'City in transition': New York vies to turn page on pandemic

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Emily Baumgartner, left, and Luke Finley, second from left, join friends from their church group in a birthday toast to one of the members, upper right, during their weekly "Monday Night Hang" gathering at the Tiki Bar on Manhattan's Upper West Side Monday, May 17, 2021, in New York. "Most of us live alone. and we need community. During the pandemic, we started hanging out in the park (Central Park) once a week. Once bars and restaurants reopened, we started coming back to Tiki Bar afterward. Under the latest regulations, vaccinated New Yorkers can shed their masks in most situations Wednesday. Restaurants, shops, gyms and many other businesses can go back to full occupancy if all patrons are inoculated. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

NEW YORK – More than a year after coronavirus shutdowns sent “the city that never sleeps” into a fitful slumber, New York could be wide awake again this summer.

Starting Wednesday, vaccinated New Yorkers could shed their masks in most situations, and restaurants, stores, gyms and many other businesses could go back to full capacity if they ascertain that all patrons have been inoculated.

Subways resumed running round-the-clock this week. Midnight curfews for bars and restaurants will be gone by month's end. Broadway tickets are on sale again, though the curtain won't rise on any shows until September.

Officials say now is New York's moment to shake off the image of a city brought to its knees by the virus last spring — a recovery poignantly rendered on the latest cover of The New Yorker magazine. It shows a giant door part-open to the city skyline, letting in a ray of light.

Is the Big Apple back to its old, brash self?

“Maybe 75%. ... It’s definitely coming back to life,” said Mark Kumar, 24, a personal trainer.

But Ameen Deen, 63, said: “A full sense of normalcy is not going to come any time soon. There's far too many deaths. There's too much suffering. There's too much inequality."

Last spring, the biggest city in America was also the nation's deadliest coronavirus hotspot, the site of over 21,000 deaths in just two months. Black and Hispanic patients have died at markedly higher rates than whites and Asian Americans.