As I boarded the N Judah, I smiled under my mask, thrilled to finally have an excuse to visit Golden Gate Park for the first time since the pandemic shutdowns.
Yet, upon finding a seat on the half-empty subway car, my excitement was soon overshadowed by anxiety when a woman in her 30s began coughing violently. And just minutes later, a man in his 50s sauntered into the row across from me and pulled down his mask to blow his nose. I held my breath as long as I could.
I couldn’t drift into my usual daydream-like state when I take public transit; before the pandemic, I enjoyed people-watching, imagining complex stories about daily lives. Now, I sat there frozen, tightly gripping my pen, as if doing so would somehow protect me from the virus.
At the California Academy of Sciences, Allison Serkes, 41, said she was both “excited and terrified” for the state’s reopening. She said that she feels lucky to live in a place where she can trust the local and state government to make decisions based on science.
“I will definitely still be cautious because I have children who are unvaccinated,” said Serkes, a mother of four who is expecting another child in September. “And I think that a huge part for families is, it’s very exciting but at the same time, it is not back to normal for us. We’ll still be masking.”
Christine Bovis, 39, said that she feels “super nervous” about reopening. Bovis, a first grade teacher at Dolores Huerta Elementary School, is worried about what the coronavirus variants will mean for her students this fall.
“Depending on how we do this summer, it may mean doing a hybrid model again, which has been very challenging, or going back full time in-person,” Bovis said. “I’m thinking about that all the time.”
Others, however, are more ready to resume normal living.
Bou and Lucille Langer, a retired couple from Santa Rosa, were sitting outside on Irving Street.
“The state vaccination rate is very high, and the cases are going down, so I think the state is ready,” said Bou Langer, who is very excited to travel again — especially to Europe. Lucille Langer added that she is excited to finally be able to visit her 11-year-old grandson in San Francisco again.
Ian Bettinger, 48, said it was “about the right time” for California to reopen, adding that many people in The City have become used to being cautious, that it’s “new for us to be relaxed.”
Bettinger was trying Art’s Cafe for the first time after it reopened under new ownership in Feburary. “I used to love it,” Bettinger said. “After 34 years of being here, they decided to retire and closed … Somebody took it over and decided to reopen and keep it alive, so I’m excited.”
Dashiell Renaud, 34, also thinks it’s the right time for California to reopen. He added that he has taken comfort and pride in the fact that San Francisco’s numbers and attitude toward the pandemic has been “akin to that of Germany.”
In the past three weeks, Renaud and his 13-year-old son have begun to eat at restaurants and gather with friends again.
“It’s been great, but I think that the sad part for me, aside from obviously the life toll of the virus, has been the loss of some of the institutions of San Francisco,” Renaud said. “COVID-19 was definitely a catalyst for a lot of change. I think things will be missed, but it’s exciting. It’s a new tomorrow.”