The Capital Region was cleared to start reopening Wednesday, one hopeful step closer to getting back to a normal life.

But it is also a work in progress, still under state guidelines. We’re not going to sit down in our favorate restaurant and order a beer and a big meal. We’re not going to the movies (although drive-ins are open this weekend). We’re not going to the mall or get haircuts. And we’re not going to throw our face masks away just yet.

We have to remember how we got here.

Since Sunday, the Capital Region, which includes Columbia and Greene counties, had one benchmark left to reach in the state’s seven metrics monitoring COVID-19 hospitalization, death, infection, testing and contact tracing data. The region is the state’s seventh of 10 to start reopening after five started the process Friday, and Western New York opened on Tuesday.

The Capital Region needed to hire 383 contact tracers and identified 430 by Tuesday. The tracers were trained Tuesday and started when Phase I businesses, including construction, manufacturing and pickup retail industries, resumed Wednesday. To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, it’s been a long, strange trip.

If we don’t handle this early reprieve with common sense and patience, we risk plunging the Twin Counties and the Capital Region back into an even deeper abyss of illness, shutdown and death.

We must still wear our face masks in public, stay at least six feet away from other people, disinfect surfaces and sanitize or wash our hands often. Rogue businesses that open inappropriately, claiming the restrictions violate their rights, should be avoided and maybe even called out.

We’re on our way back, but we’re not out of the woods yet.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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