We are edging closer to normal, whatever that may look like in a post-pandemic world.

On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors — quickly followed by state health officials — announcing that fully vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear masks unless they are in a big crowd at a concert or sporting event.

We’ve gotten to this point because President Donald Trump pushed vaccines with Operation Warp Speed and the Biden administration guided a gradually more-effective rollout, getting shots allocated.

The United States is averaging about 2.9 million shots per day. More than a third of the nation is fully vaccinated — including 65 percent of Americans over the age 65 — and 43 percent of Americans have at least one dose. In Pennsylvania, tens of thousands of people are getting shots. In the Valley, more than 120,000 doses have been administered and more than 54,000 people are already fully vaccinated, that’s nearly 30 percent of the Valley’s residents.

The nation is still a long way from herd immunity, but we’ve done enough that the CDC says it is comfortable easing some of the restrictions.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday was a “day when we can take another step back to the normalcy of before. Over the past year, we have spent a lot of time telling Americans what you can’t do. Today, I am going to tell you some of the things you can do, if you are fully vaccinated.”

Science drove the decision, Walensky said, citing rising vaccination numbers, declines in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, and research data showing that less than 10 percent of documented instances of transmission of the virus happened outdoors.

“I feel like we are finally being rewarded for being proactive,” said Gina Rumberger, of Selinsgrove, echoing the sentiments a lot of us are feeling right now.

The last year has been difficult, no about that. Many have made the difficult decisions to sacrifice, giving up time with family and friends and trips. Countless events that annually mark our calendars were canceled, but are now back on for 2021, offering up some additional hope we can all use a little of right now.

It’s a refreshing feeling.

We’re not all the way out of this thing yet, but we are getting there.

Dr. Mike Saag, an infectious disease expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said Tuesday’s news was another step toward the freedom we all desire. “It’s the return of us being able to do normal activities again. We’re not there yet, but we’re on the exit ramp. and that’s a beautiful thing.”

Yes it is.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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