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Here’s When Experts Think Life Might Actually Return to “Normal”

Get ready for the best summer in years — and a less fun fall.

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After a long and difficult year of masking up, death, isolation, sickness, and social distancing, the question on lots of people’s minds is: When will life begin to return to some semblance of “normal” after COVID-19? According to experts, the answer could be this summer — sort of.

While we are at least several months away from the majority of Americans being eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, the good news is that as more are getting shots in their arms, the nation-wide infection rate has been steadily declining. That all may be paving the way for a summer that may look a little more like a pre-pandemic summer. Kinda. At least, it’ll be better than 2020. Probably.

While we probably still need to and should continue to wear masks and practice social distancing for the months (and potentially year) ahead, smaller indoor gatherings could become a thing again during the summer — but folks should still be cautious and safe. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University’s School of Public Health, told The Atlantic, “As we get into late spring, a lot of that stuff—the smaller gatherings of vaccinated people—I think starts becoming quite possible.”

Some experts are more optimistic than others, and any and all predictions could potentially be derailed depending on transmission rates and new, more contagious variants, but this summer could provide opportunities to return to offices, ride public transport more safely, do domestic travel, or eat at indoor restaurants.

According to The Atlantic, some experts say these activities could begin as soon as May, and other experts are more cautiously optimistic about a mid-summer to mid-fall return to more normalcy. Although safely attending large gatherings like, say, a fully packed concert is still probably a ways away. 

However, we won’t be out of the tunnel just yet. As it turns out, the little extra freedom we might gain in the summer and fall months may not be permanent, since the virus could potentially have a resurgence during the winter of 2021 and 2022.

Andrew Noymer, a professor of public health at the University of California, Irvine, said, “It won’t be as bad as this winter, but I don’t know if it’s going to be pretty bad or [if] just a few people will get it.”

And Dr. Fauci said, “I think we’ll have a significant degree of normality…as we get into the fall and winter by the end of the year.” Notice his cautious wording of ‘significant degree of normalcy.’ But the summer of 2022? It could possibly be a taste of what life might look like post-pandemic. And, ultimately, just even having a light at the end of the tunnel might do us a world of mental-health good.