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NJ Reemerging

Print Date 5.28.2021

By Judy Brenna

Most of you will have learned by now, and likely as utterly gob smacked as I, that the Governor’s office dropped a truly awesome bomb on us residents on Monday, when they announced effective on Friday, May 28, the indoor mask mandate in public spaces will be lifted. Added to this awesomeness is the lifting of the six-foot social distancing requirement in both indoor and outdoor spaces ((which slightly saddens me because I was absolutely in love with the idea of not having people in my personal space)), the prohibition on dance floors at bars and restaurants, and the prohibition on ordering and eating/drinking while standing at bars and restaurants. Additionally, effective Friday, June 4, indoor gatherings, and capacity limits will be lifted ((which is fantastic for the wedding industry!)). Granted, spaces where masks will continue to be required include health care and long-term care facilities, correctional facilities, homeless shelters, public transit (airplanes, buses, trains), transit hubs (airports, bus and train stations), public-facing state offices such as Motor Vehicle Commission agencies, and warehousing and manufacturing facilities. So, what exactly does this mean for us, the social butterflies, desperate to break out of our proverbial cocoons? It means we’re back… with a little hitch.

Yes, in theory you can now reunite with your normal crew to the bar ((whom you likely forgot how tall they are, or what they look like with makeup on, because over this last year you’ve only shared cocktails over Zoom)), and stand shoulder to shoulder with random people, fighting for the attention of the bartender, who passes you three times before actually acknowledging you, so you wave a $50 bill in the air to draw her to you, to which she does so, begrudgingly, then she takes another 23 minutes to deliver your lackluster drinks ((hypothetically of course)). It's important to be aware of something. The mask policy is at the establishment’s discretion, as per Governor Murphy. What does this mean? It’s up to the business whether they require you to wear a mask and maintain social distance. So, save yourself time and heartache. Don’t be that ornery guy going into the taco joint without a mask and making a scene because they won’t serve you. Be prepared, with mask in tow, JUST in case. For example, I picked up Chinese food last night, and asked the proprietor how they would be changing their food pickup procedures (as of right now you wait in your car and call in with your designated order number and, if it’s ready, they bring it out to you), and he explained they weren’t planning on changing it just yet. He said, “I don’t want to take any chances”. He also explained Covid gave the Chinese-folk a bad rap, so I get it.

Many places, however, are eager, and almost frothing at the mouth, to get back to normal. It’s no longer news that every industry (except for Netflix and all toilet paper, and plexiglass companies) had suffered, exponentially, the hospitality industry especially. The places that have survived, did so by the skin of their teeth, getting extra creative in the process. So, with this new announcement from the Governor’s office, they are gearing up for the most epic weekend of their careers.

Which brings me to my next point. MAKE RESERVATIONS. That last-minute, brilliant, and totally original idea you just came up with to take the entire extended family to dinner this Saturday at say, ((#stillopentowork)), my old alma mater, Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar, located inside the Tropicana Casino and Resort, every other person in the state came up with this totally unique and brilliant idea too. So, call ahead. And show up ON TIME. And please don’t be surprised if they can’t accommodate you when you roll up to the host stand 40 minutes late. And please don’t give them a hard time about it. They will literally be doing the very best they can. Actually, they probably would, because they’re super accommodating like that, but don’t test it! My whole point here is every restaurant, every casino, and every nightclub who got themselves ready in time to open this weekend, will be utterly and unequivocally packed ((I’m getting a very funny comic-strip-like visual with hundreds upon hundreds of cartoon people squished into a restaurant and the seams of the building are buckled)). You must imagine it as if it’s the grand opening for every restaurant and entertainment venue in the city. So? Be smart. Be prepared.

With all of this said, rejoice and be glad! We made it! The state is now officially over 70% vaccinated, and the vaccine is now open to kids aged 12 to 15. The weather is warmer. Trees and plant life are in full bloom ((and my allergies right now are proof)). Long gone are the days where we thought this pandemic would roll into an even worse pandemic where we would look back on this last year and think “man, what a weird year”, as we emerge into an even stranger dystopian reality. Yes, I will admit, I thought it. You know you did too, on some level.

We need to ask ourselves, “what did we learn from all of this?”. I for one learned some very invaluable lessons. Like, don’t cough or sneeze on someone, do so in the crook of your elbow, and not in your hand, and remember Quarantina? Always, always, always wash your hands. Hygiene is our best defense against a virus. And it’s ok to not stand RIGHT behind someone else in line to the point where they can feel your breath on their neck. Because there is one crucial nugget of information, we very silly homo sapiens will totally lose sight of in all of this: it could happen again. We are pandemic prone. I should know I’ve contracted every pandemic virus we had here (covid, norovirus, swine flu, avian flu, etc.). I’m not saying you should live your lives in fear, but live smart, wash your hands, and go make your reservations. Happy Memorial Day, people! Until next week, folks… #stayjerseystrong!

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