Is your city reopening? 9 ways life could change where you live

The coronavirus pandemic may change the way we act, socialize and go about our day for a long time.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
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Jessica Dolcourt
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Will you still need to wear a face mask when the world reopens?

James Martin/CNET

I live in one of the more locked-down counties in America. Construction has only just restarted and I can now do curbside pickup from more cafes, restaurants and businesses. But for the most part, mandatory face mask usage and other precautions are still in place, and people seem to largely stay at home.

Already, I see signs of change that could become part of the new normal for a long time, perhaps until we get a coronavirus vaccine or achieve herd immunity. As lockdown restrictions ease in phases in the US and around the world, there are some major lifestyle adaptations we'll need to get used to, particularly enforced social distancing and limited capacity most anywhere we go. Don't expect major sporting events and music festivals to restart anytime soon, either, at least not with the same degree of crowds.

Just this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave guidelines for reopening for reopening the nation phase by phase (PDF), including interim suggestions for restaurants and schools. There are other measures we might continue to see, too, as the coronavirus pandemic continues and people brace for a potential second wave of infections

For example: Service workers wearing face masks. Plexiglass dividers between you and everyone else. Temperature-taking at schools. Trying on clothes while wearing plastic gloves. Coronavirus antibody testing before everyone but the most essential workers are cleared to return to the office. Every city might be different, but here are some changes we're likely to see. from restaurants to gyms.

Read more: Coronavirus antibody testing: What to know about serology tests and antigens


Face masks could become the new norm. 

Chase Evans/CNET

Face masks everywhere, and the side-eye if you don't wear one

Employees at the grocery stores and restaurants where I live are required to wear face masks or other coverings of some sort. My local Target and every market I've been to also require patrons to cover their nose and mouth before entering. The city bus system posted signs saying it'll enforce the rule.

The CDC's guidelines for reopening America also stipulate mask-wearing for teachers in schools, employees in factories, businesses and mass transit. While the CDC document doesn't specifically recommend that patrons wear masks, it's likely that some municipalities and agencies will encourage the practice, even if they don't bar you from entering.

I suspect that mask-wearing could go further, in some places bridging into social expectation. I've heard stories of shoppers chiding others in line for not wearing a face mask, and I've seen many people walk, jog, ride bikes and even drive with the windows rolled up while wearing a face covering. (Which would make sense if they're sharing that small enclosed environment with others, for example if they're Lyft or Uber drivers.) 

In some parts of the world, mask wearing was already more common anyhow, when the wearer has a cold or wants to limit the amount of pollen or pollution breathed in. I could imagine the practice becoming more accepted where I live, especially until COVID-19 antibody testing, contact tracing and coronavirus treatment therapies become more widespread.

Read more: Here's where you can buy a face mask right now

Watch this: Measuring coronavirus in wastewater could help predict future outbreaks

Restaurants and bars: Limited hours, service, capacity?

Many restaurants are already open for some combination of delivery, take-out or curbside pickup. As restaurants reopen, those that allow dine-in customers may place patrons 6 feet apart and restrict capacity by, say, half, in order to uphold social distancing. You might order through a plexiglass divider at a counter, or your server might stand at a distance or wear a mask. 

Menus might be disposable, or laminated and disinfected after each use. Servers could also wear plastic gloves. In the warmer months, it's possible we'll see outdoor patios opened to a limited number of seated orders, with tables and chairs sanitized between parties. Limited hours are probable. In Austria, for example, restaurants, cafes and bars began reopening this week, media outlets like The Guardian reported.

The most significant challenge dine-in service faces is that you can't wear a face mask while eating. If the coronavirus can be transmitted through droplets when you speak and breathe, in addition to spreading via coughs and sneezes, eating indoors could be riskier. It also isn't clear if air conditioning causes air flow patterns that could cause customers who didn't realize they were infected to infect healthy diners. It's worth noting that the World Health Organization has said airplane ventilation systems present a fairly low risk of transmission.

Watch this: Vaccines, antibody tests, treatments: The science of ending the pandemic

How shopping malls come back to life, changed

Simon, the largest shopping mall property in the US, announced that it would reopen malls in over 20 states this week. Not every store within the mall may open at once. For example, individual retailers may choose to keep their doors shut. To help limit the spread of COVID-19, single-use items like shopping bags and coffee cups will be used exclusively, and shoppers will be encouraged to wear face masks. Employees definitely will be.

Store hours will be limited, for example from 11 a.m to 7 p.m. most nights, closing early so cleaners can rigorously disinfect common areas and bathrooms. Every other urinal will be off-limits to encourage social distancing, and there are protocols in place if employees get sick. 

You may have to line up outside a shop to go into a crowded shop, and it isn't clear if there will be rules about touching items or trying on clothes. 


Like many businesses, gyms put people -- and their bodily fluids -- in close proximity.

César Salza/CNET

Airplanes and airports: More pleasant, or less so?

Face masks after you've passed through security and during your long flight? How about limited meals or only bottled water to drink? Most airline lounges are closed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. One journalist described his recent flight as "worse than I thought it would be," describing withering looks and frayed nerves, despite the fringe benefits of no middle seats, quiet airports and quick trips through security. Here's what the major US airlines are doing now.

Gyms, hair salons, movie theaters

Essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and hardware stores are open, but smaller retail shops, like clothing boutiques, hair salons and malls, often aren't. It's likely that as these stores reopen, the number of customers allowed in at the same time could be based on the size of the retail space, which is the current situation in Germany, according to The Guardian

As with American shopping malls, hygiene precautions could also be put in place, like sanitizing your hands before and after leaving the business, and wearing face masks or coverings. It's possible that some services might be temporarily suspended if they put people's faces too close together.

Senior hours are already in effect in many grocery stores -- giving people over 65 the opportunity to shop before the general population could carry over to these other retailers. 


Many businesses have begun using cashless payments and a safety precaution.

James Martin/CNET

Schools and universities: Staggered schedules?

The question on every parent's lips: When will schools reopen? In some countries, it already has, with students subject to temperature checks, distance seating and rules about how often to wash hands and how many children can play together at once. Denmark was among the first European countries to reopen schools, at least for younger students. Beijing and Shanghai reopened classes for older students, with both teachers and students wearing face masks. 

Where schools are closed, school administrators, government officials and teachers are all scrambling to create policies that keep students from potentially transmitting the virus when doors reopen. Some municipalities are exploring the potential to stagger student meals and schedules throughout the day.

In the US, the chancellor of the California State University system announced this past week that colleges will not physically reopen for the fall term, and that new and returning students will take distance courses, with some very specific exceptions. 


Many trails are closed to discourage people from gathering.

James Martin/CNET

Beaches, hiking and nature trails

The Grand Canyon and large parts of Yosemite National Park are closed as part of the National Park Service's coronavirus prevention efforts, but some will see phased reopening, for instance, Yellowstone National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains

Many local beaches and nature trails are closed too, to discourage groups of people from congregating. Meanwhile, in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis has given municipalities the authority to reopen the economy and outdoor spaces, with social distancing practices in place. Jacksonville's mayor officially reopened beaches during set hours and limited gatherings to 50 people. 

Concerts, sports, amusement parks and other major events

The state of Georgia is lifting lockdown restrictions that would see gyms, tattoo parlors, hair salons and elective medical procedures reopen as long as distancing and hygiene guidelines are enforced.  

Meanwhile, major gatherings worldwide continue to be canceled, including Germany's iconic annual Oktoberfest celebration, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and most major sporting events. Amusement parks like Disneyland and music festivals that attract large crowds are also closed, canceled or postponed until further notice. 

However, some hope for sports fans. In Germany, football (soccer) matches have begun again, with heightened hygiene regulations, and stadiums without live fans.

Watch this: New ventilator gets us ready for a second or third wave of coronavirus

Lockdown could happen again, we're warned

One continuous refrain from public health officials is that reopening economic and social life too soon could trigger a resurgence in coronavirus cases and deaths related to the COVID-19 disease. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned of continued outbreaks if states open prematurely. 

Meanwhile, Germany's chancellor, Angela Merkel, lifted restrictions, but warned that a second wave of infections could come. She echoed the words of WHO leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who said in a coronavirus briefing last month that "lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence." 

It happened in Singapore, which was thought to have the coronavirus outbreak contained and under control before more cases erupted. In China, a spike in positive cases has reportedly resulted from travelers reintroducing the virus upon their return, and some areas in Northern China have entered lockdown following reports of new coronavirus infections, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Whichever phase of reopening you're in, keep in mind these seven things you shouldn't expect to do when lockdown ends, 16 practical coronavirus tips to help you stay safe in public and information about what to do if someone you live with gets sick.

Coronavirus reopenings: How it looks as lockdowns ease around the world

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.