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Businesses Are Already Benefiting As More Of The U.S. Gets Vaccinated

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Millions of newly vaccinated Americans are starting to venture out again. They're getting haircuts, booking vacations, going to concerts and sporting events. That could bring a surge in business to hairdressers, stadium vendors and dog sitters whose livelihoods have been on ice during the pandemic.

NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: It was a sellout crowd in Florida Saturday night as the Orlando City soccer team took on Cincinnati. Some stadium seats were deliberately kept empty in deference to the coronavirus. But the crowd of more than 11,000 was still plenty loud.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Let's go, City.

HORSLEY: Jamie Lopez was there along with his wife, Gina, and their two kids. His son is too young to be vaccinated, but the rest of the family got their second shot of Pfizer vaccine two and a half weeks ago. And their first outing to a soccer match in more than a year seemed like a perfect way to celebrate.

JAMIE LOPEZ: It was very exciting. We were able to go with friends of ours that they were themselves vaccinated. And so it turned into a great evening.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: That's a giveaway at the back by Hagglund. Tesho.

HORSLEY: Orlando scored in the opening minute and went on to win 3-0. It was an auspicious start to what Lopez hopes will be the family's new post-lockdown lifestyle. Last year, they barely left home. Now they're planning getaways to Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

LOPEZ: Yeah, we're thinking about summer vacations. I have a nephew that is graduating in high school and then 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.

HORSLEY: Beverly Pickering is hearing a lot of plans like that. Pickering's a dog sitter outside Detroit. Her business all but evaporated during the pandemic, when most people were stuck at home with their pets. Now her phone is ringing again.

BEVERLY PICKERING: I have people going to California, Florida, the Carolinas. It's travel, travel, travel. It's just exploded.

HORSLEY: With a green light from the CDC, fully vaccinated people can now travel to weddings or to visit their grandkids. And Pickering says almost everyone who calls sounds delighted with their newfound freedom.

PICKERING: (Laughter) They are absolutely giddy. Giddy is the word that comes to mind because the text that they'll send or the messages that they'll leave are all we're finally going someplace.

HORSLEY: Pickering sees the jump in travel plans as a sign her clients are feeling safer and more comfortable about getting out and spending money. And there's no mystery what's behind it.

PICKERING: It seems to me like when vaccinations here really ramped up, that is when the calls started coming in. I absolutely can draw a direct line from the increase in vaccinations to the increase in business.

HORSLEY: More than 100 million Americans are now fully vaccinated. President Biden said today he hopes to increase that to 160 million by the Fourth of July. Pandemic restrictions are gradually being relaxed at restaurants, gyms and amusement parks around the country. Wells Fargo economist Tim Quinlan says workers who depend on customers showing up in person should get a boost from the increased traffic.

TIM QUINLAN: Walk down Main Street in any town in America - things like barbershops, nail salon, small engine repair - and these are the businesses that can anticipate seeing a lot of spending coming back online over the course of the next several months.

HORSLEY: Just like factories, some service businesses will be stretched to keep up with this newfound demand. Pet sitter Pickering is already booked solid through November.

PICKERING: I don't know any pet sitter that isn't overwhelmed right now and smiling about it. It's so exciting to be working again

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

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.