Photos: Seattle reopens as pandemic restrictions finally lift

On the first day without COVID-19 restrictions, Crosscut photographers document what reopening means for Seattleites

Mauricio and Patty Velarde, left and second from left, visiting from Monterey County, California, admire the view of downtown Seattle from the Space Needle on "reopening" day, Wednesday, June 30, 2021. “We were here yesterday and it’s like night and day,” Mauricio Velarde says. “This morning waking up, it’s like a light switch went on, with people congregating outside.” Patty Velarde adds, “It feels like we’re living again. It was a hard year.” (Jovelle Tamayo for Crosscut)

It’s here. Today is the day all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted across Washington state. That means for the first time since March 2020, restaurants, bars, movie theaters, music venues, museums and other businesses won’t have to operate under state-mandated capacity limits or social distancing requirements (though businesses can still choose to set their own rules). It also means we can start to envision what a new normal might look like.

As the first major American city to hit a 70% vaccination rate for residents 12 years old or older, Seattle had already started opening up, and folks have been slowly coming out of isolation and returning to some prepandemic routines.

Letha Penhale of Columbia City started her reopening day with a workout in Genessee Park. “I’m looking forward to gyms being open all the way, doing stuff with friends and family again and not having to wear a mask all the time,” she says, finishing her calisthenics along the edge of the football field.

Over on Beacon Hill, Karla Castro, a barista at The Station, is spending her morning serving coffee. "I can't wait to go into restaurants again with no masks," Castro says. "And dancing! I miss dancing so much. Getting to listen to electronic music on the rooftop at Monkey Loft in SoDo is definitely going to happen soon."

Christine Fernandez taught a pod of young children remotely over the past year. "I hope that people's spirits lighten up and they start feeling safe enough to move on from the pandemic mindset,” she says, while playing fetch with Violet, her silver lab, at a dog park in Columbia City. “This season is such a wonderful time to restart, and we get to do that now.” 

Slow-moving northbound traffic on Interstate 5 on June 30, 2021, in Seattle. (Jovelle Tamayo for Crosscut)

Karla Castro, a barista at The Station in Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood hands a drink order to Kristi Foutz, who moved to the neighborhood recently from Everett and loves visiting this well-loved neighborhood spot owned by BIPOC entrepreneurs. Foutz, a local nurse who is on maternity leave is excited about being out more and eating inside restaurants with friends. "My husband is not vaccinated yet, so in those situations I will still push for outdoor seating," Foutz says. "He's just not ready yet and wants to continue following the information out there, I'm being gentle about it and continuing to provide him with credible sources that will help him make that decision for himself." (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

At Guy's Barber & Style Shop on The Ave in the University District, on "reopening" day in Washington state, June 30, 2021, Rick Linder talks with Ward Morrison, a customer since he attended the University of Washington in 1989. Linder, who has worked at Guy's for over 45 years, says he had to close for three months at the beginning of the pandemic, but that it's gotten busier in recent months as more customers have gotten vaccinated. He says business on The Ave is still slower because the UW switched to online only classes because of the pandemic, and now most students are out for the summer. "Fortunately they're going to allow students in the fall. I'm looking forward to students getting back," he said. (Lindsey Wasson for Crosscut)

A bottle of hand sanitizer sits next to a Seattle Times front page referencing the end of most coronavirus restrictions at Guy's Barber & Style Shop on The Ave on "reopening" day in Seattle, Wednesday, June 30, 2021. (Lindsey Wasson for Crosscut)

Commuters on a northbound Link light rail train on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in Seattle. (Jovelle Tamayo for Crosscut)

Christine Fernandez plays fetch with her 1-year-old silver lab, Violet, at Genesee Dog Park in Seattle's Columbia City neighborhood. "I hope that people's spirits lighten up and they start feeling safe enough to move on from the pandemic mindset," says Fernandez. She contracted COVID-19 and knows how scary it can be. "I isolated away from my kids for three weeks in March of 2020, and spent another five weeks inside my home having no contact with the outside world." Her teenage children did not get sick, and they've been able to navigate the pandemic while bringing a new pet into the family. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

Devin Moore, a self-described vinyl addict, thumbs through the vast record collection at Silver Platters in Seattle’s SoDo district while on an extended wait for car repairs at a nearby auto dealership. “I’ve been shopping online for music throughout the entire pandemic and feeling like it’s OK to be out shopping in person is just so great,” he says. “There’s a beauty in spending time with a well-curated collection.” Moments later he explains that his wife is at home with their 10-day-old baby, the second in their growing family. “I can’t wait for the ability to have a real adult night out with my wife again, when we can experience the wonderful vibes in this beautiful city, as the neighborhood turns back up again,” he says. “I hope interactions with other humans aren’t seen as this miraculous thing anymore — that it just becomes normal again.” (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

A mask left on the ground on "reopening" day, when Washington state ends most coronavirus restrictions in Seattle, Wednesday, June 30, 2021. (Lindsey Wasson for Crosscut)

Parents and students of Queen Anne Elementary School, including Andrea Hildebrandt, right, and Tamara Convertino, left, share a moment while pulling weeds and picking up litter on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, outside the school in Seattle as part of a garden cleanup volunteer effort. Parents noticed that during the pandemic, the school’s garden had become overgrown. Hlidebrandt, who organized two community cleanup events this summer, says, “I’m so thankful people are getting vaccinated so we can come together and do the things we care about, with our kids.” Convertino, whose child, Scout Thiede, attends Queen Anne Elementary, says, “Now that things are opening up, we can start building outward into our community again, reaching out, expanding our circle and reconnecting.” (Jovelle Tamayo for Crosscut)

Brandon Prater and Brie Hartbeck, visiting from St. Louis, talk over a meal at Ravenna Varsity Restaurant on "reopening" day in Seattle, Wednesday, June 30, 2021. "It’s finally starting to feel normal again," says Varsity chef Bryan Pelkey, who is looking forward to returning to full capacity this week as business continues to return. "Really excited to actually seat people fully again. To-go has been a good source of new community… but the regulars want their regular seats again." Pelkey says regulars helped out during the pandemic, including spreading the word on social media about supporting the restaurant. At one point, only he and his mother, Sandy, the owner, were working there. Now they're hiring more wait staff back as things pick up. (Lindsey Wasson for Crosscut)

A "help wanted" sign outside Ravenna Varsity Restaurant on "reopening" day, as Washington state ends most coronavirus restrictions. (Lindsey Wasson for Crosscut)

Will Su gets a lesson from owner Russell Crandall at the Emerald City Boxing Gym in the Roosevelt neighborhood on "reopening" day as Washington State ends most coronavirus restrictions in Seattle, Washington, Wednesday, June 30, 2021. "Just [finally] seeing people's faces, people who I've known for a year.... I've really enjoyed that," says Crandall. Co-owner and manager Chloe Crandall says the gym was shut down for six months last year due to the pandemic, and they received almost no federal funding. In January, they were allowed to open at 25 percent capacity and until today, had been asking people to bring their vaccination cards if they wanted to come to the gym. Now that restrictions are lifted, "We're looking forward to welcoming back everyone at full capacity," she says. "We absolutely would not be here today if it weren't for our clients and friends and family," says Chloe. "We're here based on the generosity of those around us. We just got really lucky." (Lindsey Wasson for Crosscut)

People enjoy Seattle’s Green Lake on "reopening" day,  Wednesday, June 30, 2021. (Lindsey Wasson for Crosscut)

Marielle Harrington and daughter Sarah Harrington, who have both been fully vaccinated, chose to go maskless while shopping at Fremont Vintage Mall on "reopening" day. The Harringtons say they are glad to be out shopping with other people to support local businesses after a difficult year, and to be doing so without hot masks. "It feels a little weird," says Sarah. Marielle elaborates: "You're still trying to be sensitive to those around you, but you've done everything that's been asked of you." "At some point you have to cross the barrier," says Sarah. "I'm [also] tired of shopping online," Marielle says with a chuckle. (Lindsey Wasson for Crosscut)

Visitors tour the T. A. Wilson Great Gallery, containing 39 full-size historic aircraft at The Museum of Flight in Seattle on June 30, 2021. The museum has returned to its prepandemic schedule of being open seven days a week, and all occupancy restrictions have been lifted. Effective today, those who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear a mask while visiting the museum. (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

Xeng Thao takes a short nap while Mai Lee prepares flowers for patrons inside Bao Yang Garden’s vendor booth at the Columbia City Farmer’s Market in Seattle on June 30, 2021. “All the restrictions have been lifted and we’re pretty happy,” says Lee. “But we’re tired, we operate six days per week throughout the region. Some days we’re so busy that we don’t have time to eat.” (Matt M. McKnight/Crosscut)

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About the Authors & Contributors

Matt M. McKnight

Matt M. McKnight

Matt McKnight is formerly a visual journalist at Crosscut, where he covered a variety of political, social and environmental issues around the Pacific Northwest.

Lindsey Wasson

Lindsey Wasson is a freelance photographer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time and Sports Illustrated. She was previously a staff photographer at The Seattle Times.

Jovelle Tamayo

Jovelle is a Filipina American independent documentary photographer, filmmaker, journalist, and licensed drone pilot based in Seattle, Washington, USA.