PHOENIX — With the CDC significantly easing mask guidelines, several Arizona counties are already following suit. That change, plus, the decreasing case numbers, is giving people more peace of mind about being in large crowds.
The Italian Festival of Arizona returned stronger than ever after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.
"It's incredible. I mean, the crowds were way bigger than we've ever experienced, and the culture is just fantastic, as you know," says Tony Rea, owner and culinary director of Pasta Rea.
The two-day celebration at Heritage Square drew nearly 10,000 people over the weekend.
"It was touching to see, like, the families back out again and that's really the whole point. We're all about family and comradery and, just being together," says Francesco Guzzo, executive director of the Italian Association.
After the CDC said more people could take off their masks, many were eager to listen.
"Feels very normal to be out and that's what we needed after all this time," says one festival attendee.
While others say they will still be cautious.
"We were definitely wearing our mask at first but, with eating and being outside, I felt more comfortable... but, definitely put it on and off as needed," says Monica Tang, festival attendee.
Monica Tang and Natalya Brown say this is one of the first large events they've attended since March 2020.
"I live with my grandma so, I try to be extra cautious. We chose Sunday specifically because we thought it would be less crowded. I think we were right for the most part," says Natalya Brown, festival attendee.
Although people are enjoying this return of normalcy, Dr. Shad Marvasti reminds us that COVID is not gone for good.
"If we could get as many people vaccinated and boosted right now, between now and summer - or whenever the next potential variant shows up - then, that next variant is not going to really do much," says Dr. Shad Marvasti, ABC15 Health Insider.