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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer — and post-pandemic life.

The big picture: Even the most cautious Americans are beginning to shake off a lot of the isolation of the past year and live that “new normal” we’ve been talking about for so long.

Flashback: A year ago, this holiday weekend was a surreal reminder of what the summer couldn’t be.

  • Many public pools were closed. Weddings and other celebrations were canceled. The NBA was in the process of setting up a hermetically sealed bubble for a quarantined postseason.

But now, America is roaring back to life.

  • Summer travel is booked solid; the TSA processed more travelers this weekend than it has since before the pandemic began.
  • Pools and summer camps are reopening. The restaurants that survived are trying desperately to staff up. Some sports arenas are looking to ramp back up to full capacity.

By the numbers: An Ipsos consumer tracking poll, conducted May 25-26, asked Americans how likely they are to participate in various typical activities this summer.

  • Eight in 10 say they plan to dine out at a restaurant at some point this summer. Half plan to return to a movie theater.
  • Two in three would to take an overnight trip by car and enroll their children in youth sports. More than four in 10 plan to take a domestic flight.

Between the lines: Some parts of the U.S. never really shut down, even when coronavirus cases and deaths were soaring; things won’t feel much different there.

  • In other parts of the country, especially in big cities, people are still figuring out what they’re comfortable with. Plenty of fully vaccinated people still aren't so sure about eating indoors, for example, or are still wearing masks in situations where they may not be necessary.
  • But the formal rules that made those decisions for us will largely be slipping away this summer. Businesses will be coming back to full capacity; increasing vaccinations will help to further chip away at remaining mask mandates.
  • And schools are looking to reopen fully in the fall, especially as more teenagers can get vaccinated.

What’s next: Coronavirus is still raging all over the world. The U.S. will face increasing pressure to help spread vaccines globally, now that it has inoculated so much of its own population.

The bottom line: If you’re vaccinated, the summer activities we’ve been missing are, for the most part, safe. It’s about time to start figuring out in practice, not in theory, what post-pandemic life will look like.

Go deeper

Florida judge denies DeSantis appeal on school mask mandates

Students wait to be picked up by their parents at Pershing School in Orlando, Florida on August 30, 2021. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Second Circuit Judge John Cooper on Wednesday upheld Florida schools' ability to enforce mask mandates, ruling against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) appeal, CNN reports.

Why it matters: The ruling brings a pause to the state of Florida’s enforcement of mask bans — which up until this point had included withholding funds from school districts with mandates — until a higher court rules on the appeal.

Updated 17 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron — WHO recommends 2 new treatments — What "mild" really means when it comes to Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas— Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements— Supreme Court blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers.
  3. Politics: Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health" — Focus group says Biden weak on COVID response, strong on democracy.
  4. Economy: America's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic— — CDC COVID guidance for cruise ships to be optional starting Saturday — The cost of testing.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Beijing reports first local Omicron case weeks before Winter Olympics — Teachers in France stage mass walkout over COVID protocols.
  7. Variant tracker
Sep 7, 2021 - Health

Fauci slams DeSantis over "completely incorrect" COVID vaccine comment

Photos: Stefani Reynolds-Pool and Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci in an interview with CNN Tuesday pushed back on Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R) claim last week that getting the COVID vaccine should be a personal choice that "really doesn't impact me or anyone else."

What he's saying: "When you're dealing with an outbreak of an infectious disease, it isn't only about you," said the nation's top infectious diseases expert. "There's a societal responsibility that we all have."