Loosening the restrictions

Today is the first day pandemic restrictions are eased in Indiana (except in three counties where conditions don’t warrant it yet). Stage 1 was the full stay-at-home order. We’re now in Stage 2, which allows all retail stores to open at half capacity, allows social gatherings to resume at no more than 25 people (with distancing and face masks), and lifts travel restrictions. Religious services can resume this weekend, with distancing. Next Monday, hair and nail salons can reopen by appointment only and with staff wearing masks, and restaurants can open at half capacity. Distancing and masks remain encouraged. People aged 65 and over and anyone with a high-risk medical condition are encouraged to stay home.

West Park Christian Church (crop)
Empty pews at church

I find myself wanting to remain more conservative than the state is allowing. I don’t think the curve was flattened enough here. I worry that we are going to cause a spike in cases. I don’t envision eating in a restaurant or visiting my stylist (oh, how unwieldy my hair is becoming!). You won’t see me shopping except for food and necessities. I’m not going to church.

However, I’m finding it more and more difficult, emotionally, to not see family. Also, I think our children who still live with us are deeply craving contact with friends and family too. Yesterday we decided it was time to take some calculated risks. We had one of our sons over, one who lives alone and has deeply missed us. We allowed another son to have his girlfriend over. There has been some on-the-sly contact between them anyway, and we think that otherwise our family and theirs have honored the stay-at-home order. It was so nice to have everybody here. I think this is going to be our new normal for a while.

We aren’t alone, it seems. NPR reports that the number of Americans who stay home every day has declined steadily in the three weeks since Easter, based on mobile-phone location data. This suggests that social distancing may on the decline. It’s possible, I suppose, that people are practicing good social distancing wherever they’re going.

We’re eager to see Margaret’s dad and my mom, but they’ll have to wait a little longer. They’re both north of age 65 and one has a high-risk health condition. This is where we’re drawing the line for now.

Assuming the indicators state officials are watching stay within tolerances, we will move to Stage 3 on May 24. which loosens restrictions even further. There will be Stages 4 and 5 as well, currently timed for June 14 and July 4. Even at Stage 5, we will still need to socially distance in public.

We’re not going to return fully to normal for some time yet.

One additional pandemic report today, from Christopher May.


36 responses to “Loosening the restrictions”

  1. J P Avatar

    We had a Zoom family get-together yesterday, but that has been the extent of our socializing. As soon as the re-opening announcement was made, my Mrs. and her hairdresser were simultaneously messaging each other. She has been skittish about outside contact, but hair is apparently on another level.

    As for me, we own a set of electric clippers and a No. 8 guard, and I think both will be in my future soon.

    Like you, I don’t see us going to a restaurant any time soon.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I have clippers too but a #4 guard is the max. That’s still a miiiiiiiighty close cut!!

  2. Gerald Greenwood Avatar

    We’re still in lockdown in the UK. But your easing of the regulations certainly sounds a lot less gradual than what we’re expecting here when our time comes.

    It’s hard to know what’s the best way forward, but we can look at the past. During the 1918 pandemic, those countries that locked down quickest, hardest, and longest were the ones whose economies recovered quickest.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m under the impression that we in the US bungled the 1918 pandemic 88 ways to Sunday so we don’t have that experience to lean on.

      1. Khürt Williams Avatar

        If you want a history lesson checkout the CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-pandemic-h1n1.html

        What we are experiecing has all happened before.

  3. Marc Beebe Avatar

    I think it’s silly that we have a couple of provinces relaxing their regulations while their new daily case loads are in the hundreds – with deaths to match. It’s quite absurd. There obviously still is a major problem, but they’re going to ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist.
    Essentially government is abdicating its authority and telling people it’s up to them to stay safe and manage the risks. For that you pay taxes.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Frustrating to be sure.

  4. seatacphoto1951 Avatar

    I walk and cycle miles per week and go to the store when I need food. I wear a mask and know the risks. I am 69 years old. I weigh my enjoyment of life and sanity but know the disease might kill me. When I drive I know I could die also but I weigh the benefits of such an activity and make sure I drive as safely as I can and watch out for the other person. Almost 250,000 a month die in the United States. Much of that is preventable but to do that creates other problems. People will die from this. We just need to have an open conversation from different viewpoints how best to manage those deaths.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s a refreshing perspective. I think a major part of the lockdown was to avoid overwhelming the medical system, ICU beds in particular. Perhaps what Indiana is doing is trying to manage the deaths, but they’re not talking about it openly.

  5. DougD Avatar

    Your state seems to be moving faster than my province. We can get lawncare now, no word on restaurants yet but like you we’re not going anytime soon. We’ve been getting good local takeout every Friday, which is actually more than we ate out before this started.
    We went to visit my dad yesterday, he’ll continue to isolate for a long time. One of our friends had his birthday on the weekend, so 3 families visited over an afternoon. We sat outdoors, brought our own chairs and beverages. So nice to talk to actual people for a change!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Margaret has gone to visit her dad a few times, on the back deck, socially distant. Poor guy gets so little outside contact.

      Just now our daughter and one of our sons were sitting at opposite ends of our driveway from a mutual friend, hanging out. Beautiful!

  6. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    We’re just moving so fast on these openings. I just hope we don’t have to lock it all down again. That will be worse than waiting a few extra weeks.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Feels fast to me, too. From a medical risk standpoint, anyway. Economically this can’t happen fast enough. That’s the rub.

  7. M.B. Henry Avatar

    We have lots of family in Indiana so we’ve been watching the news there closely. Most of them say that, like you, they will continue to play it safe for awhile yet and stay in wherever possible. I don’t think things will start opening here in CA for awhile yet.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s a tricky thing. Many of our counties have barely been affected. Some (like the county Indianapolis is in) have been heavily effected. It’s tough to balance health and safety with the economy.

  8. Gregg Avatar

    thinking similarly in StJoe County. tough to see Holcomb’s decision as sound & harder still to consider his decision as not tinged with political bias. i work in healthcare & i have no doubt we all should stay close to home AT LEAST for a few more weeks.

    stay safe

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I was born and raised in St. Joe County! It feels like the safest course right now is to continue to stay home except for necessary trips. I might broaden my definition of necessary slightly — i.e., I might run to Lowe’s for lawn fertilizer — but even then I’m getting in and out quick and wearing a mask.

  9. The Trailhead Avatar

    You and I are on the same page. I think the numbers simply don’t justify a reopening, unless the idea is simply to accept the number of deaths that is just under what overwhelms the medical system, a somewhat breathtaking proposition. We’ve been in lockdown for 2 months now, and we have nothing to show for it. I fear we’re just looking at a series of rolling shutdowns. I’ll be participating in no commerce other than curbside groceries for a long while.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It looks to me to be precisely that: flattening the curve enough that there are enough ICU beds, so people can start to go back to work. I hope we don’t end up with rolling shutdowns. That seems like it would be worse for the economy than one longer shutdown.

      1. The Trailhead Avatar

        I’ve long thought that the economy vs. public health thing is a grossly false dichotomy. My quibble with the “just keep the ICUs clear” is that can get out of hand pretty quickly, especially with the new projections. :/

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          I can’t shake a feeling that Indiana leaders are handling this wrong, but I have no idea what right looks like. What other choices do you see beyond economy vs. public health?

          1. The Trailhead Avatar

            My view: The fundamental problem is that states can’t handle this alone. We have a federal government for a reason, and it is not remotely functioning on a sufficient level with regard to the basics — testing, contact tracing, PPE, etc. The time we have spent in lockdown so far has been squandered. Moreover, the ideological imperatives of those in federal power right now preclude what should’ve been done in the beginning, which is get money to people, ordinary people, first and fast. With a few exceptions, the opposition party has enabled those failures. That said, I would say Indiana should do what the states surrounding it are doing, which is staying in through May and ramping up its own testing capacity and contact tracing as best it can. Instead, it’s opening up at a time when infections are not subsiding. It feels to me like a political mistake as well. Gov. Holcomb has left himself what he thinks is all kinds of wiggle room to backtrack, but I suspect once you open, backtracking gets a lot harder. The reality is the future will hold an escalating number of deaths. It feels like the Governor is wobbling when he should just stay steady, because the future will bear out the strategy of the surrounding states.

        2. The Trailhead Avatar

          Wait — I’m not sure I answered your question directly. The reason I think economy vs. public health is a false dichotomy is because you cannot have a functioning economy without public health. When you throw everything open and the wave of sickness crashes ashore, it inevitably destabilizes the economy. Can’t wait till the folks running the grid get sick, for example.

        3. Jim Grey Avatar

          I agree that our federal government is largely non-functional, especially in its response to the pandemic. I’m appalled that there isn’t widespread availability of testing. From what I’ve read, testing appears to be a major key. Yet all we’ve done is stay home.

          This leaves the states to go it alone. Ideology is playing out across the board, which I believe leads to Indiana being more aggressive than surrounding states in reopening. But all surrounding states have implemented a reopening plan, or are formulating those plans for implementation soon.

          And of coure, duh, you’re right: no good economy if people are sick and dying. The restaurants can be open but you need people to be well enough to go. You need people well enough to keep truly essential things going.

          1. The Trailhead Avatar

            I guess I fear that at the end of the day, we’re being prepared to accept as the norm the projected 3,000 deaths a day, and the possibility of ourselves becoming ill for weeks with a new and serious pathogen that has all kinds of lingering aftereffects. A kind of numbing process, I suppose. I don’t see that holding though, as the circle closes in. It’s a terrible spot for the country to be in. Maybe Holcomb is getting the shock of new deaths out of the way sooner rather than later to give him wider political latitude. Who knows, really.

        4. Jim Grey Avatar

          I have shut off most news sources that do or share a lot of projecting about this, because it’s easy to go nuts. But the downside is that then I don’t know the valid, thoughtful projections. I don’t know much of anything, really, but I fear that we’re being too aggressive about reopening and we will pay for it.

          1. The Trailhead Avatar

            Agreed, sadly.

  10. Roger Meade Avatar
    Roger Meade

    Jim- What I enjoy about your blog is that the comments are all civil, no matter the point of view of the commenter. That is very refreshing these days.

    I and my wife, being north of 70, will not be interacting the way we used to, no matter what the Governor or President say. I believe most seniors feel the same, and that in itself will put a serious crimp in the economy. I wish more younger people took this more seriously. I see many without masks, and groups on the street with no distancing. Our infection rates here in Michigan’s UP are low, so far, but that can, and I believe, will change for the worse in the near future. Big changes are on the way, like it or not.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Roger, I think there are three reasons my comments remain civil. One, I seldom write about controversial topics. Two, when I do write something someone might want to argue I am clear that this is my stance and I try to honor other stances. Three, on the rare occasion someone writes an uncivil comment, I delete it without notice or apology.

      I, too, wish more young people took this more seriously. Here in central Indiana the ones I see not honoring the restrictions are young people and people who appear to me to be lower-income workers.

  11. tbm3fan Avatar

    Well, considering that no state has really meet the listed requirements to reopen, so they are basically jumping the gun time will tell. Here in California the governor is moving slower but I see problems with one generational group and two ethnic groups that have already played fast and loose with social distancing and will continue to do so. Let’s say by Memorial Weekend, end of May definitely, everyone will have a good idea how it all works out. Memorial Day is 20 days from now which is 6 days more than the typical 14 day incubation/sickness period. The you’ll know if June will be a swoon.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Your logic is sound. The more comments come in on this post, the more I’m convinced my family should not un-lock-down any more than it has.

      1. tbm3fan Avatar

        See the video on the Park Ranger pushed into a small lake. I then rest my case.

  12. Khürt Williams Avatar

    In New Jersey and New York, the death rate has not decreased. It has in fact increased. Over 25,000 dead in New York and almost 9,000 in New Jersey.

    However, given that Wall Street is the nexus of the economy for this north eastern states, pressue is mounting for the Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, to “re-open” the state. When New York moves, New Jersey follows. I think it’s a mistake.

    Although I hate being inside with a passion very few can understand, I don’t want to see more people die. We lost my 84 year old father-in-law to COVID-19 a month ago. My kids only and my nieces and nephews now have only their grandmothers.

    As New York’s governor said: “My mother is not expendable”.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      First, I’m sorry your family has experienced this loss. I hope you all can find comfort somewhere. Second, thank you for sharing Cuomo’s remarks. I hadn’t heard them. They were very well done.

      I’m becoming more and more convinced we are reopening too soon.

  13. Tim Carlson Avatar
    Tim Carlson

    Glad to hear I’m not the only thinking that reopening is a mistake. I live in the very conservative Nebraska, we never really closed completely, but as we actually start to do more testing we also are allowing less restrictions in counties that have a large population of elderly citizens. I fear the worst, but hope for the best. Thanks Jim for your perspective. It just feels too soon with numbers still going up for me.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It looks to me like most places reopening are just trying to keep the hospitals from being overwhelmed. That’s it. I’m not impressed with that standard! Thanks for your report on how it’s going in Nebraska.

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