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Napa Journal

Napa Journal: Loosening COVID restrictions

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Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

What a difference a year makes. In 2020 we ate our Christmas feast on rickety tables spaced across our driveway.

We could have complained about having to bundle up, then ending the festivities early before the winter sun sank in the west, but we didn’t. Given the grip that COVID had on our routines and our psyches, we were grateful to be having a Christmas at all.

This year a fresh variant was on the prowl and local case numbers were surging, but our notion of what was appropriate and safe had changed. We didn’t hesitate at inviting members of four households to gather inside around the Yule fire.

Why? Because we all now had basic vaccinations and boosters. The one unvaccinated invitee — a 19-month-old charmer — would be defended by the herd.

Also, we were all battle weary.

I’ve become fatalistic about COVID. Now that I’m vaxxed, I figure I’ve done my part. Now roll the dice.

I’m a senior, but I think of myself as a healthy young senior. This gives me mental wiggle room to disassociate myself from dire outcomes.

Not that I’m reckless. My bravado isn’t bold enough to repel a charging kitten. I’m still living life conservatively.

An Irish Christmas show came to the Uptown last month. We were tempted to go, but then the thought of sitting in an auditorium with hundreds of other humans, masked or not, vaccinated or not, creeped us out.

For the second year in a row, we decided to just stick with Netflix.

We discussed going to a restaurant for a meal cooked by someone not named Cheryl, but again we lost our nerve. All that unmasked exhaling! Let’s not throw all caution to the wind.

How about breakfast inside Oxbow Public Market as hordes of masked strangers surged around us?

Obviously not.

But wait! We love Oxbow. Don’t they have fans running? Don’t gusts of fresh air sweep in every time someone opens a door?

Breakfast at Oxbow: Here we come.

Sitting there, munching on my scone, drinking my coffee, I’m in my happy place. All thoughts of COVID evaporate from my brain.

We went to our first party in nearly two years, a December birthday celebration at a friend’s house. Five couples would attend, all vaccinated and boosted. The hostess said we might eat outdoors just to be extra safe.

I didn’t believe that for a moment. Eat in the cold? In December 2021?

We presented at their door with masks on (virtue signaling?), then, as I had predicted, we were given permission to rip them off and come on in. COVID? Not at this party!

A sign of the times: two guests bowed out. Apparently, they had the sniffles and didn’t want to freak anyone out.

On Christmas day we hosted Cheryl’s three adult children, a son-in-law, and an adorable grandbaby, Felix.

We thought of ourselves as a safe bunch. Indeed, the son-in-law, out of an abundance of caution, had gotten a rapid test the day before after a coworker had been exposed to someone with COVID.

Felix’s family has gone through more than $400 in rapid tests over the past year. The parents want to protect Felix and protect against Felix whose daycare is a petri dish of infections.

Four hundred dollars in COVID testing! And I haven’t been tested even once. Nor has Cheryl who goes out into the fray far more than I for work and shopping.

What gives? Mostly it’s because our daily lives are basically boring. We try to avoid high-risk activities. We willingly mask. We get our shots. We view critically those who do not.

And, speaking for myself, deep down inside I consider myself nearly bulletproof.

Vanity, thy name starts with a capital K.

Kevin can be reached at

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