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Is that a sizzling summer in the COVID-19 crystal ball?

A headline across the top of The Day's April 10 front page last year set the stage for some spring optimism in the still-dark, unfolding pandemic: "Pfizer working on virus drug."

The accompanying story went on to explain plans by Pfizer, including work at its laboratories here in eastern Connecticut, to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, then only a glimmer of hope as a way out of the unfolding health crisis.

Incredibly, just one year later, every adult Connecticut resident is eligible to receive one of three successful new COVID-19 vaccines, including Pfizer's. How remarkable.

The rest of the pandemic news last April remained bleak, as we all tried to get accustomed to a new reality, with nursing homes devastated and the state's pandemic death toll topping 1,000 on April 17.

The developing recession was likely going to be "formidable" one front-page headline warned ominously in mid-April.

Speaking as someone who has already had a second vaccine shot, I see that the end of the ordeal and the beginning of what might start to look like the old normal are coming into focus.

Indeed, despite the variant worries and some stubborn vaccine resistance, I am going to go out on a limb and suggest that a good long squint into the COVID-19 crystal ball reveals a pretty good summer of 2021, especially compared to the fraught summer of 2020.

Most important, there is new hope for all the workers of eastern Connecticut furloughed by the pandemic, especially in the restaurant and tourism industry. Employment numbers might begin to look more normal at places like the big casinos and major tourism destinations such as Mystic Seaport Museum, as spring rolls into summer.

You can already feel surges of returning visitors in Mystic on nice days, even more than during a normal spring. You can see that the usual spring burst of shaking off winter cabin fever is going to be a familiar ritual on steroids this year.

Indications are good that all those tourists are also going to have a lot of money in their pockets, since those who were still working didn't have a lot of places to spend it during their pandemic hibernation.

I am so happy for the merchants who may find that there could be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I'm very sorry for those who were not able to wait it out.

Last April, we fretted about the logistics of outdoor dining and whether it was safe to visit stores in masks. Now we wonder when indoor concerts will be back.

A day of social distancing at the beach last summer was challenging. Who won't be able to wait this year to pack up the car on a hot morning and head to the shore without worrying about beach parking closures?

I have worried for New London during the pandemic, afraid that an already fragile downtown was going to have a hard time surviving the impact of so many office shutdowns. There have been times over the last year when the downtown has seemed frighteningly abandoned.

But it is encouraging and says a lot about the resilience of the city that so many of the existing businesses downtown have hung on. Remarkably, some new ones have begun to appear.

The completion of a new apartment complex on Bank Street during the pandemic, the pride of Mayor Michael Passero, is certainly a fine harbinger of good things to come, with hundreds of people to soon take up residence downtown.

The financial infusion of more than $20 million of federal COVID-19 relief into New London coffers is another promising sign. Discussions about where to spend it all should begin soon.

Join me in hoping New London comes out of the pandemic stronger and more buoyant than ever.

Our life of social distancing and mask-wearing has become the new normal in too many ways, and we've all adapted remarkably well.

But I see in the crystal ball it really is going to end, and the beginning of that end is poised to start this summer.

I predict it will be a summer like never before.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.colins@theday.com

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