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On The Road, At The Ballpark: Americans Celebrate Vaccinations, Lifting Businesses

Beverly Pickering's pet sitting business cratered during the height of the pandemic. Now, she says, it's booming, and her customers are traveling again.


Beverly Pickering says her neighbors in suburban Detroit are hitting the road. And that’s good news for her pet sitting business.

“I have people going to California, Florida, the Carolinas — all over the country,” she says. “It’s travel, travel, travel. It’s just exploded.”

Pickering’s business all but evaporated last year when most people were stuck at home with their pets. But now her phone is ringing steadily, with customers eager to travel and make up for lost time.

“When vaccinations here really ramped up, that is when the calls started coming in,” Pickering said. “I can absolutely draw a direct line from the increase in vaccinations to the increase in business.”

Newly vaccinated Americans are emerging from their coronavirus cocoons, giving a lift to restaurants, beauty salons and other face-to-face businesses hit hard by the pandemic.

Jaime Lopez took his family to a professional soccer game Saturday in Orlando, Fla., 2 1/2 weeks after getting his second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

“It was very exciting,” Lopez said. “We were able to go with friends of ours. They were themselves vaccinated. So it turned into a great evening.”

It was the family’s first big celebration of newfound freedom from pandemic fears. But it won’t be the last. After more than a year of staying close to home, Lopez, his wife and two children are planning trips to Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

“We’re thinking about summer vacations,” Lopez said. “I have a nephew that’s graduating high school. And then [we’re] visiting my wife’s sister around the Fourth of July. So we’ve got some pent-up vacation time we’d like to take care of.”

Airlines are launching new routes to capitalize on the growing demand from leisure travelers. More than 1.6 million travelers passed through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints on Sunday — the highest number since the pandemic began.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says fully vaccinated people can travel safely within the U.S., although masks and social distancing are still recommended. More than 100 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. President Biden said Tuesday he hopes to increase that number to 160 million by July Fourth.

Pandemic restrictions are gradually being relaxed at restaurants, gyms and amusement parks around the country — a boon for businesses and workers who depend on customers showing up in person.

“Barber shops, nail salons, small-engine repair — these are the businesses that can expect to see a lot of spending coming back online over the course of the next several months,” added Tim Quinlan, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities.

A survey of service-oriented businesses found strong growth in April.

“We’ve had pent-up demand,” said Anthony Nieves, who oversaw the survey for the Institute for Supply Management. “As things start to reopen, we’re seeing businesses have their volume increase.”

Some businesses surveyed said growth would have been even stronger last month were it not for supply bottlenecks and labor shortages.

“Sales are increasing, and the labor pool is tight,” said one restaurant manager who answered the survey. “Supply chain is challenged at every level as businesses across the U.S. ramp up.”

Pickering, the pet sitter, has more work than she knows what to do with, and her calendar is booked solid through November.

“I don’t know any pet sitter that isn’t overwhelmed right now — and smiling about it,” she said. “It’s so exciting to be working again.”

With all the extra business, Pickering figured she could finally afford the new roof she’s been putting off. But when she called the contractor, he was swamped, too, with a waiting list of five months.

“He’s in the same boat I am,” Pickering said of the busy roofer. “It’s a good boat to be in.”

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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