fully get back into the social swing of things.

ROBINSON: Even if I enjoy doing an assignment these days, I feel like I have to rest for a few hours afterwards.

GATHRIGHT: For Copeland, her vaccine means she’s out there again.

COPELAND: I want to start dating again. I stopped for a very long time so …

GATHRIGHT: Last weekend, Helene Holstein also met some friends in one of her favorite DC bars to celebrate achieving the full vaccination.

HELENE HOLSTEIN: We were definitely not the only group of friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while. I could hear several tables just drinking, laughing, and having fun.

GATHRIGHT: Holstein, who is 31, says the combination of the pandemic and aging makes her focus on cultivating joy in her life outside of her job.

HOLSTEIN: It sounds easy, but having fun will only be a big priority.

GATHRIGHT: Mayra Mejia, a 34-year-old Northern Virginia resident, also considered her social priorities after receiving the vaccine. She feels that she just wants a positive vibe.

MAYRA MEJIA: We survived something super traumatic and the last thing I want to do is surround myself with people who make me feel bad.

GATHRIGHT: In Baltimore, Michele and Emily finished the night watching the second season of “A Black Lady Sketch Show” on HBO. Well Emily did. Michele slept.

HALL: I was kind of sad that there wasn’t a lot of fanfare. Like us …

(LAUGH)

HALL: But we just saw each other and we said: Oh, hey. And it was just so regular.

WILSON: Yes, normal-degular (ph).

GATHRIGHT: The pandemic is not over yet. Many people were not vaccinated. Lots of people face loss – loss of a loved one, loss of health, loss of a job. But in this region, it has become much safer for many people to get back to doing normal things, like ending the night at your best friend’s house who sleeps on their couch. For NPR News, I’m Jenny Gathright in Washington.

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