Next week I will be doing something that I have not been able to do for more than a year – board an airplane. It’s not an inherently fun task – the security line alone can ruin a day, to say nothing of delays, screaming babies and lost luggage. Still, I’m looking forward to it, because traveling was something I used to do regularly in the old pre-COVID days.

Hopefully, we will be able to return to our old habits soon. Dr. Anthony Fauci said that by April, COVID vaccines should start to be available to anyone who wants them. That should mean that by the summer, American society should be approaching normalcy.

I hope this forecast is true, because I would love to be able to travel again without wearing two masks and filling half my luggage with sanitizer. I would love to be able to have in-person conversations again and attend live events. Even something as exhausting as a convention will be a treat.

Signs of moving beyond the COVID world are starting to take place in the meat industry. Some large plants are arranging vaccinations for their employees. As that moves to more large and small plants, it will stabilize the supply chain that has been volatile at times over the past year. The American Association of Meat Processors announced that registration for its annual convention has opened. The show is scheduled for July 15-17 in Oklahoma City. While there have been some industry events held face-to-face in 2020 and ’21, this would be the first large-scale industry meeting since the initial lock-down. If vaccinations increase, events like that will become the norm once more.

Make sure to keep up with your local Departments of Health, to find out when you can get vaccinations for yourself and your employees. As a warning, expect to feel awful after the second dose. The consensus among those people who have received both shots is that people will feel terrible for a day or two afterwards. If your employees are all getting shots at once, expect to have some sick days when people feel too bad to work; you might stagger that second dose among your team so that you have enough able-bodied employees to keep up operations.

This year will be discussed for generations to come, once everyone is able to get together as an industry and talk over a beverage or three. As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel, remember to stay vigilant with your safety practices and stay safe.

Sam Gazdziak