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Some Stay At Home, Not "Phased" By COVID Reopening

While we can do a lot more now than we could in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are those who have decided to remain on lockdown.

They are taking a pass on seeing family and friends, as well as going to work, a restaurant, the gym, the mall and church.

They are staying in phase 1 in a phase 2 world.

Kimberly Perkins, who lives in Harford County, is pretty blunt as to why she has barely budged from her home since March, even though Governor Hogan last month began allowing most businesses to reopen with restrictions.

“I believe the reason they were opening it up was more for the economy and not for our health,” Perkins said. “I just didn’t trust the politicians.”

Perkins is 59 and has an underlying medical condition. She has gone to the doctor a few times and she has stopped at a small roadside stand to buy flowers.

That’s it. Her husband goes to the grocery store early in the morning. He wipes down all of the groceries and stores them in the garage.

Perkins said she’s no germaphobe, but COVID-19 is different.

“We just don’t know enough about it,” Perkins said. “It’s a new virus.”

Virus precautions are nothing new for Marie McSweeney Anderson and her husband who live in North Baltimore.  Their 3 year old daughter, Ramona, has Apert Syndrome, a genetic disorder that puts her at risk.

“For us, you know, a cold ends us up in the ER,” Anderson said.

She said she hasn’t stepped in a grocery store since March. Her family relies on deliveries from shopping services and their parents.

Even before COVID, Anderson said there were handwashing and other steps they took to protect their daughter. Being cautious is their normal.

“Seeing folks who are unable to maintain social distancing or masking because it’s uncomfortable for them is really kind of infuriating,” Anderson said.

Suzannah Kolbeck lives in Hampden in Baltimore City. She’s healthy and in her 40s, so she is not in a high risk group for COVID-19.

“I’m mostly in my house, and that’s about it,” Kolbeck said.

Kolbeck said she’s not seeing friends, even from a distance. She teaches yoga but is doing it online, even though the studio she works for is offering classes outside. Kolbeck said she’s not scared for herself; she doesn’t want to be the one who has COVID-19, is asymptomatic, and spreads it to others.

“I’m really focused on doing what I can do which is controlling my behavior and taking care of the people around me,” Kolbeck said.

Kolbeck also is a writer. She and Perkins are able to work from home and Anderson is furloughed, all of which make phase 1 living possible.

Baltimore County Health Officer Dr. Gregory Branch said those who can stay home and decide to do so are doing the right thing. Branch said COVID-19 is still here and is just as dangerous, and it doesn’t understand the difference between phases 1, 2, or eventually, 3.

Branch said, “We should stay smart, we should stay safe, and just because you can does not mean that you should.”

Jason Prenoveau, an associate professor of psychology at Loyola University in Baltimore, said people who are staying home should make sure they’re doing it for the right reasons and are not overreacting from anxiety alone. He said they should ask themselves if they are still living the life that they value.

“Am I staying home to stay safe and I’m ok with that,” Prenoveau said. “I’m still connecting with people through electronic means. I’m still working.”

Perkins said she’s good.

“I have a huge backyard with a built in swimming pool,” Perkins said. “I’m fine. I don’t know what’s going to happen come winter.”

Depending on what happens with COVID, we could all be back in phase 1.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2