With mask and public gathering restrictions easing up across the United States, public health experts have been optimistic about the opportunity for a “normal” summer. As vaccine distribution continues, these limitations are bound to be removed altogether, like with the social distancing mandate Gov. Roy Cooper is hoping to lift by June 1.
With these changes, the question arises — what is going to be “pandemic-acceptable” this summer? Can you board a plane, sip a cider at an outdoor bar or have that post-pandemic party you’ve been waiting for? While many of these questions still don't have concrete answers, public health officials have shed light on how we can expect social expectations to change as global COVID-19 case numbers begin to drop.
What will the summer look like?
The CDC has deemed indoor gatherings (as long as everyone is vaccinated) safe. But with the weather getting warmer and outdoor events being proven to have low transmission rates, you can likely have that barbecue or go on a picnic with your friends. You can also expect to be able to start eating indoors at restaurants, but be ready to see and partake in an increase in outdoor dining and drinking.
And if you’re feeling cabin fever (and after more than a year in quarantine, who could blame you?), vacation spots within driving distance that offer outdoor activities, such as beaches or mountains, are going to be a safe bet. Maintaining a safe distance from other people will still be important until the majority of the population is able to get immunized, but odds will be in your favor when it comes to a summer road trip and lying out in the sun.
What are we going to have to wait for?
While vaccinated people have been given the green light to attend indoor gatherings, there is still concern regarding what transmission could look like for individuals who haven't been immunized. This applies to children who haven't met the vaccine age requirement, or people who may have allergic reactions or preexisting conditions that prevent them from receiving their shot.
Large gatherings, such as music festivals, concerts and sporting events, will probably still be invite-only or run at a smaller capacity to reduce liability and risk. It may be a while — potentially 2022 — until we can see the return of these events in full swing.
Additionally, travel is still up in the air; countries such as Canada have yet to lift their travel restrictions, even for people who have been vaccinated. And with different nations experiencing different levels of success with vaccination rollout and pandemic control, it’s likely that your dream trip to Europe will have to wait another couple of months.