Those odd-looking, animate objects you’re beginning to see again in the stands at college and pro football games are called people.

Time was when actual human beings packed stadiums in the fall to cheer the home team.

And, of course, boo the referees.

In North Carolina, COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed to the point where a maximum of 7% of socially distanced football fans are now allowed to see games in person.

Meanwhile, as the News & Record’s Nancy McLaughlin reported Sunday, the hour many of us are accustomed to spending together before kickoff is making a modest comeback of its own.

Some houses of worship in North Carolina have begun to resume indoor services.

Under the state’s newest and more relaxed COVID-19 guidelines, churches, mosques and synagogues must limit gatherings to 30% occupancy or 100 people, whichever is less.

Some faith communities have attacked public health restrictions as an affront to their freedom of religion.

Their frustration is understandable. But the science is clear: Indoor spaces where people traditionally gather closely for an hour (or longer) while singing, hugging and shaking hands are tailor-made for spreading the coronavirus.

“It’s not worth one of my members getting sick,” the Rev. Ray Calhoun of Community Chapel Baptist Church told the News & Record.

“Some people,” he added, “are still afraid to get out of their cars.”

Gov. Roy Cooper had limited church services to no more than 10 people indoors, but a federal judge voided his order. Later, a federal judge’s order allowed churches to reopen.

“The record, at this admittedly early stage of the case, reveals that the Governor appears to trust citizens to perform non-religious activities indoors (such as shopping or working or selling merchandise) but does not trust them to do the same when they worship together indoors,” U.S. District Court Judge James C. Dever III said in his ruling.

But we should sip these sweet tastes of Life As It Used to Be very carefully.

It is easy to get too comfortable and to forget that the pandemic is far from over. And to make costly mistakes.

Also, even as the state was trying to ease its way toward some semblance of normal life, COVID-19 has not cooperated.

Although overall cases in North Carolina had dropped on Sunday, 1,109 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized, the most hospitalizations since early August.

This is why the Rev. Jennifer Copeland of the N.C. Council of Churches described this as “a time when more caution is needed and not less.”

Copeland cited “super spreader” incidents that result in a cluster of coronavirus cases, including one traced to a choir performance.

“Some of the things we value,” Copeland said, “are dangerous for us right now.”

And this is why even in reopening its sanctuary in May, St. John’s Anglican Church rightly has erred on the side of caution.The sanctuary is frequently and thoroughly cleaned. Aside from family members, worshippers maintain at least 6 feet of social distance. Parishioners chant and sing through masks. The collection plate is no longer passed throughout the pews, but placed on a stand.

So, whether it’s football or faith (some people confuse the two), the path back to public gatherings has begun.

But this is a long, slow journey on a thin sheet of ice.

We have to be careful.

Or we’ll consign ourselves to a “Groundhog Day” of endless advances and retreats.

In other words, because we can doesn’t always mean we should.

Lead us not into temptation …

Today’s editorial is from The Greensboro News & Record. The views expressed are not necessarily those of this newspaper.