Got your second vaccine two weeks ago? It’s Hug Day.

The Before Times are gone. The Alone Times are ending. The After Times are coming. During the next few months, we will get vaccinated for COVID-19 and rejoin society. The last year has been a hell of isolation. It’s time for a new holiday: Hug Day.

When that shot goes into the arm, it triggers a whirlwind of emotions. After worrying for so long, it’s like being a superhero: Time for a bar hop! Let’s go lick a stranger!

Unfortunately, we’re not invulnerable after these shots. It takes two weeks after the final shot for our bodies to fully develop protection against COVID-19. People can and do get serious cases of COVID-19 after vaccination but before their waiting period is up.

There are plenty of other emotions that vaccination brings to the surface: grief that a half-million Americans (840 in Smith County) are no longer with us. Anger that some politicians downplayed COVID-19 risks and made mask wearing political, leading to the deaths of many who would otherwise have lived. Gratitude for the heroic healthcare workers, teachers and grocery clerks. Depression over layoffs. Hope for the future.

Why not celebrate two weeks after your final shot as Hug Day? The CDC says you’re now safe to meet with other vaccinated people indoors without masks. It’s also safe to visit otherwise healthy extended family, such as grandparents, without masks or social distancing.

There are a few caveats to keep in mind. The vaccines are safe and effective at preventing death. We do not know whether they prevent asymptomatic illness, nor whether vaccinated people can spread COVID-19 to others. So, it’s important out and about town to keep wearing masks and practice social distancing. It’s especially important to continue wearing masks around those who are at high risk. As more studies are complete and we gain more experience with vaccination, these restrictions may be modified.

So, go visit your loved ones. Invite someone else who’s vaccinated to get a cup of coffee or a meal without masks. Raise a toast and a tear to those who aren’t here. Attend an outdoor church service. It’s incredibly liberating and stress relieving to just sit with friends without masks or worries. Spend some time catching up and processing everything you’ve experienced in the last year.

And find someone to hug.

Vaccine scheduling is being handled like the Sunday evening dinner policy at my house: You’re on your own.

Each person is individually responsible for getting onto one of the many waiting lists for a vaccine appointment.

Folk who read independent newspaper websites are at a huge advantage. If you have a neighbor who isn’t as wired as you, please love them by helping them sign up for vaccination.

Stephen Fierbaugh was lead IT Project Manager for a large hospital ship being built in China. Now, he’s looking for new places to serve. Are these statistics helpful? Would you like to see similar information for your city or organization? Stephen has his Masters in Intercultural Studies with a focus on ICT4D (technology) and is PMI certified as a Project Management Professional (PMP). Check out his LinkedIn for more examples of his skills and experience.

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