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COVID-19

As states lift restrictions, are people going back to stores and restaurants?

Marielle Segarra Jun 12, 2020
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People dine on a restaurant patio in Connecticut in late May. Some people feel more comfortable dining outside at a restaurant but aren't ready to sit in a dining room yet. John Moore/Getty Images
COVID-19

As states lift restrictions, are people going back to stores and restaurants?

Marielle Segarra Jun 12, 2020
Heard on:
People dine on a restaurant patio in Connecticut in late May. Some people feel more comfortable dining outside at a restaurant but aren't ready to sit in a dining room yet. John Moore/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has decided to lift many of the state’s remaining restrictions on stores and restaurants, even as Georgia’s coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to climb.

Meanwhile, other states are seeing a jump in cases, including Arizona, Texas, Florida and California. A month ago, I talked to folks around the country about whether they were willing to go back to stores and restaurants as they reopened. I checked back in to see how things have changed.

A lot can change in a month. States have relaxed their restrictions, and many of us have relaxed, too.

When I last talked to Collin Adams, who lives in Kingsport, Tennessee, he and his wife were not going out to restaurants. They’ve started to make exceptions — like for their 10th anniversary a couple weeks ago.

“We made sure we kind of went not during a peak time,” Adams said. “[We] kind of pulled into the parking lot and looked to see if there was a wait time or anything. It was actually very, very well done.”

It wasn’t crowded, and the servers were wearing masks.

“In the back of my mind the whole time was ‘should I be doing this?'” Adams said. “I won’t say it was the most enjoyable experience.”

In Nashville, Dana Franks said she isn’t going out much. It kind of depends on how careful she thinks the restaurant or store is being. She eats at a nearby Waffle House.

“They have put up shower curtains between the booths, which is kind of weird, but I guess it’s effective,” Franks said. “I feel safe as can be in there because they really do take a lot of care.”

She’s also gone to the shoe store and tried on some sandals. She’s not too worried about transmission through her feet.

Then there’s James Smith in Phoenix. His sister had the virus more than a month ago and she’s still recovering. He has eaten at one restaurant, outdoors. He’s not comfortable with sitting inside. 

“We just saw notices from two restaurants saying, ‘We had somebody here with COVID, we’re going to close down,'” Smith said.

None of the folks I talked to said they’ve gone back to normal. They’re just not quite there yet.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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