ONE THOUSAND MILES EAST lies Corning, N.Y., which advertises itself as the “Most Fun Small Town in America.” Just after Memorial Day a duct tape aid to social distancing marked Glaswerk Optical’s brick walkway. A masked woman faced optician Martin Ennulat at a temporary stand outside his storefront. She tried on frames, placed them on a table, and strolled away. Ennulat picked up the frames, dipped them in a sanitizing solution, and returned them to a rack. Then he wiped the tabletop.
That’s what Ennulat’s days are now like at what he calls his “lemonade stand.” Wearing a face mask and latex gloves, he makes sure his stand has eyeglass cleaner and isopropyl alcohol. Despite the sanitary precautions, halting traffic prompted Ennulat to close shop in mid-March and furlough his only employee. The situation in Corning, 250 miles northwest of New York City, was far different from the highly publicized crisis in the metropolis. Steuben County had only 241 cases and 41 deaths in late May.
COVID-19 FATALITIES were more symbolically evident in the chapel of Farris Funeral Service in Abingdon, Va., where 43 balloons represented 43 people who couldn’t attend a funeral because Virginia’s social distancing guidelines disallowed gatherings larger than 10 people. On April 14, handwritten cards of condolence hung at the end of the balloon strings and showed the concern of friends and family members who couldn’t attend.
Director Kim Luke said she’s seen other funeral homes do drive-by viewings of the casket or drive-in services: She chose to have standard funeral services open to immediate family members. Luke and her staff have handled three COVID-19 corpses since the outbreak and have taken extra precautions, such as wearing a face mask while doing embalming.
More than 1,000 Virginians have died from COVID-19, with most of the cases occurring in northern Virginia, and on May 29 Gov. Ralph Northam issued a state mandate for all Virginians to wear face masks while inside all “brick and mortar establishments.”
Therapists found new ways to help patients, such as by videoconference.
A FEW MILES DOWN THE ROAD, Bristol, Va., sits on the border with Tennessee. The state line runs down the middle of State Street. So did the evidence of the two states’ approaches to COVID-19 precautions: Shoppers standing in the middle see Virginia flags flapping on one side and bright red Tennessee flags on the other. Banners of senior athletes from rival high schools—Tennessee High and Virginia High—hang from shop windows.
Restaurant-goers on the Tennessee side in late May found “dining room open” signs. Laughter and shouts echoed from a newly reopened pub. Across the street, padlocks and “face masks sold here” or “no walk-ins welcome” signs hung on doors. Diners had only one option on the Virginia side: Quaker Steak and Lube, but only for outdoor seating and curbside pick-up.
By governor’s orders Virginia businesses could not reopen until June, while Tennessee businesses were able to reopen on April 30.