When you work at a chamber of commerce, you get some pretty interesting questions.  People call to ask about gluten-free options at local restaurants.  Which local hotel has the softest bed sheets?

“I’m trying to find someone who lived in Town a couple of decades ago. Do you keep a log of where people moved to?”

A couple of days ago, we got a good one.  A local workplace traditionally celebrated employee birthdays each month with a big Costco cake in the break room – something they haven’t been able to do for more than a year.  “When can we have cake again?” they asked.

It’s a very legitimate question.  Many people are vaccinated and they are eager to celebrate together again.  There are so many small routines that were taken away… when can we resume them?

I called the Boulder County Health Department, and I asked.

“Eating cake was never specifically prohibited by any public health order,” said Zac Swank, my go-to COVID answer guy at the County. “So long as the requirements on face coverings, indoor capacity, and social distancing are being followed there’s no problem with eating cake, celebrating birthdays, or having fun.”

“Given that removing face coverings is necessary to eat cake and that eating cake in a group setting is infinitely more fun than eating alone behind closed doors, I recommend eating cake outdoors with a 6-foot distance between groups of different households,” Zac said.

Zac is a pretty funny guy, but there hasn’t been a lot of humor in public health this year. We couldn’t tell if he was joking.

This week, we hit a benchmark. Half of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine dose.  Less than a year ago, we were banning children from outdoor playgrounds, worried that surfaces were rife with coronavirus. Now, we’re hugging our grandparents again. The last year has left us with some post-traumatic stress.

In yesterday’s New York Times opinion piece Irrational Covid Fears, David Leonhardt wrote: “Coming to grips with the comforting realities of post-vaccination life is going to take some time for most of us. It’s only natural that so many vaccinated people continue to harbor irrational fears.”

Are we afraid to feel confident in science? Are we waiting for the risk to be zero? Are we ashamed for feeling a sense of relief?  Should we avoid everything until every person who wants a vaccination has had one?

If we have cake in the break room, do we risk being lumped in with the virus deniers and those who spent the last year refusing to wear masks?

If we lighten up a little, are we being irresponsible?

Such are the stresses of post-COVID life.  How long do we have to sit 6-feet apart? When does the plexiglass barrier come down? Truth is, COVID dials don’t have answers for many of the simple questions that plague us right now.  A million small things will return gradually and without concrete guidance.

Again from the New York Times piece… Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins epidemiologist, said, “We’re not going to get to a place of zero risk. I don’t think that’s the right metric for feeling like things are normal.”

Normal won’t come easy. In the meantime, have some cake.