It is time to accept the good news. Due to the state’s high vaccination rates, normalcy can return to a large degree.
But, boy, doesn’t it feel strange to entertain normal?
Last week Gov. Ned Lamont basically ended, though not officially, the unprecedented and historic state of emergency that we have all been under for 14 months. Next Saturday, May 1, all COVID-19 restrictions on outdoor activities will end — no social distancing limits, no table-size constraints, bars that do not serve food can start providing favored beverages outside again. Fans can fill outdoor sporting event venues.
On May 19, all restrictions end, meaning no social-distancing requirements for indoor food service and patrons will again be able to bend elbows and trade stories inside bars. The state will no longer restrict attendance for indoor sporting events, movie theaters, and performing-arts venues.
The science and logic behind the decision appears solid. About 90% of state residents 65 and older have been vaccinated. This is the age demographic more likely to die from coronavirus infection, accounting for 80% of the deaths, and most likely to become severely ill and require hospitalization.
As the May reopening dates approach, the administration projects the vaccination rate for all adults will be about 75%. The ability of the coronavirus to circulate in our population will be significantly curtailed and the state’s most vulnerable population largely protected.
Connecticut needs to get back to work. Its unemployment rate of 8.3% remains among the highest in the country, significantly above the 6% national figure. The entertainment and tourism industries are a critical part of the state’s economy, and particularly our regional economy, and fully reopening when it was safe was always the goal.
The one mandate to continue, and it is an important one, is indoor mask wearing in public spaces. Combined with extensive vaccination, it can help keep coronavirus cases suppressed and avoid any need to reverse course and reinstitute restrictions.
Many individuals will remain cautious, and that is not a bad thing. For more than a year people have lived with the awful reality that getting too close to others could make them sick, perhaps fatally so. No gubernatorial announcement is going to make that traumatic experience disappear and lower all defenses.
Many venues recognize this and, we suspect, will continue to emphasize outdoor dining and events, maintain some spacing and structural barriers, and put patrons at ease to encourage their return. But the heavy hand of the state will be lifted. Lamont is right, it is time to let us, the people, sort this out. Most of us did our duty by getting vaccinated.
This does not happen without some trepidation. Unless the population were to reach a near 100% vaccination rate — and that’s unrealistic — there is a risk. An aggressive variant of the virus could rapidly spread among the unvaccinated when crowds again gather, it could cause more severe symptoms and more adversely affect the young.
But waiting for certainty carries its own risks, and arguably greater costs, to our mental health, to the economy, to our happiness.
And one more thought; if the people are moving back to normal, so too should their elected leaders in Hartford. It is time to move past the social-distancing policies that have kept legislators in homes and offices and get them back in the House and Senate. Next session normal public hearings can resume, aided by the ability acquired during the pandemic to also use technology to remotely accept citizen input.
For a while it seemed hard to believe normal would ever return. Now it seems hard to accept that it has.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, staff writer Erica Moser and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.