Home CoronaVirus The American states will reopen, but are the Americans really ready?

The American states will reopen, but are the Americans really ready?



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Over the next few days, life in some states will begin to return to normal.

In South Carolina, the governor announced the reopening of many stores and flea markets. Beaches in Florida can accommodate sun worshipers. In Minnesota, golf courses, marinas and ranges are geared up for sports enthusiasts.

Some officials may think that we are ready to rebound after the coronavirus crisis, but many citizens are not so sure.

Although an exhausted economy needs businesses to reopen, the nation remains on the defensive. Whether it’s customers who aren’t quite ready to party with friends or business owners who need weeks to implement security measures, the general feeling seems to be that of ‘a deep culture shock.

“I don’t know anyone who feels ready to rock and roll,” says Jamie Weeks, CEO of Atlanta-based Honors Holdings, which operates 120 Orangetheory gyms in six states. That includes Georgia, where Governor Brian Kemp even fired President Donald Trump for reopening gymnasiums, bowling alleys and hair salons.

Jamie Weeks, CEO of Honors Holdings, operates Orangetheory gyms in Georgia and other states. Weeks will wait for the reopening despite the fact that the Georgian governor has pushed businesses to restart. Weeks is concerned about the health of its staff and its customers. (Photo: courtesy of Jamie Weeks)

“If the ball is now in my court, I will use this 24-second clock,” said Weeks, who hopes to gradually unlock its doors by mid-May. “I will dribble before I make a decision. “

Weeks aren’t the only ones feeling hesitant. NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll released Sunday found 58% of voters fear restrictive measures will be lifted too soon, risking a second wave of epidemics, compared with 32% who are more concerned that the measures would remain in place, which would risk further economic hardship.

Experts say reopening mosaic across the country not only shows health care professionals’ concerns about a possible increase in virus cases, but also jeopardizes a hard-won sense of solidarity that has made integral to keeping everyone focused on the common goal of flattening the curved virus.

“Societies are based on social contracts, which we all have to agree on to make them work,” said Jeff Hancock, professor of communication at Stanford University. “For some time now, we’ve been following the same set of self-quarantine rules. Without them now there will be pushbacks and tensions. ”

Hancock has done regular behavior and attitude studies throughout the coronavirus crisis. An initial discovery revealed that when states adopted shelter rules on the spot, anxiety levels actually dropped.

People felt good, there was a unified plan, he said. Generally speaking, we have all been together, 6 feet apart, to wear masks, to be good neighbors.

But when the governors of various states announced an imminent reopening of certain companies, that feeling that we were all walking in the same direction disappeared, said Elissa Epel, professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp visits a makeshift hospital. Kemp plans to open some businesses in his state despite criticism from President Donald Trump. (Photo: Ron Harris, AP)

“There is a beauty when we all have the same rules, but if now some people create their own new rules, it will be very delicate and maybe even hostile,” says Elissa Epel, professor of psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco. .

Now new value judgments may come into play, she says. Should a business owner who chooses not to reopen be praised for protecting their employees and customers or criticized for not helping the economy?

Does a buyer who does not wear a mask or keep a distance help relieve fear or risk infecting others in the store?

If employees’ jobs have returned but they remain concerned about the virus, should they be congratulated and compensated financially for staying at home or penalized for this?

Epel describes this now routine ritual of two people crossing on a sidewalk, when you can even enter the street to keep the distance. Polite smiles are usually exchanged.

“If that same scene starts happening with someone without a mask that gets too close, people can sense that the others are careless and that will make them angry,” she said. “We can’t all do our own thing. “

Reopening requires ‘sharp scalpels »

Another imminent concern about progressive reopeners is that they put business owners and customers in a position where they may have to open and close several times if the virus re-emerges this fall in combination with the regular flu.

“There is a price to pay for reopening too soon that goes beyond the economic framework and is measured in human lives,” says Gregory Poland, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

“The big tension is how we manage this,” he says. “It should be a delicate and deliberate choreography to start reopening, not a place for blunt hammers but for sharp scalpels. “

Some groups may pay a much higher price for a botched reopening.

While some worked in jobs that allowed them to work from home, others struggled in health care and life-threatening blue-collar jobs. Still others – about 26 million Americans in the past few weeks – have applied for unemployment.

A sign in Zionsville, Ind., Announces that FedEx is hiring. About 26 million Americans applied for unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic. The jobs available are often positions such as delivery personnel, which puts these employees at greater risk of exposure than those who can work from home. (Photo: Michael Conroy, AP)

While a slow reopening of businesses open to the public could be a crucial step in restarting the economy, it could also be “a means for government to shift the economic burden from itself and its services to the people”, said Joshua Greene, professor. of Psychology at Harvard University and author of “Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them. “

Greene says that for many citizens, reopening before there is a vaccine or treatment for those who get COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the virus, will introduce moral dilemmas that add to the toll emotional and financial of the pandemic.


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“The officials are basically telling us, ‘OK, you’re free to do it now’, but some will say, ‘I don’t want to risk harming myself or those I love’,” he said. “It’s like the government is saying now,” Well, if you’re staying at home, that’s your problem. “”

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This dilemma may fall harder on the poor and people of color, a population who have suffered a disproportionate blow from viral infections and death.

“Those of us who have the privilege of being able to stay at home and keep our families safe are in a very different position from those who now have more pressure to return to work and put themselves at risk, and here in Georgia, it is along the race and the class when you talk about jobs in the service sector, ”says Michelle vanDellen, associate professor of social psychology at the University of Georgia in Athens.

vanDellen fears that the gradual reopening of the state will only widen the gap of inequality. She hopes the verdict will be brutal.

“In a few weeks, everyone will be able to say,” I told you, “in one way or another,” she said. “Success means an absence of problems. If we make a wrong decision, a second wave of infections will increase. “

“I need income”, but I can’t rush

Justin Amick doesn’t want his high-end Atlanta night spots to be part of a coronavirus resurgence. This is why, as much as he would like to open the painted brooch and the painted duck, he holds out.

“I’m impatient, I need some income, but I feel like we have a chance to reopen it well,” said Amick. “If I have to reopen before the public is ready to support my business, we can never reopen. “

Amick has a plan for a possible reopening. This involves ensuring that staff have enough masks and probably a temperature reading at each entry. Cash transactions will be minimized.

The Painted Duck bar seats will be spaced. Some of the club’s interactive busbars may need to be closed. Since the Painted Pin mixes fine cuisine with bowling, it will consider getting rid of shared bowling shoes and keeping groups of bowlers a few lanes apart.

Justin Amick runs two high-end nightlife venues in the Atlanta area, both of which are very tactile environments offering bar games and bowling. Amick is waiting to reopen his clubs until they can be made safe for customers and employees. “The comfort level isn’t quite there yet,” he says. (Photo: courtesy of Heidi Geldhauser)

“The battle against the virus is not over, and the comfort level for going out is not yet there,” he said. “We have to come back to life at some point, but each person has to make an individual decision to adapt to their own situation. And no one should be tried for it. “

In its gymnasiums in Georgia, Weeks plans to distribute more than 50,000 masks to visiting employees and members. There will be longer gaps between fitness classes to allow for deep cleansing. The common lobby areas will be managed in order to limit congestion.

Weeks admits he’s been going through a range of emotions since the virus sent people inside, “from” I can’t believe how stupid people are “to” There is no manual for that and I must respect these decisions. “”

Weeks says that when he visited his office in a high-rise tower, he let a woman ride alone in front of him. She thanked him. “But what if five people want to come in soon, how am I going to feel about it?” I’m not sure yet, ”he says.

For weeks and more in the states where aspects of a reopening will take place this weekend, the way Americans feel comfortable going back to their old lives will be revealed.

“I would love to do nothing more than take a walk in public with my wife and two young daughters, but many people feel what I am doing, that is to say that I do not need that to at the moment, things are still too hot, ”explains Weeks. “Next week will be interesting. “

Follow the USA TODAY national correspondent Marco della Cava: @marcodellacava


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