Start making plans again. Life with the pandemic just became ‘normal.’

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - APRIL 3: (From left to right): Andres Vargas, Danielle Medina and Karen Kroplin raise their glasses as they enjoy their visit at El Rio, located at 3158 Mission St., on Saturday, April 3, 2021, in San Francisco, Calif. The beloved dive bar, which reopened on Thursday, had been closed ever since the Bay Area first went into shelter in place. It feels like a tiny victory, too, especially considering how many other businesses will never open their doors again.
Friends cheers-ing at a bar re-opening in San Francisco.
  • We've all been waiting for the world to return to normal.
  • In the meantime, adaptations to pandemic life are showing up in the economy as increased jobs and spending.
  • Going to gyms, going to the office (sometimes) - this could be as "normal" as it gets.

President Joe Biden promised this July 4 would be a day of independence from the pandemic. That didn't quite happen.

Instead, resistance to vaccines in some pockets of America, and then the rise of the Delta variant, kept Americans largely out of offices, working from their homes, and still a little socially distanced.

Better late than never?

The October jobs report - and upward revisions of the August and September reports - show less hiring than the boom that happened over the summer, but unmistakable signs of a country living with the Delta variant and returning to a semblance of normal life. The number of people working remotely also continues to drop.

People also seem to be going back to the gym. Planet Fitness shares hit an all-time high this week as Peloton dropped as much as 34% in one day after a dismal earnings report. In another sign of living with the virus, Pfizer's COVID-19 pill looks very promising, cutting hospitalization and death by 89% in high-risk patients.

Americans seem to be embracing the new normal.

Less COVID means more 'normal'

The virus is in retreat once again as the Delta variant wanes and nearly 70% of American adults have had one dose of the vaccine. Shots have helped curb hospitalizations and deaths and contributed to an uptick in economic activity.

"The top line takeaway is that as Delta abates, the recovery re-accelerates," Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at Glassdoor, told Insider.

Companies have made that connection and, with their bottom lines in mind, are requiring employees and customers to show proof of vaccination. Flights are full again, with strict mask requirements in place, and people are heading back to the office. October's jobs report showed that the number of people working from home has dropped. January seems to be the current consensus on bringing people back to the office full-time.

Plus, as people go out and about more, spending is soaring.

'Hot vax summer' didn't come through

While we still have a long way to go before this pandemic turns into an endemic, one thing is certain: It's not disappearing anytime soon. As vaccines rolled out last spring, we thought that might be the case. But what was dubbed "hot vax summer" didn't bring us the freedom we expected.

However, businesses and governments have largely developed workarounds to living with the threat of the virus. Barriers, spacing, mask requirements, and to-go options are now ubiquitous. Cities like New York and LA began requiring all indoor gatherings to ask for proof of vaccination.

To be sure, some pieces of the economy are far from recovered. As wages rise, so do prices. The labor shortage persists, despite October's employment report. But at this rate, the labor market could be back by summer. As for your new couch - it might arrive around the same time.

As the holidays near, activities that a year ago seemed far out of reach - indoor dining and bar hopping, going to the movies, and visiting grandparents - are now available as long as you're willing to wear a mask or show your vaccine card.

It's not all the way back yet, but this might be what it is for a long time to come. It's the new normal.

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