The starting line in Massachusetts’ race to beat the deadly coronavirus pandemic was March 17, 2020.

That was the date Gov. Charlie Baker imposed severe restrictions on consumers and businesses, shutting down most commerce and leaving more than 300,000 Bay Staters at least temporarily out of work. We were all asked to stay home or avoid contact with others; mask mandates soon followed.

We were urged to forgo birthday parties, graduations and weddings. We were asked to stay away from our families for the holidays. We have not been able to travel, to dine with others, to hug our loved ones we didn’t live with.

Tragically, many of us have been unable to be with those dearest to us in their final hours. And we have not been able to properly pay our respects to those we have lost.

We can all agree on two things.

It has been a terrible 14 months.

We need this to end.

Last week, Gov. Baker offered a finish line to at least the “new normal.” It’s Aug. 1. That’s the date he has set for lifting all coronavirus-related restrictions in the state, provided health trends continue in their current direction.

In fact, the governor said last week, he could reopen the state even sooner if residents continue to wear masks and, more importantly, get vaccinated.

“We felt we were sure we would be in a good place by Aug. 1,” Baker said Thursday, “but if the people of Massachusetts continue to be as aggressive and as enthusiastic about getting vaccinated as they’ve been, we may have the ability to do that sooner.”

We urge everyone to take the governor up on his offer.

Please continue to wear your mask at indoor public places and outdoors when you can’t keep your distance from others.

If you fall ill, get tested to find out for certain if you have COVID-19. If you do, quarantine from family and friends.

And if you haven’t had your COVID-19 shot yet, please make an appointment.

There has been some vaccine hesitancy among those who have had the virus. But even if you had the disease, medical experts say you are far more fully protected with a vaccine.

Some who have had one shot have also declined another, fearing the side effects that often strike with a second dose and can lead to time out of work. But again the experts say it takes two shots of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines to be as fully protected as possible.

Think of this another way: Bringing the finish line a little closer could also make for a less restrictive, more enjoyable summer vacation. Our fellow Bay Staters in the tourist areas of Cape Cod and the Berkshires would certainly appreciate that.

But remember, we are not at the finish line yet. Please continue to wear masks and avoid close contact with others. Follow the protocols a little while longer. And get vaccinated as soon as you can.

We can all agree that we need this to end.

We want to celebrate birthdays, graduations, weddings and the holidays. We want to see loved ones that we have missed for more than a year and give them a long hug.

It has been a terrible 14 months.

But the finish line to this long, grueling marathon is in sight, if we just keep up the pace a little while longer.

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