Unvaccinated in Chicago Is a Particular Kind of Pain
And where I live might be the most uncomfortable of all
It’s surprising and deeply disappointing to me that as the planet opens up and countries leave their COVID restrictions behind, this is when I feel most keenly the absence of friends who are avoiding me for being unvaccinated. Is avoiding unvaccinated people really about reducing viral exposure? How can it be when Omicron transmission is so high that almost everyone has been exposed or will be? Is this rank prejudice?
Or it could be that the people who have stopped socializing with me aren’t discriminating against me for ideological reasons. It could be that they really do want to avoid the virus, but they know the world is full of unvaccinated people and there’s no way to 100% avoid us, so they avoid who they can. Unable to know who’s vaccinated and who’s unvaccinated at the store or on the bus, they take control of what they can take control of: avoiding people they definitely know are unvaccinated. They try to take comfort in being able to at least do that much.
Both those moves are not about reducing viral exposure in a significant way. They are reactions to not having control. They’re attempts to control the little bit they can: not socializing with people like Regina.
We’ve all said this, maybe over and over, since 2020: I can’t believe this is my life now. I’m saying it these days because I feel devastated by the state of my personal relationships. I’m a far-left-leaning, science-believing, Democrat who has left-leaning, science-believing, Democratic friends. And I have a lot of friends, but these days we’re split by how we’ve responded to the American response to the coronavirus.
Chicago’s January proof-of-vaccination mandate stopped me from going to restaurants and attending in-person events. Omicron caused almost every one of my friends to stop socializing out of fear of illness. It was actually in December that, out of loneliness, I started a Meetup for unvaccinated people, but in January it was hard to get any socializing going with anyone at all.
I discovered that starting a Meetup for unvaccinated people didn’t go down well with some of my vaccinated friends.