But on Wednesday, the state announced that bars could open Friday at 30 percent of their indoor capacity. With two days’ notice to reopen, he called old employees, who were eager to return to work, and restocked the inventory. Then on Friday, he opened his doors and welcomed back regular customers he had not seen in a year to have a drink at the bar.
“It was an exhilarating feeling to see that happen,” said Mr. Medford, who is also the president of the state’s bar and tavern association. “It really was the first time in a year that I got out of bed and was excited, had something to look forward to.”
After some counties in Washington State allowed movie theaters to reopen, Nick Butcher, 36, made up for lost time by attending screenings of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy for three straight nights. He bought M&M’s at the concession stand, sat distanced from others in the audience, and said he felt as though things were almost back to normal.
“I’m actually getting optimistic, over all,” said Mr. Butcher, a software engineer at Microsoft who recently recovered from a case of Covid-19, as did several relatives. “This week is one of the first times I’ve gone into my office almost since the pandemic started.”
A return to crowded office spaces and schools left other Americans both elated and unsettled.
Amanda Sewell, a teacher at Tates Creek High School in Lexington, Ky., will welcome students to her classroom next Monday for the first time in a year. Decorations from last year’s Mardi Gras celebration still hang in the class. The date on her whiteboard still reads March 13, 2020 — the day school closed and she went home, feeling certain it would just take a couple of weeks before she and her students were back in the classroom.
Ms. Sewell is fully vaccinated against the virus now, and said she is thrilled to see her students in person after teaching to unresponsive squares on Zoom for months. But she knows things will not be the same as before.
“I’m still a little leery in that I feel like some people feel like because we have a vaccine that the pandemic is over, and its definitely not,” Ms. Sewell said. “I feel like we’re still several months out from being anywhere close to where normal was.”
Dave Montgomery contributed reporting.