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Coronavirus restrictions are slowly being lifted — but some people still aren’t going anywhere

Many people say they’re not eager to resume ‘normal’ activities, even if the state says it’s OK to start doing so with parameters in place.

Warm weather attracted people to Houghton's Pond in Milton last week.
Warm weather attracted people to Houghton's Pond in Milton last week.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Chris Trudel is a beach guy. In fact, if there’s any type of water-related activity, sign him up.

He was a swim team coach for years. And around this time of year, when Memorial Day weekend signals the unofficial start to summer, he’s typically thinking about heading out on the ocean on a boat to catch some stripers.

But this year, all of that is being shelved.

Despite some encouraging signs, a global pandemic rages on, and Trudel is expecting his first child in September. His brother’s wife also is pregnant. So for the 35-year-old Townsend resident, the possible health risks of reentering the world — at least for now — still strongly outweigh the benefits of enjoying some semblance of The Life Before.

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“It’s too great a risk,” he said. “There’s nothing you could give me that’s worth my child or my niece or nephew’s life.”

Trudel is among a number of people who say that even though some of the coronavirus statistics being tracked by state officials are trending downward, and a plan to reopen the economy is underway, they won’t be rushing out the front door to sit in a barber’s chair, place a blanket in the sand, or dine al fresco while 6 feet from others anytime soon.

“Until I believe that there’s a thorough test plan in place, I don’t have enough data to believe it would be safe," said Blake Courter, of Reading. "And I’m going to err on the side of caution.”

Said Uxbridge resident Brenda Hicks, 56: “No, I won’t be jumping back into any of that."

Last Monday, Governor Charlie Baker unveiled his long-awaited, four-tiered approach to kick-starting life in Massachusetts. Each phase will last a minimum of three weeks, and getting to the next point will be dependent on what the coronavirus health trends look like.

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In phase one, or the “Start” phase, some lab and office spaces can reopen, hair salons and barbers can start taking clients by appointment only, and many outdoor activities and spaces like beaches, parks, and drive-in theaters can begin welcoming people back with restrictions. The state’s “stay-at-home” advisory also morphed into a “safer-at-home” advisory.

The next phase, tentatively eyed for June 8, would expand to retailers, restaurants, lodging, nail salons, and day spas reopening under certain restrictions.

The announcement, of course, sparked life into some business owners, who are understandably eager to resume operations and start making money again after months of little to no revenue. In some cases, people have defied the governor’s plan and skipped a few phases ahead.

And while Baker’s proposal also has led to some residents fantasizing about their dream excursions after months of hunkering down — throwing close-encounter soirées, getting a haircut, or heading out for some retail therapy — a more tepid group remains steadfast in continuing on with cautious COVID-19-induced lifestyles.

In other words, they’ll let others go first — and wait to see what happens.

“[I’m going to] continue staying home and social distancing until the infection numbers are greatly reduced for a much longer sustained period of time than when things ‘reopen,’” one person replied to a Globe reporter on Twitter, “which will surely be premature.”

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According to a recent poll by Suffolk University, The Boston Globe, and WGBH News, which was conducted prior to Baker’s plan being unveiled, most respondents expressed doubt about heading to the movies, going to the gym, hopping on public transit, and eating out when it’s allowed. It’s unclear if those sentiments have shifted since the four-phase approach was proposed by state officials.

But for 43-year-old Worcester resident Daniel Gebremichael, who was one of the poll’s participants, the goal posts for getting back to normal have not changed much, if at all.

“[The economy] has to be open, but slowly, which is better. But in my case, I’m [having] extra caution. I’m not ready,” said Gebremichael, a facilities manager at a local college. “Even if it is getting better, my mind is not ready still.”

He said even as officials let up slightly, he’s “trying to avoid whatever is necessary," until the numbers truly go down.

“Going out to restaurants or a movie theater, I’m not taking that risk at this point,” Gebremichael said. “A haircut I can do myself.”

For Dominique Clerverseau, it also doesn’t feel safe just yet. And all of the businesses gearing up to open, she said, seem invasive.

“Haircuts,” she said, "you’re literally on top of that person, and even with the mask it still just doesn’t make sense to me.”

The 26-year-old South Shore resident, whose job as a manager at an indoor rock-climbing gym was put on hold because of the coronavirus, said it’s her dedication to keeping her family safe and healthy that is steering her decision to continue acting as though there’s a stay-at-home advisory in place, even as perceptions about what’s OK and what’s not begin to shift.

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Clerverseau, who lives with her partner and 20-month-old son, counts herself lucky, because she has savings to fall back on for now. But at the end of the day, the lure of resuming work too soon or jumping into the extracurricular activities she once enjoyed isn’t enough to make her budge.

“I just think it’s better to be safe than sorry,” she said, adding that it’s possible we could see a second wave of the virus. “I’m just going to play it by ear. I have no really set plans yet. I’m just going with the flow and riding the wave."

Speaking of waves, what about the beach?

“Maybe I’ll go in my car with the windows down."


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.