To quote Marvin the paranoid android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “The first ten million years were the worst,” said Marvin, “and the second ten million years, they were the worst too. The third ten million years I didn’t enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline.”
If you’re planning a wedding right now or, bless you, had been planning one for last year, it’s hard not to feel like Marvin. Not being able to have your wedding when you want, or having to drastically cut it down in size, feels terrible.
After years of anticipation and (finally!) the joy of your engagement, and then getting all excited about your wedding, it’s heartrending to have your wedding disrupted by a global pandemic.
But wait! There are vaccines! People are getting the shots now!
There is, and they are. That’s the good news.
So you would think that a spring or summer wedding would be just fine, with all the people and all the hugging and kissing we want.
Sadly, not so.
I had a conversation this week with an attending physician who is on the front lines at the University of Maryland Medical Center. She concurred with my original and long-standing assessment that it will be September 1, or at best, August, before we have vaccinated enough people to make larger gatherings safe. She also agreed that social distancing and masks will be a thing even beyond that time.
My personal physician, Aaron Goldberg, is one of my pandemic guides. He’s an internist who’s been practicing in Baltimore for 30 years. He’s a remarkably smart guy who pays close attention to what’s going on in medicine. Dr. Goldberg says that even with new vaccines on the horizon and improvements expected in the distribution system (to wit: I am currently eligible to be vaccinated, but there is no vaccine to be had), it will be August at the earliest before we hit herd immunity, when most of the population will be immune either through infection or vaccination, providing indirect protection to those who are not immune to the disease.
What does it take to get to herd immunity? Somewhere between 70 and 90 percent of the population needs to be immune. That level will be achieved primarily through vaccination.
The United States continues to average about 3,000 deaths a day. To put the magnitude of this disease in perspective, that’s about the same number of people who died in the 9/11 attacks. That’s happening every day. While most states are seeing sustained declines in the number of new cases, right now—today—there are over 100,000 new cases across the country. Things are not good.
So how is vaccination going? Not so great. The New York Times projects that at the current rate, about 50% of the country will be at least partially vaccinated by June 22, 70% by June 26, and 90% by August 7. (NOTE: The New York Times numbers are dynamic, changing daily. They are updated here as of March 16.)
While there are more vaccines getting ready to be introduced, supply chain and distribution issues need to be conquered, and then there are the coronavirus variants to consider.
Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill famously said that, “all politics is local”. So it is with vaccination distribution.
Here in Maryland the state authorities are reporting that their supply of COVID-19 vaccine is extremely limited. According to the Baltimore Sun, the supply of vaccine is so limited that the City of Baltimore is only distributing only second doses of the two-shot vaccine for at least the remainder of February. You can bet that there are similar versions of this situation playing out all over the country.
It’s important to remember that for the two-step vaccines, from the first shot to the second is a period of either three or four weeks, after which it takes two weeks to reach full immunity. That’s a month and a half from start to finish, provided a person is punctual around getting their second dose.
So we’re going to be well into the summer before we begin to get out of the woods. President Biden just told CBS News that, “The idea that this can be done and we can get to herd immunity much before the end of next — this summer, is very difficult.” And even then, since it still isn’t clear if transmission by vaccinated people is possible, masks and social distancing will still be a thing.
What to do about your wedding?
For one, encourage your wedding guests to get vaccinated as soon as they are able.
For another, consider all of what your guests might be bringing to your wedding.
Wedding guests are often highly motivated to come from near and far, sometimes with disastrous results. So no matter what your local pandemic-tracking numbers tell you, there’s no accounting for guests who come from away.
For example, take Petroleum County in Montana. With a population of 487 spread out over an area the size of Rhode Island (population 1,050,000). It was one of the safest places in America, with zero COVID-19 cases right now, and up until mid-summer of last year. That’s when one of the local health officials said “…somebody went to a wedding” and came back with it.
As people receive, so might they give. How do you head that off? Downsizing your wedding will certainly help, perhaps with a livestream or recorded video to include your far-flung family and friends. Or take a deep breath and push it back a little more in time. Neither is ideal, but in the face of a global pandemic, it’s a small price to pay to stay healthy, and to keep your wedding from becoming part of the problem.
David Egan coaches couples on how to make good decisions about their wedding and get the wedding they want at gettingtheweddingyouwant.com.
David coaches engaged couples on how to create a wedding experience that deeply reflects who they are as individuals and as a couple. Want to know more? You can reach David at 410-961-5443. (Also, David is an awesome podcast guest!)