Some states are progressing slowly towards reopening their economies while others are progressing more rapidly towards reopening.
SAN FRANCISCO – The nation’s disjointed approach to reopening has revealed two Americas.
One is populated by people who want to regain freedom of movement and restart the economy, and another with people whose concerns related to COVID-19 keep them safe. And often they live side by side in a country shaken by 1.2 million cases of coronavirus and 75,000 deaths.
In California, which reopens its doors with caution, Jeff Gourley has attracted both warmth and praise to welcome customers from the Nomads canteen in San Clemente near San Diego.
“I’m not an idiot, I’m not unfriendly,” he says. “But we can no longer quarantine healthy people. “
Meanwhile, in Georgia, where Governor Brian Kemp lobbied for faster opening, Atlanta public relations manager Jenny Moss is not ready to go back to her old ways.
“My answer is quite simple,” she says. “From the time the lockout started and where we are now, nothing has changed. So I take precautions. ”
Reopening of the coronavirus:View a map of the end of the state lock
You can query any city or town in the United States and find examples of both attitudes. Some are shaped by political beliefs, others by economic challenges and comfort in the face of risk. But despite disagreements over speed, the national reopening takes place.
Analysis of the US TODAY data on mobile phone use shows that people in each state have become more active in recent weeks following a significant reduction in mobility that reached its lowest point in mid- April.
But many Americans remain cautious.The data, which comes from the location data company SafeGraph and is based on the recorded movements of 16 million anonymous phones, reveals that the rebound is happening much more slowly than in many states.sudden move to a shelter in place, with American mobility at less than half of its lowest level compared to February.
States also do not reopen at the same rate. Mobility data shows that the 10 states with the lowest departure rates are on the west and east coasts, areas where some governors have been aggressive about self-quarantines.
Of these, seven are in the top 10 total deaths, including New York and New Jersey, severely affected, where, to date, 35,000 people have died from COVID-19, the pulmonary complications of the virus .
In contrast, the seven states that are almost halfway back to normal are in the plains and the southeast, where the number of deaths was lower and leaders were often more hesitant to restrict movement and keen to resume trade.
Health officials warn that returnsome form of normal may not be without consequences. Authorities are monitoring infection rates in the event that restoration of on-site shelter orders is deemed necessary.
“It would be a massive miscalculation and a fundamental misunderstanding of the biology of how this virus works to think that we can go back to our old lives,” said Larry Chang, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University.in Maryland.
Chang says a lack of a national reopening strategy has left local officials to make their own rules. However, the mutant and contagious nature of the coronavirus will continue to pose a threat if group contact is restarted too early.
“Is there a community where people don’t get the flu?” No, ”he says. “Some parts of the country may think that this virus does not have them or cannot or will not affect them, but the virus will find them. “
Survey: Americans more worried about reopening too quickly than not opening quickly enough
New “Trump” States Open Their Doors
Political trends are proving to be a factor when it comes to leaving home, according toresearchers from Stanford University in California, whose study has revealed a persistent partisan divide between those who follow social distancing guidelines.
“Residents of the most pro-Trump counties reduced their visits to nearby points of interest to about 42%, while that number was 64% in less” misleading “places,” said Levi Boxell, graduate student from Stanford , who worked on research. .
Boxell says people seem to base their decisions less on government orders and more on a mixture of risk perception and economic incentives.
The tables are marked for the social distance to highway 55 Burgers Shakes & Fries, April 27, 2020, in Nolensville, Tennessee. (Photo: Mark Humphrey, AP)
USA TODAY analysis confirms that county and state residents who voted the most for President Donald Trump in 2016 left their homes more frequently than others during peak quarantine and are now closer to returning to activity levels prior to COVID-19.
Lindy Thompson owns the Sage Matt Café in the city of Miami, north Texas, a hub of the most pro-Trump county in the country where the president garnered 95% of the vote in 2016.
Texas has 1,100 deaths from coronavirus. Residents of Miami and surrounding Texas county are roughly halfway through February activity levels compared to the April low, according to analysis by USA TODAY.
Although Thompson, 39, reopened his restaurant the day Governor Greg Abbott authorized it on May 1, she says on-site shelter orders are “not a red or blue problem here, people have taken it seriously even though we are in rural areas. ”
His customers return slowly, although take-out is still popular. To stay safe, the tables are spaced six feet apart and no condiments can be shared.
“And I’m OCD about my cleaning,” she says.
What are the rules of social distancing in my state ?: Access to restaurants, shops and outdoor activities is increasing
Another Trump fortress in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, florist Sarah Morrison, 33, recently reopened her Tuscaloosa flower shop in time for Mother’s Day. She has brought back most of her employees and so far the business looks promising.
Morrison does not consider himself political, but says that she appreciates that the president “leans so that the states decide for themselves, because it is different here in New York”.
Alabama has killed 350 people with coronavirus. In Tuscaloosa County, 75% of phone users left their home in the seven days ending May 1, slightly behind the 82% who did in February.
Sarah Morrison recently reopened her flower shop in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, just in time for Mother’s Day. She continues to take precautions by limiting the number of customers allowed in her store, but overall, she is happy to be able to restart her business after the losses suffered as a result of the coronavirus shutdowns. (Photo: courtesy of Destiny Duncan)
The city’s main concern, as always, is football, and many are concerned about the economic impact if the University of Alabama’s legendary Crimson Tide team does not play this fall.
“We can’t stop living for fear of the virus, but we hold our breath in football,” said Morrison.
Back to business but with masks
Other snapshots from across the country show this same mixture of excitement and circumspection at the thought of quitting the coronavirusrestrictions.
In Roswell, Georgia, Mikaela Cupp, executive director of Hugo’s Oyster Bar, was pleased to see friends and neighbors returning to the restaurant, even though they were seated six feet apart. Its staff all wear masks, although most of them are not. More than 1,300 Georgians died from COVID-19.
“The community is excited, there is this pent up energy” we want to get out of the house, “she said. “And people are generally always very respectful, do their part, keep their distance.”
In Gulfport, Florida, Ester Venouziou “pretends the governor said nothing” and continues to distance himself for the next few weeks, despite efforts by Governor Ron DeSantis to reopen restaurants and beaches in the state where 1600 people have died to date.
Florida attorney Daniel Uhlfelder visited beaches in Walton County, Florida to protest what he called the premature reopening of state beaches amid the coronavirus pandemic . (Photo: Photo courtesy of 98Republic)
“People on social media are criticizing the choices,” says Venouziou, who promotes local businesses. “Some say,” Let’s start the economy and go to the stores, “and others say,” You are greedy and don’t care about our health. Everyone does what they think is right, so it’s frustrating to see people attacked. ”
In Highland, Michigan, Mike Maher never shut down Maher Feed & Pet Supply because its products were essential to rural livestock owners. Michigan has recorded more than 4,300 deaths from coronavirus.
“Most people are careful,” says Maher, whose employees wear masks and keep their distance.
He has not seen his mother for six weeks for the sake of his health. And the virus has wreaked havoc on other business owners.
“The neighborhood we live in is normally vibrant, but it was a ghost town. We are concerned about the stores that remain closed, ”he said.
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In a city, “tale of two cities”
The nation’s disparate attitudes and approach to reopening – not just state by state, but often county by county – have resulted in a society for all which has sometimes resulted in cavalier and even violent behavior.
Take the example of New York City, where despite a staggering death toll of 20,000, some young residents recently went to the parks to bask in the spring sun and call the police in response.
Or the Michigan client who, after being asked to wear a mask, wiped his nose on the employee’s shirt before being arrested.
Or the seaside towns of southern California who are in a tug of war with the state’s governor over access to this iconic surf.
Barber Patrick Watkins of Jet Cuts & Styles finishes a haircut on Darrell Stevens at the reopened hair salon in Athens, Georgia, April 24, 2020. (Photo: Joshua L. Jones, Athens Banner-Herald / USA TODAY Network)
“It’s almost the story of two cities here in San Clemente,” said city councilor Gene James. “You have a dynamic group of young people here for life at the beach, and other older residents who believe that we should continue to build the hut up. “
James says he sympathizes with both views, but takes the side of those who want life to start again. California currently has more than 60,000 cases of coronavirus and approximately 2,500 deaths.
“We have mitigated the spread of the virus here by following all the rules, but my heart is breaking for businesses that are getting lost,” he said. “How long can we shelter there? “
Humans fear the virus, but also FOMO
Humans instinctively lean toward both a desire for normality and a tendency to follow group behavior, says Elissa Epel, professor of psychiatry at the University of California at San Francisco.
“Group thinking is powerful for us humans,” says Epel. “If people feel low risk and start going out for dinner, we have FOMO, fear of missing, we want to get in.” “
But, notes Epel, risk is a relative term. For some Americans, the risk of not going back to the office is boring, but for many, it means the possibility of hunger and homelessness.
Statistics show that for certain ethnic groups, particularly African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans, the risk of getting COVID-19 is accompanied by a significantly higher mortality rate, she said.
“We cannot fully understand the many difficult situations and people’s motivations” as the nation reopens, she said. “There are many different social, financial and political contexts that determine the emergence of two Americas.”
Emilee Young of Austin Lorin, a store in Colleyville, Texas, is organizing tops when the store reopens on April 24. (Photo: Raymond Carlin III, Raymond Carlin III / USA TODAY Network)
The pressure to reopen unjustly endangers the most fragile Americans physically and financially, says Reverend William Barber II, a famous pastor from Goldsboro, North Carolina. He is co-chair of the Campaign for the Poor, which launched an anti-reopening initiative called “Stay put, stay alive, organize.”
“The poor white people and the poor black people are the most exposed to this virus, and now the governors want to send them into this deadly reopening,” says Barber. “It is false and against the best medical advice. “
Denita Jones, 49, is back at work at a medical billing company in Dallas, but is very nervous about it. Jones, who suffers from asthma with her two teenage children, is concerned that her office setting may put her at risk of contracting the virus.
“Three people in my office are wearing masks, maybe 75,” she says. “I see people gathering in cabins. When I asked people to wear a mask when talking to me, I got disdainful looks. “
Dallas County residents have widely embracedTexas self-quarantine decrees in recent weeks, with only 56 percent leaving home at a low point in April, showed data from the US TODAY. They are now about a third of the way back to their pre-COVID-19 activity level.
For Jones, working is a necessity to put food on the table. His city’s gradual push to return to normal frightens him.
“I see people going back to pre-pandemic behavior like everything is fine in the world, and the rest of us are walking on eggs,” she said.
Fears of a second COVID-19 wave
Recent reports indicate that models created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency predict about 200,000 new cases per day by the end of May, a massive jump from the approximately 25,000 cases per day that were the norm during the national lockdown.
In San Clemente, the owner of the Gourley bar says that no one will monitor these statistics more closely than he does.
“I am not a virologist, but I am our cases and our death rates, and these low numbers here have encouraged me to reopen, and I will continue to follow them as closely as I used to, every day,” he says. .
People enjoy the beach amid the new coronavirus pandemic in Huntington Beach, California on April 25, 2020. (Photo: APU GOMES, AFP via Getty Images)
Some 50 percent of residents in Orange County, where San Clemente is located, left their homes at the height of their forties in April, the data said. Activity levels fell only a quarter to normal on May 1.
Some of these revelers come to the Nomads for cold beer and delicious Mexican food. Gourley says he has hired extra security to try to keep customers following social distancing guidelines inside the restaurant and on his deck.
The noisy scene from the Nomads scene last weekend looked so much like the days before the virus, with customers side by side, that the police came to alert Gourley. He asked clients to distance themselves, most of them did.
More: The coronavirus can last 2 years, warns a study. And his second wave could be worse.
Gourley says he is proud that, for the sake of staff and customers, he closed the nomads a few days before the governor of California issued a state-wide warrant on March 19. .
But the San Clemente restaurant says it decided weeks ago, based on the county’s relatively low death rates, that it would reopen on May 1, regardless of Newsom’s decision. Under the circumstances, keeping the doors of the Nomads closed was no longer a viable option, he said.
“I don’t underestimate this virus,” said Gourley. “But for me the question was, how long are we waiting for?” Will this virus disappear after six months, when we have all broken down? We have to live and move on. “
Follow the USA TODAY network journalists Marco della Cava @marcodellacava, Dan Keemahill @dankeemahill and Nick Penzenstadler @npenzenstadler
ABOUT THE FIGURES: USA TODAY used cell phone usage data from SafeGraph for its analysis. The analysis measured the share of users in each state and county who left their home on a typical day in February, before the crisis, how many left their home during the state’s lowest activity level and how many were traveling during the seven days. period ending on Friday. From this, the media calculated the closest states to return to normal mobility levels. To account for variations by day of the week, the analysis used seven-day averages.
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