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4 signs coronavirus is spent (and restaurants can finally cheer)

One year after the deadly virus’ introduction, it’s getting a solid heave-ho.

After a year that could have been lifted from a B-grade horror flick, the invasion by a killer bat virus is being driven back like a vampire come sunup. Health authorities pointedly warn that business shutdowns could be reimposed as quickly as they were last March and December, but the nation has the cushion this time of vaccinations—about 60 million of them, with the tally growing by about 2 million a day. The Golden Corral family dining chain said it’s already seeing sales rebound a point or two a week as its silver-haired clientele gets the shots.

But that’s not the only sign the coronavirus is getting kicked in the spikes. Here are four other reasons why restaurants can stop worrying on this one-year anniversary of hell’s arrival and feel hopeful about the near-term future.

Even the CDC is talking about post-mask life.

The nation’s anti-germ zealot isn’t known for lifting safety practices for half a reason. Now, in the first easing of fundamental precautions since the health crisis erupted, the agency is saying Americans can forego facemasks in certain circumstances. The specific example it gives: Two vaccinated people from different households having dinner together, without wearing masks even after the chewing’s done.

Rochelle Walensky. the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  said Monday at a White House press briefing that the exceptions are now permissible because a meaningful number of Americans have rolled up their sleeves for shots. She delivered the first of what’s expected to be an ongoing list of what Americans can do behind the protection of inoculations.

The nation has the supplies to vaccinate everyone by June.

Researchers know it as the mother-in-law method: You learn what’s happening in society at large by noting how the behavior of a specific representative you know well, like your mother-in-law, is changing. It’s personal but insightful.

Our subject group is the team at Restaurant Business and its parent, a crew encompassing people of various ages and familial situations. In the last week, person after person aired plans to vacation away from home with family or friends this spring and summer. The invariable reason: “We’re likely to all be vaccinated by then.” 

We’re even planning a staff meeting, hopefully where we smash a few Zoom screens.

Financial help is coming.

After a year of wheedling, begging and the promising of firstborns, the restaurant industry is close to landing the sort of life-saving direct aid that banks, automakers and airlines wrested from Washington, D.C., in past crises. The business stands to have $28.6 billion made available under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan in grants of up to $5 million per restaurant. Most awards are expected to be in the tens or hundreds of thousands. The money can be used for most ordinary operation expenses, including rent and food. 

It’s not the end of the industry’s financial problems, to be sure, but it’s a much-needed lifeline that will keep more places alive until “normal” can catch hold.

We’re still here.

Statistics show that 1 out of 3 Black Americans and 1 out of 8 White citizens knew someone who died from COVID-19. The deaths of more than half a million people is the sort of tragedy we as a nation haven’t known since the Civil War, and the casualties then weren’t much higher.

Our parents and grandparents spoke of World War II or The Great Depression as singular experiences hopefully never to be repeated. Yet our losses and suffering were of that scale, if not on a truly singular plane. 

But anyone reading this has so far beaten the disease—not without scars and sorrows, to be sure, with awful memories to forever haunt us. But we’re here, ready for a new start.

Today, at a milestone in our national and industrywide recovery, we hope that’s the source of encouragement and relief as we all climb out of this nightmare.

Here’s to new beginnings, and finally putting this experience behind us.

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