While Melbourne emerges from a two-week lockdown and less than three per cent of Australians are fully vaccinated, former Ballarat residents are adjusting to life in a post-COVID United States.
As the mass vaccination rollout continues across the US, with 43 per cent of the population vaccinated, according to The New York Times, life has started to return to normal for many Americans.
Masks are being discarded in favour of basketball jerseys as some arenas and stadiums are now 100 per cent open to fans for the NBA playoffs and new baseball season.
Luke Parker and Rachael Bott moved to Kansas earlier this year while Mr Parker undertakes PhD studies at the University of Kansas.
Mr Parker said it was eerie to arrive at an empty Los Angeles International Airport in January, but an even stranger experience on the next leg.
"It was very similar to Australia, it was empty and everyone was wearing masks, gloves, hand sanitiser everywhere... My flight only had about 20 people on it, the flight from Sydney to LA ,which normally is a packed flight," he said.
"Then boarding the plane from LA to Kansas, it was full. There was not a spare seat, it was chockers."
With the University of Kansas located in the college town of Lawrence, Mr Parker said the couple was fortunate to live in a more progressive part of the country.
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"The college has a fair impact on that local community and the local district, so it was quite progressive in the fact that there was mask wearing and we actually only stopped wearing masks the day Victoria got them back a couple of weeks ago," he said.
Mr Parker said the vaccine rollout in his county, Douglas County, Kansas, was lightning fast, with the first five priority stages taking just days with the county's mass vaccination centre now closed and most people now getting their jabs at chemists or even Walmart.
"I think when they initially started the rollout, we had to sign up on a website just so we were part of the system and they worked from stage one to stage five and those stages were taking four or five days and they just got through them," he said.
"A few weeks later, there were posts saying, 'I work at the vaccine clinic here and we've got them just sitting here and because they expire because of the refrigeration, if anyone wants a vaccine...' and people were coming from a town across or a county across just to get a jab because we had excess sitting there because everyone in our county was vaccinated," Ms Bott added.
"Uber is offering free rides if you're going to get a vaccine so you don't have the excuse of not being able to get a vaccine, so Uber will pay for your ride."
Now, with close to half the population vaccinated, America is rushing to open up for summer despite averaging 13,412 new cases per day over the last week.
The couple are experiencing America opening up first-hand while they road trip through the country for Mr Parker's PhD research.
"We went to the Grand Ole Opry [in Nashville] and that was one of their first packed shows since COVID and it was full," Mr Parker said.
"There was not a seat, no masks or anything and there was no QR code or check in. It was just business as normal."
Ms Bott said even at the height of the pandemic, she felt as though America was still relatively open.
"Last month, we went to Disney World in Florida. The week after we were there, they jumped to nearly full capacity. When we were there, they were at like 35 per cent capacity.
"We're were still in lines, but we needed to wear a mask in the line or when you were on the ride or indoors, but other than that, we didn't have to but you sort of got the vibe that it was just not business as usual before that anyway."
The couple said one of the key differences they noticed between Australia and America was the attitude towards the pandemic, with COVID-19 rarely mentioned as part of the daily news cycle.
"We only came over in January and every day you were getting alerts on Facebook that Daniel Andrews was speaking or that there's been an outbreak of one case here or something there and you were always on, like it was always playing in the background, everyone was always talking about it," Mr Parker said.
"Whereas here, you might go three or four weeks and not notice a difference or talk to someone or see someone that would mention COVID."
The couple could not say approach was better as Australia and America were in such different situations throughout the pandemic.
"It makes sense from the Australian perspective to lock it down and not let it in and it also makes sense from the American perspective of they've rolled out bulk vaccinations and now if you're not vaccinated, that's sort of your call," Mr Parker said.
"The moving forward culture here is preferable because it feels more positive and hopeful that you're gonna move forward and things are opening again and you get a vaccine. It feels like you've got that normality. It changed our attitude a lot, we felt lighter like we can actually go to a restaurant and Luke can have meetings on campus again face-to-face because they're vaccinated, all those types of things," Ms Bott added.
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