By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said Tuesday more than a third of Coloradans are now fully immunized against COVID19. As the state moves to vaccinate more, people protected from SARS CoV2 are trying to get used to getting back to doing things they stayed away from for over a year.

Shirley Schley, 86, and 90-year-old Wick Downing had her granddaughter over for dinner over the weekend.

Shirley Schley and Wick Downing (credit: CBS)

“I haven’t seen her in months. Because it took them so long to get their shots,” said Schley. Among the fully vaccinated, the couple is thinking of getting out, but not yet sure. ”You know my bridge club is starting up again and I’m not ready… I just am kind of leery of crowds right now and I need to get over that.” Wick is more confident. “It just does not concern me period.”

When asked if he’d go to a crowded restaurant?

“Ah, no. I would not feel comfortable in a crowded restaurant,” said Wick. “I guess maybe there is some kind of a residual process working in my head.”

“Our minds are wired for self preservation,” said Vincent Atchity, President and CEO of Mental Health Colorado. “It takes this transition period where we have to recognize that well, we’ve been vaccinated now.”

We can compare ourselves says Atchity, to snails.

“They’re quick to tuck inside their shells because that’s a natural protective instinct, but you have to stick around for a while and watch as they slowly come back out again.”

Fully vaccinated and out to dinner, 41-year-old Andrea Tompkins and 34-year-old Jared Williams were fine with it.

“I think there’s still things in our mind that worry us,” said Tompkins. “Not quite fully into it yet. Getting there,” added Williams.

They were good with dinner. But a concert full of people?

“Maybe in a few months,” said Tompkins about returning to life as it was before the pandemic. “I think I had kind of the social anxiety that kind of came out where it was like, I don’t know if I know how to be around people now.”

(credit: CBS)

She’s been working from home.

“Every day for a year all you’ve heard about is COVID and being safe and taking precautions.”

Sixteen people who have been fully vaccinated have died with COVID-19 in Colorado says the CDPHE. They are among the 1,190 deaths among people with COVID-19 since the beginning of the year. That’s 1.3% of those deaths, and the deaths have not yet been reviewed, so they may be due to other causes.

“Given the large number of COVID-19 vaccinations currently underway, it is expected that events such as heart attacks, strokes, serious illnesses and death will, by chance alone, occur in the days following vaccination,” said the CDPHE in response to our questions.

The most recent year for available data about overall causes of death in Colorado from the CDC is 2019. Using those death rates, on average over the first four months of the year, 2,662 Coloradans would have died of cancer, 2,587 or heart disease and 1,028 of various accidents.

Dying of COVID if fully vaccinated does not come close.

“It’s not going to happen overnight. We changed all of our behaviors for a year now,” said Atchity. “We can’t eliminate all risk from our lives, and we actually live with an enormous amount of risks that are greater than the risk of the contracting the COVID 19 virus after you’ve been vaccinated.”

Some, he points out, will never be the same. That will include people who have lost loved ones. Others will still be mitigating risk because they have gained knowledge in how to do it. Tompkins still holds a certain amount of caution about others.

“The perception of people around you who may not be vaccinated or don’t know that I’m vaccinated. I don’t have my mask on, maybe they view me as being a risk to them.”

Atchity recommends taking part in things, if you’re ready and protected.

“And so cut ourselves break. Do the right thing, get the vaccine, be part of the team that is making this pandemic come to an end.”

Schley and Downing have tickets to a Rockies game next week. They expect they will wear masks and follow protocols.

“I’m nervous about it,” said Schley. But they’re going. “So I think we just have to start doing things.”

Alan Gionet