December 2, 2021

Masks still advised for those vaccinated

Although 16.6% of Cortland County is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, residents are still advised by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to abide by state guidelines — social distancing and mask wearing.

Tom Corey saw his mom on Wednesday at the Elizabeth Brewster House in Homer for the first time in a year, despite receiving his second vaccination shot three weeks ago. His mom, Mary Jane, was fully vaccinated in February but the state didn’t grant visitation privileges.

“Even though I and everyone in the Brewster House and all of the staff has been vaccinated and I have been vaccinated, it was a relatively brief meeting,” Corey said. “Even though most of us were vaccinated in our population, we still have to wear masks and keep our distance.”

Visitors are allotted an hour of scheduled visitation in the converted conference room in the basement, where they are escorted in and out of the building, said executive director Michael Kilmer. The strict protocols keep residents and visitors safe.

Before COVID, family and friends could go in and have dinner with their loved ones. Now, they have to check in through the back door and meet in the basement, Corey said.

But assisted living facilities aren’t the only places requiring safety precautions, despite vaccination histories.

“The world is not exactly what I would say is opened up to me,” Corey said. “We’re vaccinated, I am ready to go, but the world doesn’t seem very ready to go, at least in New York state.”

The CDC encourages fully vaccinated people to continue to wear masks and social distance from other people because so little is known about whether fully vaccinated people still transmit the virus.

“Even if you’ve been vaccinated, there’s still that possibility that we could be carriers and not know it,” said Cortland County public information officer Eric Mulvihill, which bases its protocols on CDC guidelines. “We simply have to keep that vigilance as we move forward.”

Chip Stockton received his first vaccine Thursday morning and is eager to travel again. He expects to keep his mask with him. “Until the CDC says we can go maskless, I am going to keep wearing my mask,” said Stockton, an administration associate for McNeil & Co. on Main Street in Cortland.

“That’s going to be the guidance that the Cortland County Health Department follows CDC, federal and state guidelines as far as social distancing and mask wearing,” Mulvihill said.

But Corey, who has been vaccinated for three months, is disappointed, he said.

“It’s difficult for me to be able to travel cross-country to see my son who lives in Southern California and my granddaughter. I can’t see my daughter in England,” Corey said. “I feel kind of sad that we can’t really do the normal activities.”

Fully vaccinated people can interact without masks whether inside or outside and do not need to quarantine if exposed, the CDC advises. But Corey doesn’t think the world will ever go back to normal, even after everyone is vaccinated.

“I look out six months from now, is it really going to be that much different?” Corey asked. “The world needs to be prepared for whatever reason we aren’t going to get back to normal.”