ST. LOUIS — Jenny Berla has three children, 5-year-old twins and an 8-year-old. And they are really sick of nature hikes, she said.
But, after Berla, her Type 1 diabetic husband and their elderly parents were vaccinated against COVID-19, she looked forward to doing more things with her kids this summer, such as visiting museums, taking theater classes and going on float trips.
Then last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was safe for vaccinated people to go without masks in most settings. St. Louis and St. Louis County governments quickly lifted mask mandates that had been in place for months. Many businesses followed.
The announcements, which came despite the fact less than half of the adult population is fully vaccinated, took many people by surprise.
Berla, 38, of Olivette, suddenly feels a layer of protection between the coronavirus and her children — too young to get vaccinated — is gone. Unvaccinated people are expected to continue wearing a mask in public because they can still spread the virus, but she worries they will not consider the risk and go without.
While she knows a vast majority of children with COVID-19 have no or mild symptoms, she wishes mask mandates stuck around until younger kids became eligible for the vaccine, especially as doctors learn more about the long-term effects of an infection and how the vaccines perform against emerging variants.
"We might never know all these things, but just giving them a chance to be vaccinated first would be nice," Berla said.
Berla joins many parents trying to navigate a new world where people are ditching masks and returning to normal while their young children — anxious for interaction after a year of mostly virtual school or having to avoid day care — are still at risk of getting the coronavirus.
Tami Bowen, 46, of St. Charles, home-schooled her children ages 8 and 10 this past year. Her 10-year-old has dwarfism along with heart and breathing issues and difficulty focusing in virtual classes.
Going into stores are often the only time they are around others, Bowen said. Now they will not go into any business where customers can go mask-free.