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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.