After more than a year of pandemic-related shutdowns and rules and restrictions, when will things get back to normal? When will we be able to go out to bars and restaurants and concerts and sporting events and the movies again and be carefree and mask-free?
Not on any certain date, it now seems, but it is coming, albeit in dribs and drabs.
This past Saturday, Gov. Ned Lamont lifted many business restrictions. The 11 p.m. curfew for restaurants, theaters, entertainment and recreational venues was changed to midnight. Alcohol can be served without food, and limits on table sizes have ended.
These changes reflect the fact that about 61 percent of adult state residents have received at least their first vaccine dose, and the state was recently ranked number two in the nation in vaccinations per capita.
All of this is good news, even though the changes are coming slowly. After May 19, Lamont said, “we're going to essentially end all of the remaining business restrictions.” The key word, though, is “essentially.”
Lamont said that after May 19 businesses will be able to decide their own social distancing guidelines, gathering limits and curfew. At that point masks won't be required outdoors but will continue to be strongly suggested indoors, unless a person is fully vaccinated. The state Department of Health will issue recommendations for large outdoor events and clarifying mask rules after May 19.
We can all rejoice at these changes, while hoping that no future surge in Covid cases will force the state to backtrack. And the only way we can help prevent that is to continue with vaccination, mask wearing, social distancing and the usual, sensible precautions we’ve been taking right along.
The optimistic part of this phase of coming out of the pandemic restrictions is that owners of local businesses finally have reason to hope and plan for better days ahead.
“I think this is great,” said Jeff Gagne, general manager of Double Play Cafe, a sports bar and restaurant in Wallingford. “We're going to have some live music outside this summer, so we're excited for what is coming.”
But an element of caution is still in play.
In Southington, Hop Haus owner Michael Miller is eager to get more use out of the patio. But “I am not going to go crazy with packing people in here,” Miller said. “A lot of people come to my restaurant because they feel safe, and I don't want to take that away from them.”
It would be nice, of course, if we could all throw caution to the wind and go right back to “the way things were.” But if we all show some restraint, this spring and summer will be a lot better than what we went through last year, and can clear a path to something much more like normal life.