NEW YORK — Monday was the first day that no proof of vaccination was required to gain admission to restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, and other entertainment venues in five boroughs of the city. 

It’s intended to be a step closer to normalcy, as evidenced by Mayor Eric Adams’s tweet on Monday afternoon declaring that #NYCisBack.

Still, despite the lowest COVID rate since mid-July of last year, coronavirus numbers could still spike, and a variety of people, from restaurant customers to the operators of one of the region’s largest fitness chains, are trying to stay prepared, in case that happens.

Overall, though, Monday’s lifting of the mandate requiring proof of vaccination as well as mask wearing was met with significant optimism.

Mahogany Buffong said that the change felt like a return to better days.

“I’m just happy to come back to regular,” she said, but tempered her description slightly. “It feels like somewhat of regular,” she continued. “Just a little bit.” 

Across the city, signs that had been required to be displayed in restaurants’ and bars’ windows explaining that a vaccination and a mask were required to enter had either been removed by Monday, or weren’t being enforced, in the overwhelming majority of cases. 

At Las Margaritas Restaurant, on Broadway, Maira Castillo, the manager, said that the lifting of the proof of vaccination requirement was a relief, in a more ways than one. 

“Some people don’t come here because they are not vaccinated,” she said, adding that the lifting of the mandate is both good for business and morale, since her staff will no longer have to check customers’ vaccination status. 

Customer Elena Acosta summed up how she felt, exuberantly and succinctly.

“It’s good. Great!” she said about going to the Gramercy Cafe for the first time in half a year without having to show proof of vaccination.

The eatery’s owner, Eduardo Rivera, called it an important step forward. 

“So far, everything is going back to normal. Business is getting better,” he said. 

The mandate is also lifted at gyms, health clubs and pools.

At the Blink Fitness on Steinway Street, gym member Victoria Jean said that she welcomed the change.

“It feels like a relief that things are getting a little bit back to normal,” she said, “and knowing there are a lot of people who are vaccinated in New York City makes it feel closer to normalcy.”

Blink Fitness is reporting that February of this year saw its highest numbers for new members ever. David Collignon, the company’s chief operating officer, said that it was a sign that people are sensing a return to some sort of normalcy.  

Another Blink member agreed, but also said that New Yorkers need to brace for the worst nonetheless.

“We’ll take precautions again,” said Rahim Awan, in discussing the potential for a rise in COVID cases in the months ahead. “[We’ll] get back to masks and social distancing,” he continued, but right now, it’s chill, getting back in the New York City vibe.”

Collignon, blink’s COO, was also optimistic about the lifting of proof of vaccination, but also said that he and his company have to be prepared, just in case, for the currently low COVID numbers to rise. 

“We’ve been able to respond rapidly,” he said in an interview, “whether it’s a mandate coming on, or a mandate coming off. and make sure that we follow the [health authorities’] guidance that we’re given, and make sure that we’re upholding the standards as they come to us.”