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F.C.’s Fully Vaccinated Residents Remain Cautious Despite Immunity

HEATHER LANCASTER receives one of her vaccine doses. (Photo: Courtesy Heather Lancaster)

As more and more Falls Church residents are getting inoculated against Covid-19, people are breathing a sigh of relief. However, many local residents feel they are not out of the woods just yet.

“Until our friends that we love, they can all get vaccinated, I think it’ll be just hard to relax or feel relief in general,” said Arden Sperty, a cardiac device technician who has received both shots.

Sperty and her husband have a 2-year-old daughter and parents in Woodbridge that they visit approximately once a month in conditions where they all wear masks (except their child). They have a pod with one other family. They also have their daughter in an in-person day care so they live with the risks of that.

Various residents said they’re eager to enjoy “normal” things again, but are also aware that the vaccine doesn’t prevent someone’s ability to transmit the virus.

Max Wohlschlegel is a 19-year-old volunteer EMT for Fairfax County, and while he has received both shots, he is still not altering his schedule or lifestyle. This is primarily because he lives with his 16-year-old brother and two parents who still have not gotten the vaccine. His relief comes in the comfort of his personal safety and not being a liability to his patients.

Heather Lancaster is a registered nurse in the CVICU at Inova Fairfax. She got her second shot by mid-January.

Since getting the vaccine, she got her hair cut for the first time in a year and went to a museum, but she’s still not entirely comfortable going to restaurants just yet.

Lancaster lives alone and has been hanging out with co-workers during the pandemic

“We have the same exposure risks and we’re all going crazy so it was safe for us to all hang out together,” she said.

She has her relatives in Baltimore in their open yard and they’re “still not hugging each other.”

On the other side of the proverbial fence is 79-year-old Mim Keo.

“It’s wonderful because I have a lot less fear. I figured if I got it, I would die, and I’ve had enough emergencies with bad backs and operations that I know pain.”

Keo has been extra careful. She stopped going to the supermarket or her outdoor photography meetup because people weren’t social distancing enough to her satisfaction. Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 94.1 percent effectiveness with the Moderna vaccine, but since it’s not 100 percent, she will still continue to quarantine.

“The problem is that no one has had it before,” said Falls Church clinician, Dr. Gordon Theisz. “I think as more and more people get the vaccine, they’ll lower their guard, but I also think their risk is going to decrease, so we’re going to see how this thing is spreading”

Theisz has been trying to follow the recommendations for social distances but adds that being a doctor doesn’t make him any less stoical about the virus.

“I fear this Covid like everyone else does, I’m in my 50s, it kills all ages, it doesn’t care, it can’t care,” added Theisz.

He thinks every one has to make their own decisions for what the risks are.
On the whole he’d recommend following the proper guidance from the federal, state, and local governments.

“As a physician, I can’t tell a patient they can’t go to a restaurant if the restaurant’s doing all the right things,“ he said.

The CDC estimates that when approximately 70-80 percent of the population gets the vaccine, we will have achieved herd immunity.
Part of how eager people are returning to normal life depends on what their lifestyle might have been before the pandemic.

Sperty’s primary social activity is visiting friends and having game nights in their houses. To compensate, they’ve been meeting outdoors with fire pits.
In her old age, Keo devotes herself to photography, but that has proven difficult because a lot of times she photographs in places where people aren’t social distancing.

For Lancaster, her lifestyle is more affected by the fact that she lives alone.

“I’m the type of person, if I had seven nights out of the week free, I would spend six of them by myself, but certainly not having the option of being able to go out was definitely very isolating,”

There’s also the question of whether the first group of people being immunized is more cautious because they largely work in the medical field and are more knowledgeable about the risks.

As for now, however, most residents agree that there’s a long way to go.

“It is great but I think we’ve been in this for so long that it’s hard to feel a whole lot of relief. I think there’s so much that we’re not relieved about that it’s hard to feel relieved,” said Sperty.