Oliver: Some of us won’t relax until vaccinations bring us to ‘herd immunity’

As new variants emerge, we might not be safe unless we stop the virus in its tracks

“Cautiously optimistic” is the way I’d describe my feelings about the recent lifting of COVID-19 restrictions for those of us who are fully vaccinated.

Part of me is absolutely elated that I don’t have to be quite as paranoid about any and all human interaction. As I’ve outlined in this space, I’ve had to be extra careful because of my health and that of my husband, who has early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

I now have the ability to bring Tony with me to places, knowing that he will be (relatively) safe and probably will not become infected with COVID-19.

Yet, a part of me still worries. After all, we aren’t anywhere near the 70% vaccinated threshold needed for “herd immunity.” The reason that makes me nervous is that viruses adhere to the same motto that a lot of us have adopted in this past year: Adapt or die.

Viruses mutate all the time. However, they need hosts for that. Which is why being immunized is such a good idea. Those of us who are vaccinated are not going to be able to play host to a virus that wants to mutate.

When viruses mutate, they can become more easily spreadable. Sometimes they develop the ability to make their host sicker. That’s why we all need to vigilant when we hear about variants that are coming to the U.S. from other places, as well as new strains that develop right here.

The fear would be that the coronavirus mutates to a point where our vaccines aren’t effective against it. In that case, we could potentially go through the past year’s nightmare all over again. (Of course, that’s worst-case scenario.)

So what can we do? If we already have been vaccinated, then we’ve done a lot already. But we’ll still need to be aware of when we need to wear our masks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has those guidelines online at

Speaking of masks, could we please try to refrain from shaming someone who is wearing a mask? If they are following the guidelines, then it’s really possible that they haven’t been vaccinated or they have someone at home who is a higher risk and they are just being careful. All of these are commendable things, not something that needs to be mocked or shamed. And really, are they hurting you by wearing a mask? Probably not.

Remember, we have no way of knowing whether the stranger next to us is vaccinated or not. Do you think it’s possible that (gasp) someone might not wear a mask and be unvaccinated? Some of these people are the same ones who refused to wear masks when they were required of everyone.

Far better that we show kindness to everyone, whether we agree with the mask or not.

If you aren’t already vaccinated, please consider doing so if possible. If not for yourself, then for our young people who are too young to get the vaccine. The strain they get in the future might not the “no big deal” it was for you earlier in the pandemic.

If enough of us get vaccinated, then the virus won’t have the means to circulate. We can stop it in its tracks. Then we really will be done with it.

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Addendum to last week’s column: After writing about the McHenry County Garden Walk, which is scheduled for July 10, I was made aware of other garden walks that might be of interest to you readers.

The Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee, which educates and promotes the use of native plants, also hosts walks in the area. This nonprofit group is connected with the Land Conservancy of McHenry County.

You might have heard about their popular annual native plant sale in May. This year’s event was canceled when the group lost access to its usual venue. However, they plan to have the sale next year.

The group’s next event will be a pair of garden walks on July 24. You can get a firsthand view of natural gardens and ask questions of members of the WPPC.

To learn more, visit their website at

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.