Signs Of Reopening Across Country
By COLIN MCGUIRE
Special to the DN-R 6/1/20
While the national toll for deaths related to COVID-19 eclipsed 100,000 last week, states across the country currently find themselves in various stages of their respective reopening plans, which has proven to be a sign of optimism that the outbreak is trending in a positive direction.
Virginia is in Phase 1 of its “safe at home” plan, which means that retail stores can open with restrictions, restaurants may open for outdoor seating or takeout, and beaches may be used for exercise or fishing. Child care facilities may open and churches may operate at 50% capacity. Salons and barbers may also open by appointment, with social distancing and sanitization protocols in place.
Gov. Ralph Northam’s strategy mandates that tattoo shops operate at 50% capacity, provide services by appointment only, set up 6 feet between stations, stagger appointments for disinfecting work stations, perform routine disinfection every hour and maintain contact information for all clients received.
Harrisonburg shops Painted Lady Tattoos and Piercings, Dreamland Tattoo and Artistically Inklined are among the parlors open and operating at regular business hours but mandating all customers and artists wear masks during appointments, as per Phase 1 guidelines.
In addition to the rules set by Phase 1 for personal care and grooming services, several businesses have taken it upon themselves to adopt additional safety practices.
Alley Cat is only allowing eight people in the building at one time: three tattooers, each with one client, and one client for the on-staff piercer, and providing face masks for customers who arrive without proper face protection. Painted Lady is checking each individual’s temperature with an infrared, touchless thermometer upon arrival. Artistically Inklined is allowing one guest per customer, but the additional company must abide by the 6-foot rule. At Turtle Style Tattoo Co. in Broadway, artists are scheduling one hour between appointments for sterilization of stations and high-contact zones.
Harrisonburg Police Department and Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance have coordinated with businesses to stay informed and circulate safe opening practices. Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint owner Aaron Ludwig previously said businesses have been very communicative and encouraging about the transition to outdoor service, so he is hopeful opening will go smoothly.
“Everyone is sharing good practice stories of what they’re doing, so we’re all on kind of on the same page of what we’re doing to keep everybody comfortable and safe, so that’s been a really nice thing,” he said. “ We have locations in other states, so I see kinda what’s been happening in Tennessee and North Carolina and Alabama; so I feel like it’s the right time and I like the idea of the limited seating and all the precautions we need to be taking in order to get open, but we need to start doing something. We need to start getting some business coming in. A lot of people’s [Paycheck Protection Program] money is starting to run out.”
Several area wineries are jumping at the opportunity to reopen, such as Brix and Columns Vineyards and Bluestone Vineyard. Bluestone is inviting wine lovers to the Bridgewater venue with bottle sales only and a limited menu. The balcony and patio can accommodate between 50 to 60 people and additional seating options on the vineyard green can situate nearly 80 guests, according to Bluestone President Curt Hartman.
West Virginia continues its reopening this week, as the Mountain State enters week six of Gov. Jim Justice’s Comeback plan.
The state’s five casinos are allowed to open this Friday. Over this past weekend, pools, limited video lottery operations and other businesses saw their first opportunity to open since March.
Also last week, museums and visitor centers could reopen, along with state park cabins and lodges — for instate visitors only — and bars, with capacity reduced by 50%.
Wayne Waldeck, co-owner of the Blennerhassett Hotel in downtown Parkersburg, said the lounge opened Thursday to go along with indoor dining, which resumed with a reduced capacity and tables spaced so that chairs were 6 feet apart when pulled out.
Waldeck said he’s been surprised with the amount of customers they’ve seen since reopening, which he attributes to safety practices like servers wearing masks and gloves. A different employee clears the table or, if that’s not possible, the server puts on an additional pair of gloves “so there’s never any cross- contamination,” he said.
“People are bringing [older] mothers and fathers in because they feel safe,” Waldeck said.
The hotel has been offering outdoor dining for weeks, and it remains popular with the weather warming up, Waldeck said. But he noted cooler temperatures didn’t exactly discourage people either.
“It was colder than blazes a couple nights but people just wanted to get out,” he said.
While the hotel side of the business took a hit when travel restrictions were in place, Waldeck said they’ve recently had guests from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Cleveland and Columbus in Ohio spending Friday and Saturday nights.
“On the weekend, we’re really booking up,” he said, suggesting the lack of a high number of cases in Wood County, W.Va., may make people feel better about traveling to the area. “We’ve been delighted.”
When Waldeck and Lee Rector announced their purchase of the hotel last fall, they highlighted plans to establish a world-class spa at the site.
“We were all ready to go” when the pandemic started slowing and shutting activity down, he said. “Now that we’re reopened, it’s back on the front burner.”
Columbus residents Stan and Deborah Ling stopped at the hotel’s restaurant Friday en route to meet family at Seneca Rocks.
“We always stop here. This is one of our favorite places,” Stan Ling said. “And we were thrilled to find out they were open.”
Twenty-three of 24 counties in Maryland have entered or announced plans to enter Stage 1 of the “Maryland Strong: Roadmap to Recovery.” That includes resuming outdoor dining and other outdoor activities like youth sports, day camps and pools, while continuing to follow public health guidance.
The statewide guidelines are being implemented on a community-by-community basis, according to a recent news release from Gov. Larry Hogan, who warned that COVID-19 “is still very much a deadly threat, and our responsible behavior is absolutely critical in the continued efforts to defeat it.”
If positive, data- based trends continue, Hogan said the state will be poised to move on to Stage 2, which involves lifting the executive order that closed non-essential businesses.
The Keystone State, for one, is in the process of reopening based on positive case numbers, which are still high in more densely populated regions. Gov. Tom Wolf ’s color- coded reopening plan consists of red, yellow and green phases.
There remain 10 counties in the southeastern part of the state that are still in the red phase, which is the most restrictive, though Wolf announced Friday that those counties will move to the yellow phase on Friday. The majority of the western part of the state, including Washington County, will move to the green phase next Friday, which has the fewest restrictions as a result of the pandemic, meaning restaurants, salons, gyms, theaters, shopping malls and casinos may open at 50% capacity with social distancing restrictions.
The Daily News- Record contributed to this report.