COVID-19

Stores and restaurants are reopening, but should you go back?

Marielle Segarra May 11, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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A waitress wearing gloves and a mask carries food at a Tennessee restaurant on April 27. Tennessee was one of the first states to reopen restaurants. Jason Kempin/Getty Images
COVID-19

Stores and restaurants are reopening, but should you go back?

Marielle Segarra May 11, 2020
A waitress wearing gloves and a mask carries food at a Tennessee restaurant on April 27. Tennessee was one of the first states to reopen restaurants. Jason Kempin/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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Yesterday, Collin Adams’ wife went to Cracker Barrel — the restaurant/country store chain — to pick up some takeout. They live in Tennessee.

“And my wife said it was absolutely packed,” he said. “People were there celebrating Mother’s Day, and the only people she saw wearing masks were the employees.”

Adams said the idea of sitting down at a restaurant right now fills him with existential dread. Also, he’s a pastor. 

“You know, if someone gets supersick, I might have to go see someone who’s in their 80s or you know 90s, or I have a woman who’s 103, and the risk just isn’t worth going out for,” he said.

Apple will reopen some of its stores this week, joining other big retailers that are considered nonessential, like Starbucks and Macy’s. But just because consumers can go back to stores and restaurants doesn’t mean they will.

This morning I asked people on Twitter: are you going back yet? Almost everyone said not just no, but absolutely not.  

“It just doesn’t seem safe yet, even if people stay far apart,” said James Smith, who lives in Phoenix. He’s seen what the virus can do. His colleague was hospitalized with it. His sister has it. 

“The symptoms are atrocious,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody.”

Sharisse Johnson lives in Mississippi and says she can’t imagine going back to a restaurant anytime soon.

“To sit in a place for an extended period of time in close quarters with other people? Not interested right now,” she said.

Some other responses:

Even some folks who go to stores are conflicted about it. Dana Franks lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and stopped by Macy’s this weekend to buy some makeup. She felt pretty safe but also kind of guilty. 

“It’s a very weird feeling — like I shouldn’t be there,” she said. “There’s a lot of that feeling right now.”

And when she went out to eat at a restaurant about a week ago, she was alarmed that the establishment seemed to be taking no precautions.

“They, I think, had their own political thoughts on it,” she said. “They didn’t seem to really have any social distancing happening at all in the seating. And they had things on the tables, like they had condiments — all the stuff that I know is not really supposed to be happening. And I just didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t feel safe.”

Of course, if places are packed, that means a lot of people are going out.

Patrick Bell, who lives in Austin, Texas, has gone to some local restaurants and to a shop for a bike repair. He said it actually makes him feel better.

One night he stopped by a local pizza joint. “And there was something about just going in there and chatting with the person behind the counter that was, it was a weirdly like temporary return to normalcy,” Bell said. “I mean, even though we’re both wearing masks, but something about that was pretty calming.”

And does he feel safe?

“Not really concerned,” he said. “As long as I’ve got my face covering, I feel like you know, what more can you do?”

He is now taking his temperature every day or so, just in case.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s going on with extra COVID-19 unemployment benefits?

The latest: President Donald Trump signed an executive action directing $400 extra a week in unemployment benefits. But will that aid actually reach people? It’s still unclear. Trump directed federal agencies to send $300 dollars in weekly aid, taken from the federal disaster relief fund, and called on states to provide an additional $100. But states’ budgets are stretched thin as it is.

What’s the latest on evictions?

For millions of Americans, things are looking grim. Unemployment is high, and pandemic eviction moratoriums have expired in states across the country. And as many people already know, eviction is something that can haunt a person’s life for years. For instance, getting evicted can make it hard to rent again. And that can lead to spiraling poverty.

Which retailers are requiring that people wear masks when shopping? And how are they enforcing those rules?

Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, CVS, Home Depot, Costco — they all have policies that say shoppers are required to wear a mask. When an employee confronts a customer who refuses, the interaction can spin out of control, so many of these retailers are telling their workers to not enforce these mandates. But, just having them will actually get more people to wear masks.

You can find answers to more questions on unemployment benefits and COVID-19 here.

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