Halfway between Hopkinsville and Lexington, my husband pulled into a truck stop Saturday morning so we could grab a quick coffee and snacks. A few steps from the car, we looked up from our Western Kentucky Parkway brain fog and saw the sign on the convenience store door.
We laughed and turned back to the vehicle, where I found a package of four new masks in the glove box. Normally, we would have already pulled on a mask. But this brief trip out of town had us thinking about the way things used to be. Without realizing it, we were already making a transition back to our pre-pandemic lives.
I handed a mask to John, and we joked about this seeming in-between stage for coronavirus masks and social distancing. Do we or don’t we?
We decided to mask up for the store, and I told John these were our “transitional masks.”
Two days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance that says fully vaccinated people no longer need masks in most indoor and outdoor places, John and I were on the road to see our five grandchildren and our daughter and son-in-law. The truck stop sign was the first reminder that you can’t just flip a switch on a year-long habit of mask-wearing and other daily safety measures.
Like all of the adults in our family and most of our friends, John and I were vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as a dose was available to us. But that doesn’t mean we won’t still need to wear a mask in some situations — especially in the next few weeks as businesses make decisions about how they want to proceed.
Back on the road after we left the truck stop, I started thinking about how things will change for us following the CDC’s new guidance and Gov. Andy Beshear’s subsequent announcement that Kentucky will lift most restrictions on businesses and venues on June 11.
I texted two women who own businesses in downtown Hopkinsville and we messaged back and forth about what to expect in the next month or so. I can only imagine the stress they have endured trying to make a living in the past year.
The thing I’ve missed the most is being in public places where people hang out, linger, visit, talk, drink coffee or beer, have lunch or (fill in the blank). Soon the places where these interactions happen will be opening up in a big way for all of us.
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This will be a great thing for my personal well-being — but more importantly for our community, it will be a crucial shift for business owners who have weathered a tough economy during the pandemic.
Some businesses will make these moves more quickly than others. Some individuals will still wear masks in certain situations.
Here’s my hope for all of us — that we can let everyone, business owners and customers alike, make their own choices about when to stop using masks. I hope we do this graciously for each other.
At that truck stop Saturday morning near Elizabethtown, I stood outside for several minutes drinking coffee and watching other customers come and go. Most of them wore masks. A few, like me, forgot until they saw the sign on the door. Every one of them smiled or shrugged and went back to their vehicle to get a facial covering.
I had a sense that everyone decided there was no need to ruin a great day grumbling about something we’ve been doing for more than a year. In this pandemic, a mask has been the least of our inconveniences.
Now if more people in Christian County will take the next step and get their vaccine, this terrible time in our lives could soon come to an end.