Many things become clearer when almost everything is locked.
Now, with countries lifting restrictions on their coronavirus little by little and according to their own schedule, often arbitrary, Americans face many confused decisions about what they should and shouldn’t do to protect their health, their livelihoods and neighbors they.
Is it safe now to join the crowd at the beach or eat at a restaurant? To visit elderly parents that you haven’t seen in nearly two months? To reopen a business that is struggling?
In many cases, unsatisfactory answers from experts are: Dependent.
“There will never be a perfect amount of protection,” said Josh Santarpia, a microbiologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center who studies coronavirus. “This is a personal risk assessment. Everyone has to decide, person by person, what risks they want to tolerate. “
Jill Faust, 53, from Council Bluffs, Iowa, said he would hesitate to eat at an indoor restaurant when such a business was allowed to reopen in his community on Friday.
“We have to know in advance what precautions they are taking,” he said, citing the way some restaurants rely on limited seating, tables with a good distance, masks for employees and disposable glasses and plates. Even then, he said, it might not be worth the problem.
“Going to a restaurant for me is a beautiful and relaxing experience where you can sit with people and relax after a long day. If your experience will be limited by all these security issues, why spend money?” she says.
Such decisions will become far more frequent in the coming weeks as officials in Europe and the US move to reopen schools and businesses.
With the crisis easing in many places, France, Spain and Greece were among the latest countries Tuesday to announce a road map to restart their economy. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom said school children could be allowed to return to classrooms in early July, even though an official decision had not been made.
When restrictions are relaxed, health authorities will be closely watching for signs of a virus awakening.
On Tuesday, for example, Germany reported an increase in infection rates since several small businesses were allowed to reopen more than a week ago. But it is too soon to say whether easing is to blame.
Worldwide, confirmed infections reach more than 3 million – including 1 million in the US – and the number of confirmed global deaths reaches 210,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. The actual toll is believed to be much higher due to limited testing, differences in counting the dead and hiding the government.
In the U.S., uncertainty ahead was in the spotlight in Georgia after businesses such as barber shops and tattoo parlors were given the green light to reopen.
Mayor Savannah Van Johnson said people could find the change confusing.
“In fact we are under orders to stay home until April 30,” Johnson said. “But you can finish your nails, you can get a tattoo, you can go to the movies, you can go to the bowling alley. Things like that make people confused. “
The decisions that people make tend to vary greatly depending on where they live, and how close they are to a known group of viruses. In Georgia, where COVID-19 has killed at least 1,000, many new cases are still being reported.
But even in places with lesser known infections, people face difficult choices.
In Omaha, Nebraska, where businesses can reopen next week, teachers Michelle and Mark Aschenbrenner say they want to return to the restaurant they visit often. Mark Aschenbrenner has made an appointment for a long-delayed haircut.
“I think we are four weeks too early,” he said of plans to lift restrictions. But “I thought I might go anyway because we had been stuck at home for seven weeks and we were going crazy.”
With warmer weather attracting more people to explore in the next few weeks, it depends on individuals to be careful.
“You cannot swear that if someone coughs on a beach chair on your left and then you get a gentle breeze that hits you, that you don’t have that kind of exposure,” Dr. Marybeth Sexton, an infectious disease specialist at Emory University School of Medicine.
Even following guidelines for keeping a distance of 6 feet may not be enough. The rule is based on how far the coronavirus, SARS, is spread among aircraft passengers.
When doctors treated more than a dozen COVID-19 patients at the Omaha hospital, researchers found genetic material from the virus at greater distances – on the edges of windows, cellphones, in the aisles and on toilet seats, Santarpia said.
That doesn’t mean people can’t leave. But they must be very careful in doing so, limiting visits with relatives and friends for important moments, said Dr. Emily Landon, who leads infection control at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Mother’s Day – May 10 in the United States – may qualify if you live nearby, he said. But limit the number of people involved and wear masks all the time. Even if you check to make sure everyone present feels good, accept that there will be risks, he said.
In Germany, where lockouts were reduced earlier this month, the number of people infected by each operator has increased from around 0.7 to 0.96 still managed, said Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute. He urged people to keep abiding by distancing social rules, including wearing a mask when on public transportation or shopping.
Elsewhere around the world, New Zealand reported only three new infections Tuesday, and the government loosened the key. Surfers hit the waves at dawn, builders returned to the construction site and the barista started the espresso machine.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said people had done extraordinary work in breaking the chain of transmission but warned they must remain vigilant.
“Maybe there is still burning ash out there, and they have the potential to become a fire again, if we give them a chance,” he said, quoting a microbiologist.
In Australia, hundreds of people returned to waters after Sydney’s Bondi Beach reopened for swimmers and surfers. However, people can use the beach only during the day and must keep their distance from each other. Australia has recorded 83 deaths from the virus, fewer than reported by most U.S. states.
But this virus is still a long-term enemy. The president of the Japan Medical Association, Yoshitake Yokokura, said he thought it would be difficult to hold the Tokyo Summer Olympics which was rescheduled even in 2021 without an effective vaccine.
In a shorter period of time, it depends on individuals and also policy makers to make decisions that will help map the course of the virus.
“I think everyone still needs to use their judgment. I don’t have a book club in my house. “I’m going to see a doctor for an allergy injection because it’s safe to do,” said Landon, a Chicago infection control expert. “You can try and make it political, make it about freedom, but it’s a virus. This is biology. Biology does not negotiate. “
This story has been corrected to show that Jill Faust’s hometown is Council Bluffs, Iowa.
AP Haven Daley video reporter in San Francisco contributed.
Follow the AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak