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As Coronavirus Restrictions Ease, Many Still Wary

A baseball field in Glenside, Pa., remains closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Jeff Brady
A baseball field in Glenside, Pa., remains closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

As states around the country begin lifting stay-at-home orders, individuals face their own choice over whether it feels safe to resume activities we all used to take for granted.

We asked NPR listeners to tell us how they are making these decisions and nearly 250 people responded.

In general, it's clear that even as local officials lift restrictions, many people plan to wait longer before resuming their old routines.

"As long as there are new cases, I think it's not really safe," says Naomi Silas, a freelance graphic designer and graduate student in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended her "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order through May 15, with some changes. For example golfing and boating are allowed now. But Silas says even going to a park with her 8-year-old son doesn't feel comfortable yet.

"Because there's just too many people and you can never be too sure. I think especially when the weather is really nice here in Michigan, people get kind of careless," Silas says.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's stay-at-home order expired this past week. Businesses can open if they follow physical distancing and other guidelines.

Still, on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, Camille Stein is taking more precautions than Montana recommends. That means more hours at home with her three daughters, who typically are busy with sports.

Stein plans to maintain restrictions for a few weeks and monitor the number of COVID-19 cases. She's also still deciding what to do this summer when her daughters usually are swimming

"That's something we're looking at too [that] we're nervous about. Would we even want to send our kids to swimming?" wonders Stein.

Some NPR listeners told us they haven't had the luxury of sheltering in place during the coronavirus pandemic. Marnie Shale lives in Bloomington, Ind., and was stocking grocery shelves even as other businesses were closed.

"People were not staying home from the grocery store, in fact it was extremely crowded. So I was on my knees and people are above me, reaching over to get things... So I thought well, I'm not isolated to begin with," Shale says.

She's also a nurse and plans to start a new job at a long-term care facility soon. Without the ability to shelter in place, Shale says she looks forward to eating out in restaurants again. The only things she's not comfortable doing are long distance travel such as flying or taking a cruise.

In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp was one of the last to issue stay-at-home orders and he's among the first to reopen businesses, including nail and hair salons.

"I wasn't pleased with the decision to open us back up," says Regina Ellis, co-owner of Esuites, a salon in Albany.

Ellis says she knows people who have died from the coronavirus. While she's sympathetic to workers who need to earn a living, she's watching infection rates and plans to wait a few more weeks before going back to work herself.

Ellis says her customers understand.

"They don't want to come to the salon just to look good — to look good in a casket," she says.

The state of Arizona also is starting to lift restrictions on some retail businesses, though Gov. Doug Ducey has extended social distancing guidelines through May 15.

South of Phoenix in the city of Casa Grande, Episcopal Priest Dave Rickert says he's sticking with online-only services for now.

"I'm going to go a couple Sundays, let my other parishes — my sister and brother parishes — kind of be guinea pigs," Rickert says.

When it feels safe to resume services he's thinking about changes, such as removing some pews to create more distance between people.

Across the country decisions governors make get a lot of attention. But it's clear that millions of individual decisions also will determine how quickly we all return to our normal routines.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jeff Brady is a National Desk Correspondent based in Philadelphia, where he covers energy issues and climate change. Brady helped establish NPR's environment and energy collaborative which brings together NPR and Member station reporters from across the country to cover the big stories involving the natural world.
Liz Baker

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