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Finley Drake with her grandmother, Marcia Drake, here in Upshur County. Currently, they can only see each other from behind glass in order to protect Marcia, who's at high risk for complications related to COVID-19. / Photo courtesy Jenny Drake

Upshur Countians exercise caution in the wake of a lifted stay-at-home order

After a long, dark wait, the government has finally said, “it’s safe to go outside” – with the appropriate precautions.

After nearly six weeks of restricted interactions with family, friends and grandchildren, along with a lack of professional haircuts, ‘elective’ medical care, church services, restaurant food, bar service and gyms, the statewide Covid-19 restrictions have finally been lifted.

Upshur Countians, some with shaggy hair, expanding midriffs and potentially ill-disposed tempers, are once again free to interact.

However, questions among residents remain: Is everyone comfortable going back to the normal routine? Is it safe to open? Some may even ask if the state should have ever closed in the first place.

Callan, Rise and Shawn Hanifan plan to weigh each potential activity now that the stay-at-home order has been lifted prior to venturing out. / Photo courtesy Rise Hanifan

As of Monday, May 4, Governor Justice, lifted the statewide stay-at-home order enacted March 23, and replaced it with the new, somewhat relaxed ‘safer-at-home’ order. It no longer mandates or “directs” that West Virginians stay home but instead “encourages” them to stay home as much as possible, i.e. unless performing an essential task. (To view a chart highlighting the difference between the ‘stay-at-home’ and ‘safer-at-home’ regulations and recommendations, click here.)

The governor’s accompanying economic reopening plan, coined, “West Virginia Strong – The Comeback,” is scheduled to be enacted in stages during this time.

Week 1 commenced Thursday, April 30, and enabled hospitals, elective surgical centers and outpatient health care offices to reopen. Week 2, which kicked off this week on Monday, May 4, allows for the openings of outdoor dining (in concurrence with social distancing regulations), hair salons, pet grooming and church/funeral services in groups of less than 25 people.

While some residents are ready to break out of confinement, others are hesitant to resume normal activities.

As Jenny Drake, a 39-year-old Tennerton Elementary School teacher, said, “I don’t plan to change much once the orders are lifted.”

“My daughter and I will remain away from our family and friends, as we have been,” she said. “We go to the store once a week, wearing masks, and try to get out, at a distance, when the weather is nice.”

“Beyond that, we will not be going out to parks or dine-in restaurants,” she added.

However, Drake said once she is confident the threat of COVID-19 has passed, she is looking forward to taking her six-year-old daughter, Finley, to visit her grandparents, who are both at high risk for complications related to COVID-19 and to the playground at her school.

However, 24-year-old Anna Collins, who works as a Direct Support Professional at ResCare Homecare, said her life won’t change much with the newly relaxed ordinance – and it wasn’t changed much by the initial stay-at-home order, either.

“My life hasn’t really changed since all of this started,” said Collins, who explained that as an essential direct care worker, she has still been required to work and shop for her clients throughout the epidemic.

“So, I’ve been pretty much living life the same as before,” said Collins.

“But once everything is lifted, I would hope to go back to work at the asylum,” she said of her part-time job as a paranormal tour guide for the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, Lewis County. “I think that’s the first thing on my mind, so, I guess my answer, technically, is ‘go back to work.’”

Rise Hanifan, director of Christian Education at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church, said she, her husband, Shawn, and their five-year old son, Callan, will stay at home for the time being.

“I will weigh each activity’s risk,” she said. “I’m not convinced it’s safe to do anything yet.”

Hanifan said one of the first things she wants to do when all is clear is enjoy the simple pleasure of seeing a movie in a theater.

Likewise, retired Buckhannon-Upshur High School English teacher Dauna Hawkins said she will resume normal activities with “caution,” attending family gatherings when practical but avoiding large crowds and strangers.

However, hemodialysis technician, Jacob Rose, who is on the frontlines of the pandemic, said he fears the virus is going to flare up again and said he will continue to do everything in his power to prevent its spread.

Jacob Rose is a hemodialysis technician on the frontlines of the pandemic locally. He says once he’s confident there’s vaccine, he’s looking forward to seeing a movie on the big screen again. / Photo courtesy Jacob Rose

But, when all agree it’s safe to go out again, Rose, like others, said one of his first wishes is to see a movie on the big screen again.

So, although Upshur Countians may have different takes on the pandemic, it seems there is a common thread of thought – to be cautious, safe and yet connected, able to work, play, visit family and maybe even see a movie on the big screen again.

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