Welp, we did it! First state in the union to hit 80% for those ages 12+ and up with at least one vaccination, and we should be proud! This doesn’t just show people care about each other, but we care about the whole country and the world. We are showing what can happen when we come together and decide that health is wealth! How can we celebrate? Let us count the ways!

You can de-mask. If you are comfortable and in a place that allows you to be unmasked, you can! Please note, many businesses and buildings may still require a mask and they are within their rights to do so. Therefore, we do suggest keeping your mask handy just in case. Also, if you aren’t vaccinated, it’s a great idea to keep that mask on anyway! While many people agree a mask is an outward symbol of inward care and compassion, you can start to enjoy some mask-free time if you are comfortable.

Gatherings. Our Governor has eliminated gathering guidelines. While Covid-19 isn’t in by any means gone, if you are hanging out with vaccinated people, you are most likely a lot safer. You may decide you aren’t ready to gather, and that’s 100% ok. Maybe you want to gather but keep a distance or wear a mask, that’s cool too! If you are hosting gatherings, try to take into your planning how to keep all people comfortable. Keep in mind, not everyone is vaccinated, and people can still get and give Covid-19.

Distancing. While we would still encourage you to use caution and decide what makes you most comfortable, distancing is now removed. You can sit a little closer, walk a little closer and even hug your neighbor if you want to. Does this mean that you can’t get Covid? No, even those who are fully vaccinated can in some cases get the virus, but it sure makes it a whole lot safer to reduce distancing when you both are vaccinated.

Covid-19 isn’t gone. It may feel like it because now we are seeing more people mask and carefree. Some areas that took away their restrictions before us saw peaks in infections. We can learn from this by thinking about what is best for us and those around us. Maybe you feel ok not wearing a mask in public or maybe you are still going to wait to host a large party. It’s up to us now to make the choices that are best for the greater health of all. After a long haul of restrictions and guidelines it can be freeing to know you can just live as you please, but also be wise too.

Compassion. Remember that as the masks come off, many are still feeling nervous, scared or still in a state of grief. Millions and millions of people have died since the masks and distancing started, and cancellation of guidelines can’t change that. Let’s be extra patient, compassionate and empathetic with each other as we start to venture out again. We won’t be going back to how this used to be before the pandemic, and we probably shouldn’t either. As we take what we’ve learned, remember what’s truly important to us and reestablish our lifestyle outside of the house. Let’s do it with the intention to live more fully in meaningful and healthful ways and allow others the compassion to do the same. Perhaps you aren’t ready for hugs and handshakes, but one thing we can all share when the masks come off: a smile. Smiles say I see you! Smiles say hello! Smiles say I’ve missed you!  Smiles say have a great day, without a single word. NEK – masks on or off, it’s time to smile again!