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As America Partially Reopens, Many Caught in the Middle of Political Skirmishes

In Greenbelt, Maryland, Thomas Robinson can only wait for the day when the barbershop where he cuts hair can reopen.

In Dayton, Ohio, Michelle Trigg doesn’t know when her favorite hair salon, beauty supply outlet and restaurant will open.

And in Los Angeles, actress Geri Allen can only work and rehearse lines on Zoom because her studio and the rest of Hollywood is locked up.

Last month, President Donald Trump said during a White House briefing that by May 1, the country would be reopening because “America wants to be open, and Americans want to be open.”

But weeks after that declaration, Trump and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force yielded to governors across the country who are making their own decision of how and when to open.

“It has been hard on me because I have not cut hair in almost two months,” said Robinson, 50, who has been cutting hair since he was a 15-year-old growing up in Huntsville, Alabama. “We need to get back to making money but I understand the shutdown.”

A lawsuit was filed in federal court in Baltimore against Gov. Larry Hogan and state health officials by the coalition ReOpen Maryland to lift Hogan’s stay-at-home orders and other restrictions that included the closing of barbershops and hair salons.

Robinson said that he is also concerned about the governor’s plan to reopen on a limited basis.

“When we reopen, they said that we can only have one customer at a time by appointment only, but most of [our] money comes from walk-ins,” he said.

In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine encountered protesters over the weekend who want him to lift the state’s ban on businesses and schools opening. There were similar protests in Michigan and Virginia and other presidential battleground states.

But the Republican governor said during a press conference that it is not fair for protesters, fueled by President Trump and conservative pundits, to insert politics at a time he has instituted some measures designed to protect people against the coronavirus pandemic.

Trigg, a college administrative assistant who lives in Dayton, said she supports the governor’s move but that his decisions are not easy to live with.

“I miss the hair supply, the beauty salons and the restaurants where you can sit down, but I have lost 12 pounds because I have been cooking instead of going to the carry-out,” she said.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters that he was easing restrictions in some areas but that the changes would come in stages “to make sure we’re prepared for this next phase as we begin to modify the stay-at-home order.”

But Newsom’s words were little consolation to Allen, who has been working full-time as an actress for more than a decade.

“The studios are closed and, for me, that means no auditions or callbacks and no roles,” said Allen, who has appeared on commercials and films. “Right now its time to practice using Zoom, exercise and do some writing.”

There is also much change for Wanda Parker, an elementary school special education teacher in Pensacola, Florida.

“With my students, it is more than having them watching Google Hangout at home,” she said. “I have to write five different plans because my students are different.”

But what concerns Parker most of all is the conduct of those ignoring restrictions or social distancing measures.

“Many of our churches never closed,” she said of her home state. “In Louisiana, they had to enforce the rules because more than 2,000 people showed up. I think there needs to be one uniform standard for everybody.”

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