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US sees signs of ‘new normal’ as states lift COVID restrictions

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(NEW YORK) — With states across the country rolling back COVID-19 restrictions and vaccinated Americans returning to pre-pandemic activities, life in the United States is looking a lot more normal this summer.

Among the states that have eased rules, New York lifted its midnight curfew for bars and restaurants on Monday. In Massachusetts, all pandemic-related businesses restrictions were eased on Saturday and businesses can now operate at 100% capacity. Monday marks the first day of full reopening in Pennsylvania, when COVID-19 rules about restaurants, gatherings and businesses lift, according to the governor.

In advance of Memorial Day weekend, New Jersey ended its indoor mask mandate, making it one of the last states to update its guidance to match the masking recommendations the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends. At the same time, the governor eased rules about social distancing at businesses and ended the prohibition on dance floors at bars and restaurants. Those new rules went into effect Friday.

“It is time to begin our new normal,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wrote in an executive order ending public health restrictions in the state due to coronavirus. His order, which ended capacity limits and social distancing at businesses, went into effect on Friday.

Friday also saw Minnesota relaxing business capacity and social distancing rules. Those loosened capacity rules also applied to public transit, including buses and trains, although masks will still be required on board.

In Kentucky, a curfew on bars and restaurants came to an end Friday. At the same time, the state loosened restrictions on businesses and events. Events with fewer than 1,000 people can now operate at 75% capacity, while events larger than 1,000 are capped at 60% capacity. The state is slated to fully lift capacity restrictions and drop its mask mandate on June 11.

In recent weeks, life in America has undergone a dramatic change as people return to pre-pandemic life, including flocking to beaches, sporting events and bars. Half of Americans have now received at least one dose of the vaccine and 41% are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

With more shots in arms and fewer rules in place, vaccinated Americans are relaxing their behavior. According to a Axios-Ipsos poll conducted between May 21-24, 47% of vaccinated people said they were wearing a mask all the time outside the home, compared to 65% who said they were always masking up two weeks prior.

President Joe Biden and Northam spoke to that reality during a joint appearance in Virginia on Friday.

“We are closer to a more normal life than we have been in the past 14 months,” Northam said. “And I don’t know about for you, but for me that feels really good.”

Biden seemed to agree.

“We’re getting our lives back,” he said.

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