BUFFALO, N.Y. — July 4 was one of the main dates thrown around by several lawmakers and even President Joe Biden for when Americans could expect a "return to normal."
Here in New York, with most restrictions already lifted, we're a little ahead of that Independence Day goal, but not fully post-COVID just yet.
Still, as we approach the holiday weekend, many Western New Yorkers will enjoy something they likely missed out on last year and that's celebrating together.
"It's kind of an opportunity for the community to sort of exhale and get back to doing some things that it enjoys," said Robert Restaino, Mayor of Niagara Falls.
Hyde Park in Niagara Falls is one of the many places fireworks will be returning this Fourth of July, with baseball beforehand.
Restaino said, "It promises to be a great evening. Baseball, fireworks -- can't think of a better way to celebrate the birthday of America."
Dr. Thomas Russo, the chief of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo, reflected on how far we've come as a region, but he still urges caution for individuals who aren't vaccinated or those who are only partially vaccinated.
"I think we've done extraordinarily well here in Western New York. We've done well with vaccination. Our cases and hospitalizations right now are at all-time lows, and I think if you're fully vaccinated, you can celebrate the holiday in close to post-pandemic mode," Dr. Russo said.
However, the pandemic is not over yet, and one big sign that we haven't returned to full normalcy is that travel is still restricted across the border. Advocates for reopening, such as U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, hoped by now there would've been more movement.
"If you're vaccinated you should be able to cross the border ... it doesn't matter what the percentage is. This is arbitrary. The federal government in Canada is not following the science, not following the data," Higgins said.
This coming Tuesday, fully vaccinated Canadians who travel for non-essential reasons won't have to quarantine -- the first sign of easing border restrictions.
Despite a large number of New Yorkers already receiving the vaccine, the roll out continues across our region.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted Thursday, "While more than 50 percent of our residents has been fully vaccinated, we need to increase that number."
Nonetheless, officials believe the progress is evident.
If you're looking to see some of the fireworks happening this weekend, click here for a list.