New Hampshire is gearing up to reopen this summer after a long year of limitations and low interaction: the statewide mask mandate has been lifted and vaccination numbers continue to rise – Granite Staters are excited to get back to normal. 

It’s easy to get carried away in the progress we’ve taken as a state and as a country. It’s there – we’re better off than a year ago, which isn’t saying much – but we have to continue to do our jobs and play it safe this summer. Vaccination rates are rising, according to NHPR, to over 30% of the state’s population, but COVID-19 is still here. Mid-April, the bi-weekly positive cases peaked at 434, which was more than “10 times as a high as it was back in October.” Whether that trend is just a coincidence due to nicer weather, or  due to a lack of care, or a mix of both, it’s hard to tell. 

I’m not a fan of the whole ”COVID fatigue” theory – the sense that people are getting tired of social distancing and being responsible because time has passed isn’t a valid enough excuse. If a year of hardship is all it takes to push us back into old habits that put others’ safety at risk, then all our progress we’ve made to this point is going to be undone. 

This summer is a chance for us to do more than we’ve been doing, that’s for sure, but let’s not get carried away. Remaining responsible by not having huge gatherings and everyone doing their part to get vaccinated is a critical part of that. Doing our individual part is the best gateway to anything near ”normal” and we’re going to need that to be a collective mindset, especially in New Hampshire. 

Coming out of the mask mandate and trying to get back to normal has a lot to do with the need to support local businesses. Retailers and restaurants have been left to make their own decisions about maintaining their mask requirements or not and they need the public’s support regardless of their decision. 

The least we can do as patrons is to respect their wishes. They’re doing their best to keep all of us and their employees safe and in return they’re working hard to maintain the places we love to visit. 

Portsmouth is ready and rearing to go – each warm day in the last few weeks like the calm before the storm. As someone who works in a kitchen in downtown Portsmouth, it’s easy to see that it’s had its busy days as April has gone on – those few particularly nice Saturdays have seen Market Street begin to flood with people once again. The sidewalks are lined with barriers and roped off sections providing any extra seating and support that restaurants can get.  

In the kitchen, the return to these types of nights is exhilarating – finally the feeling we’ve forgotten – being so busy the shift flies right by! Those Saturdays have been a welcome gift and most of all reassuring for the summer months to come. Although it’s gotten hectic, there’s no comparing it to the impending forecast of people rushing to get back out into Portsmouth once the time comes.  

Bow Street restaurants have started to batten down the hatches, reinforce staff and work out the kinks before this summer’s inevitable ”post-COVID revolution” that’s sure to feel the closest it’s felt to a normal Portsmouth summer in quite some time.  

Those decks are sure to fill up, those streets are going to be packed and Portsmouth is going to be ready for it. That being said, there’s no room for COVID fatigue in this equation. Assuming everyone does their part, we can scrape closer and closer to what we’re used to getting out of our summers. We want to enjoy a drink on the decks, we want to get our chance to lay out on the beach again, we want to soak in the sun with our friends and family. It’s a collective effort that everyone needs to be a part of. 

Restaurants, retailers and more want and need the support. We’re going to be waiting mid-May, into June, July and beyond so don’t be afraid to come out and support local businesses, just do it respectfully and responsibly. 

Photo courtesy of TNH staff: Riverhouse Portsmouth.