OAKLAND, Calif. - The holiday weekend this spring was dramatically different than last year, as people began feeling more comfortable gathering with others with COVID-19 case rates declining and the number of people getting COVID vaccinations increasing.
In San Francisco, health officials say more than 48% of the adults in the city have received at least one dose of a corona-virus vaccine and 28% are fully vaccinated.
Contra Costa County health officials report 51% of adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
At the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek Sunday, the bunnies, the babies, and family outings were back for an Easter bunny hunt. For many, it was a joy feeling the pandemic restrictions slowly easing.
"It is so beautiful, and the kids are having fun," said Chinasa, a mother who brought her children from San Francisco, "Hopefully, it's just a month at a time and everything will be back on track."
Staff say everyone is navigating a new path, figuring out on the fly how to keep socializing safe.
"Even though people have been vaccinated, we don't know who has and who hasn't so we're still continuing to require people wear a mask on the property and do the six feet of distancing," said Tracy Fletcher, COO of the Ruth Bancroft Garden and Nursery.
People are having to make personal choices.
"I've got both vaccinations now, so things are opening up. I was able to do more things than I was feeling more comfortable doing before," said Elisabeth Paulsen of Martinez.
"Because we have a young child, we try to keep a small bubble and just the family members that we know have been vaccinated," said Elicia Cross, a visitor to the garden.
For many, returning to social life is coming in small steps. Some feel safest just meeting up outdoors, still concerned about indoor interactions.
"I don't know about indoor things," said Quentin Nicolas, a Berkeley resident who spent the day windsurfing near the marina, "There's still the threat of that fourth wave."
The CDC says fully vaccinated people can meet without masks and distancing, two weeks after your last covid vaccine shot.
CDC guidelines say even vaccinated people should still wear masks in public and avoid large crowds.
"Had my sister and friend and her parents over for a Passover seder," said Larry Smith, a Berkeley resident who celebrated Passover and Easter with family and friends.
"All the adults had at least one shot, so we felt pretty comfortable with it," said Smith, "It felt great. Super emotional."
Smith said the greeting old friends again requires new protocols.
"We're doing a lot of elbow bumping and the sort of eastern bow was kind of nice. And I hope it stays that way. I don't miss the handshake. I miss hugs, but the handshake can go," Smith said with a smile.
For so many families, getting through this year of sacrifice to be together again safely is a blessing worth the wait.
"In the Passover tradition you say again next year," said Smith, "So next year will be even better we assume, and we hope."