Whatever happens in the spring, the summer should be a sublime departure from what Americans have lived through so far. As my colleague James Hamblin wrote last week, “In most of the U.S., the summer could feel … ‘normal,’” even “revelatory.”
“Barring some variant that is just really crazy, I expect the summer to be a lot like the summer of 2019,” Andrew Noymer, a public-health professor at UC Irvine, told me. Based on the drop-off in cases and hospitalizations over the past few weeks, he thinks life could even be close to normal as soon as sometime in May.
Other experts I consulted were slightly less optimistic, but they generally agreed that at some point between June and September, the combination of widespread vaccinations and warmer weather would likely make many activities much safer, including having friends and family over indoors, taking public transit, being in a workplace, dining inside restaurants, and traveling domestically (whether for work, visiting loved ones, or a vacation).
The safest way to phase these activities back in will be for people to gradually go from smaller, private social settings (such as a friend’s house) to bigger, public ones (such as a restaurant)—which is also what many will probably feel most comfortable with. “People will slowly expand the social world that they engage in, building [their] pod back up,” predicts Emily Oster, an economist at Brown who writes about everyday pandemic decision making in her newsletter ParentData.