Forget Backstage Passes or V.I.P. Bracelets. Vaccination Cards Are the New Ticket.
Tossing their masks, jumping on side-by-side treadmills, sharing peanuts next to fellow sports fans, the vaccinated find special freedoms await.
By Jennifer Steinhauer
At Fort Bragg, soldiers who have gotten their coronavirus vaccines can go to a gym where no masks are required, with no limits on who can work out together. Treadmills are on and zipping, unlike those in 13 other gyms where unvaccinated troops can’t use the machines, everyone must mask up and restrictions remain on how many can bench-press at one time.
Inside Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles, where lines not long ago snaked for miles with people seeking coronavirus vaccines, a special seating area allows those who are fully inoculated to enjoy games side by side with other fans.
When Bill Dugan reopens Madam’s Organ, his legendary blues bar in Washington, D.C., people will not be allowed in to work, drink or play music unless they can prove they have had their shots. “I have a saxophone player who is among the best in the world. He was in the other day, and I said, ‘Walter, take a good look around because you’re not walking in here again unless you get vaccinated.’”
Evite and Paperless Post are seeing a big increase in hosts requesting that their guests be vaccinated.
As the United States nudges against the soft ceiling of those who will willingly take the vaccine, governments, businesses and schools have been extending carrots — actually doughnuts, beers and cheesecake — to prod laggards along. Some have even offered cold hard cash: In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine this week went so far as to say that the state would give five vaccinated people $1 million each as part of a weekly lottery program.
On Thursday, federal health officials offered the ultimate incentive for many when they advised that fully vaccinated Americans may stop wearing masks.
Now, private employers, restaurants and entertainment venues are looking for ways to make those who are vaccinated feel like V.I.P.s, both to protect workers and guests, and to possibly entice those not yet on board.
Come summer, the nation may become increasingly bifurcated between those who are permitted to watch sports, take classes, get their hair cut and eat barbecue with others, and those who are left behind the spike protein curtain.
Access and privilege among the vaccinated may rule for the near future, in public and private spaces.
“The bottom line is this interesting question of the conception of our society,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, a former head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the architect of a smoking ban and a tuberculosis control program in New York City, both of which included forms of mandates. “Are we in some important way connected or not?”
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