COVID precautions slowly bringing shoppers back to stores

DOVER — Whether it is just people getting the chance to get out and about and remember what life was like prior to COVID-19, or taking the time to support local businesses during the pandemic, many individuals shopping around Dover last week said they feel safe.

Most said they feel especially secure when they see others wearing their facemasks properly and keeping socially distanced – at least six feet apart – from others around them. A little hand sanitizer located at the entrance and exits of businesses doesn’t hurt, either.

“When I’m going into a store, I make sure they have the appropriate signage, plus I’m looking for hand sanitizer to be readily available and people wearing facemasks,” Dover’s Amy Chadwick said. “I don’t touch anything unless I’m planning on buying it and I’ll grab a hand towel sometimes when I’m opening doors.”

It is that opening of doors and the ick-factor that goes with it that seems to have the biggest fear factor for shoppers when they enter businesses.

“I do find myself grabbing door handles differently and stuff like that,” said Tim Warren, of Harrington. “I do look for safety precautions when I’m shopping. I like seeing people wearing masks and when they don’t it stands out. I believe (facemasks) are helping.”

Since March, when the coronavirus first broke out in Delaware, more than 600 individuals have died and more than 18,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, while almost 10,000 have recovered from the dangerous virus.

People in Kent County might feel somewhat insulated from the coronavirus, as less than 2,800 total cases have occurred in the state’s middle county, far below the totals up north in New Castle County and south in Sussex County.

Richard Ray, of Dover, doesn’t worry about catching the virus, despite being in the most vulnerable population. More than 80 percent of those who have died in Delaware due to COVID-19 have been age 65 or older.

“I go to Lowe’s. I go to Sam’s Club … I go to anything but Walmart,” Mr. Ray said. “Look, I’m 72 years old, if I’m going to die of it, then I’m going to die of it. I do wear a mask when I go to the store, but of course, you have to wear a mask, but that’s the only shopping change that I’ve made, though.”

Mr. Ray said he feels sorry for what COVID-19 has done to people who have lost loved ones and businesses that have struggled, with many shutting down. He also feels as if the virus is somehow politically motivated.

“I think this virus has screwed (businesses), basically, really screwed them,” he said. “Some of them are losing their business and that’s the bad part about this whole thing, and I think the epidemic or pandemic — or whatever you want to call it — will be over on the fourth of November (the day after Election Day). I’m pretty sure about that.”

Smyrna’s Richard Thompson, who was out shopping in downtown Dover on a rainy afternoon last Wednesday, said it’s just nice to get out and “feel normal” once in a while.

“This staying isolated in our houses has everybody going a little COVID crazy,” said Mr. Thompson. “I’ve been into many stores during this pandemic and I’d say more than 90 percent of them are following the precautions that have been set in place by our governor (John Carney).

“It does give me confidence when I go into a store and I see people and employees wearing facemasks, hand sanitizer available and people trying their best to stay socially distanced. I do feel a little bit better when I go into a business and they have an automatic door and I don’t have to worry about touching it.”

Cheryle Smith said her mother died of the effects of COVID-19.

She said wearing a facemask inside a business or anyplace else is nearly impossible for her due to health issues she faces.

“I’ve got COPD, so the mask is just hurting for me,” said Ms. Smith, of Dover. “It’s caused bad infections in my lungs and everything. I had double ear infections, sinus problems … everything. So now I don’t really go to too many places because people look at you like you’re crazy because you don’t have the mask on.”

Many individuals said they feel like it is their responsibility to get out and support local businesses to help them survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 has hurt a lot of small businesses, restaurants and mom and pop shops,” Ms. Chadwick said. “There are places that have been around a long time that have closed.”

Mr. Warren said, “Businesses are extremely affected. There’s a lot of businesses that may never come back from this.”

Business openings have also been down considerably around Dover during the pandemic as Red Robin had a long-delayed opening in July while TenderBones Rib Shack has yet to open on a regular schedule.

Hobby Lobby celebrated its grand opening in low-key style at the North Dover Center last week, with no big celebration outside the store due to COVID-19 regulations.

Meanwhile, Mr. Thompson said it’s helpful to both him mentally and business owners financially when he is able to get out of the house and shop. So he is happy to help celebrate the businesses that are still open.

“It’s not good for the psyche to be cooped up inside the house for six months, or however long it’s been,” he said. “The majority of businesses seem to be doing the best that they can to provide safe and courteous service to their customers.

“There are many safety precautions in place, including many who have added those plexiglass dividers up at the cash registers and that is one of the things that gives me added confidence to enter a business … and if I have to wear a facemask to get outside, that’s a small price to play from feeling like you’re a hostage in your own home.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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