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The Atlantic: How to Reclaim Normal Life Without Being ‘Done’

Millions of Americans are now triply dosed with vaccines that can slash the odds of disease and death; a large fraction have an added bump of immunity from infection too. That’s making the net benefits of certain individual behaviors look all the more appealing, while collective risk remains abstract. Meanwhile, the cost of caution is only growing; many are weary of gaining marginal returns from the precautions that have swallowed their lives for 20-some months. “People don’t want to wait anymore,” Kenneth Carter, a psychologist and risk-behavior expert at Emory University, told me. Delayed gratification doesn’t work so well when the delay has no clear end in sight.

“I get that,” Carter said. He, too, gladly acknowledges that he’s sick and tired of the pandemic. But he’s trying to channel his energy into finding small, sustainable joys with very low collective cost. He’s dined indoors, always in well-ventilated restaurants, and attended masked movie matinees. These decisions have factored in his own vaccination status (boosted) and the fact that he’s not in close contact with anyone vulnerable. Alison Buttenheim, a health-behavior researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, told me that she’s thinking similarly. She met a close colleague for an indoor latte and doughnut—one of the first times she’d been able to enjoy her friend’s company in two years. “The social and professional return justified it,” she said. The latte-doughnut date was also carefully timed and placed, at a café that checked vaccination status and kept tables spaced far apart, in a city where case rates have been dropping. This small act, given the circumstances, felt, for the first time in a long time, okay.

Read more in The Atlantic.

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