Hundreds of people in masks have walked the National Mall, the esplanade of the American capital, over the past two weekends to see the cherry season. A common scene in Washington, with kids flying kites and happy families, but unthinkable last year, when the United States went through months of terror with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since Tokyo Prefecture sent 3,000 trees as a gift to the city in 1912, thousands of people have visited the region to see the lush flowering of early spring. But in 2020 the peak of the flowers coincided with the first peak of the coronavirus pandemic in the country. The region’s surroundings were blocked to avoid crowds and Americans hardly left their homes for basic matters, such as going to the supermarket.
A year later, the acceleration in vaccination in the country took people back to the streets for activities that were once trivial and now released again: like visiting the cherry trees.
There are already more than 101.8 million Americans vaccinated with at least one dose. And they started to take back part of what they left out for a year. Finding family, playing football, traveling, making plans to celebrate the wedding, dining out and seeing friends.
In New York City, the first epicenter of the coronavirus in the country, it is already possible to go to gyms and the cinema. In Los Angeles, restaurants and museums were allowed to receive the public indoors.
In Washington, meetings of up to 50 people outdoors are now allowed and about 5,000 fans will be able to attend the opening of the baseball season at the Nationals stadium. All this in the last month, as the country has increased the number of immunized.
Pianist and conductor, Abdiel Vazquez, 36, was in rehearsal with an orchestra in Flint, Michigan, when quarantines began to be established in the USA in 2020. He took a flight to his home in New York and since then , never played for an audience again. After taking two doses of Moderna’s vaccine in February, he already has a date for his first trip and also his first concert, although without an audience.
“I received an invitation to play in Mexico, where I was born, in a presentation that will be recorded on video with some singers and accepted. I see the possibility of resuming the concerts, I already feel safe to travel and be in environments with small audiences”, he says. the musician.
But trivial things also returned to the routine of Vazquez and his wife, also vaccinated in New York. The two went out to dinner. Since last year, the city has allowed the reopening of restaurants with an outdoor area.
The musician says, however, that every exit was surrounded by fear and, therefore, infrequent. “The biggest change is the peace that the vaccine brings. I take care, wear masks, continue to seek social distance in public, but it is already possible to see friends and finally be comfortable in restaurants,” he says.
In Mexico, the musician’s family does not have the same tranquility. Of all Vazquez’s relatives who live in the country next to the USA, only his brother, a doctor, has already been vaccinated. “Doing things without fear is the most important change,” he says.
The US has vaccinated an average of 2.8 million people a day, and the number is higher each week. In January, when Joe Biden took office, the country vaccinated an average of 900,000 residents every 24 hours. The forecast is that the pace will increase in April, with the delivery of new batches of vaccines by the pharmaceutical companies Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, and the opening of new mass vaccination centers.
According to the White House accounts, 90% of American adults will be eligible to receive the vaccine by April 19, before Biden’s goal of allowing anyone to be vaccinated starting in May. In 22 of the 50 states, vaccination is now available to any resident over the age of 16.
It is common to hear the question “have you been vaccinated?”, In conversations, regardless of age group. The answer is often positive, even among young people. When negative, it is followed by a prediction of when it will be possible to receive the immunization.
“Since I was vaccinated, I feel that I am much less at risk and I am more hopeful about the future,” says human resources manager Jonathan Gottfried, 33, who received the first dose of the vaccine about 10 days ago in Maryland. “My parents had Covid-19 in March last year and my father was hospitalized for a week. They both had two doses of the vaccine and I felt very safe to celebrate Passover with them last weekend. “, account.
Gottfried knows that he has not yet completed the immunization process against Covid-19, but says he feels more comfortable seeing friends who have also been vaccinated and makes plans for the future that, until recently, seemed impossible.
In September, he and his wife will be invited to a wedding party, and in December, they plan to celebrate their own postponed ceremony due to the pandemic. This weekend, Gottfried can afford to go back to playing football with friends – with a limited number of participants, no audience, and players with masks.
The United States is still far, however, from the dreamed of collective immunity, which requires between 70% and 80% of the vaccinated population. The state with the most advanced vaccination campaign, currently, is New Mexico, where at least one dose of immunizer has already been applied to 38% of residents.
The relaxation of restrictions on the part of local governments amid a feeling of improvement in the health situation has left the White House on alert. Some states began to allow commercial establishments to operate with maximum capacity and overturned the determination to wear a mask, a measure considered hasty by the federal government.
The director of the US Center for Disease Control, Rochelle Walensky, said she feared “impending doom.”
After a spike in new cases between November and early January, the holiday season and winter, the United States has seen a sustained drop in Covid-19 infections since early January. In the past week, however, the number of new cases has started to rise, despite remaining far from the worst days in the country.
The lifting of restrictions seems irreversible. Even cities where the number of cases remains at a high level, such as New York, have eased the measures as vaccination progresses. The current call is for Americans to continue wearing a mask, despite vaccination, and to avoid crowding.
This week, Biden urged state and local governments to maintain or reinstate the determination to use masks in public places. “Please, this is not politics. Reinstate orders, if they have revoked,” said the president, after saying that the battle against the virus in the country is “far from won”.
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