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So Much for a ‘Hot Vax Summer’


For much of this summer, Dylan Fogarty, 28, the director of academic partnerships for an education start-up, has been having a blast in Fire Island Pines: hosting pool parties at his four-bedroom house, making new friends at the Low Tea bar, and dancing at the Pavilion club till dawn to pop songs by Lady Gaga and Dua Lipa.

But when he got off the ferry two weeks ago, he saw something he hadn’t seen for almost two months: a coronavirus testing site.

That wasn’t the only thing that changed. Some people were wearing masks on the boardwalk again, hosts were asking guests if they had been vaccinated, and the bouncers at clubs and bars were once again screening for vaccination cards at the door.

“It’s because of the Delta variant,” Mr. Fogarty said. “All it takes is for one person in one room, and it spreads. I am always happy to show my proof of vaccination, and I’m glad a lot of places did it last weekend.”

So much for the much-heralded “hot vax summer.” The rise of the Delta variant is putting the kibosh on partying in traditional summer hot spots, like Fire Island, the Hamptons, Provincetown, Mass., and New York City.

Months after people thought they had left the pandemic behind, they are masking up in indoor clubs, getting tested before sharing a house, scaling back their social circles, and partying like it’s 2020 again. Even former President Barack Obama significantly scaled back his 60th birthday party on Martha’s Vineyard.

Clubs and party hosts are being cautious, checking for vaccine cards at the door even before many local governments are requiring them to do so.

Flaming Saddles, a rowdy Western-themed gay bar in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan, announced on Instagram on July 29 that it was checking for “vax cards” starting the next day. “We need to keep all of you and our staff safe until these new variants ride the back of a pony outta here!” the post read.

Mister Sunday, a long-running rave in Queens, also announced it was asking for vaccine proof (or a negative coronavirus test result). “We’re putting this measure in place to encourage unvaccinated folks to get the shot,” the organizer wrote in a mass email on July 29. “At this point, the vaccine is the only real path to effectively managing the pandemic.”

Partygoers are changing their behaviors after hearing about so-called breakthrough cases among friends.

“About three weeks ago I heard about the first breakthrough case,” said Sabrina Messmer, 34, an account executive for a commercial office furniture company in Manhattan who goes to Montauk regularly. “We all went into the summer so excited that things were back to normal, that we didn’t need to care about Covid anymore.” She has since heard of six more cases.

As news of Delta worsened, she asked the eight people in her Montauk house whether they were fully vaccinated (they were). They also had conversations about what to do if someone were to get sick. “If anyone has symptoms, we are going to get tested and quarantine if we need to,” Ms. Messmer said.

She plans to avoid going to crowded spots, like Ruschmeyers. “That inside, V.I.P. room — it’s insane how packed it is,” she said. “I don’t need to be there.”

Ms. Messmer added that she was not scared of getting sick herself, because she is vaccinated, but wanted to do her part in keeping the virus in check. And she wants to avoid quarantine. “Who wants to miss two weeks of summer?” she said.

Dr. Asma Rashid, the owner of Hamptons Boutique Medicine, a medical concierge service with an office in Bridgehampton, said that her clients, most of whom are vaccinated, started requesting at-home coronavirus tests during the Fourth of July weekend.

“I went to one house to test an older man who had just arrived from Florida, and it turned out he was positive,” Dr. Rashid said. “There was a pool party at the house where he was staying, and everyone started jumping out of the pool wanting to be tested as well.” She said she now tests people at the levels she did last summer.

Dr. Rashid added that she now avoids crowded indoor areas, including eating inside restaurants. “If you are vaccinated and low-risk and are mentally prepared to get something like a flu and deal with it, then you can keep living your life,” she said. “But be cautious. If you see someone coughing and sneezing, don’t think they have a common cold.”

The problem is a common cold is also going around this summer in some parts of the country, including the Hamptons.

“The week before my birthday, I came down with a cold,” said Kemdi Anosike, 30, a real estate agent in New York City. “It was eye-awakening. I was terrified I had Covid, and I had to get tested several times to make sure it wasn’t. Thank God it came back negative.

“Now I’m afraid to go to bars a little bit,” he added.

In late July, Mr. Anosike stayed with a friend in Amagansett and managed to have a good time, listening to cover bands at Stephen Talkhouse and drinking cocktails at Sunset Beach, although he didn’t act as carefree as he had even a few weeks before.

“I tried to take a break from being indoors to go outdoors,” he said. “I tried to stay in less crowded parts of the bar.” He also got tested before and after his trip.

Big blowout events have been scaled back.

Matthew Lichtash, 29, a senior manager at a company that installs electric vehicle charging stations, held his bachelor party at the end of July. Instead of a raucous weekend of bar hopping, he and three friends stayed at one of their houses in Bellport, N.Y., for a low-key weekend of grilling oysters, taking a boat to Fire Island, throwing Frisbees on the beach and watching the Olympics.

One of his friends, Jackson Fischer-Ward, 30, who lives in Brooklyn and works as a legislative director in the New York State Assembly, even got a rapid coronavirus test just before the weekend, out of what he called “an abundance of caution.”

“Maybe it would have been a bigger event if Covid wasn’t a factor,” Mr. Lichtash said. “I did this with three guys I’ve known for 20 years. Everyone is vaccinated, and there is a level of trust there.”


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