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555 New York Readers on What They Think Life Will Be Like After Lockdown

‘There’s going to be decision overload for nearly everything.’

Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images
Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

While several other states reopened this week, stay-at-home measures continued in New York. As warmer spring weather arrived, the NYPD began enforcing social-distancing violations; so far the arrests have almost entirely been people of color, and some of them have turned violent. And Mayor de Blasio took control of contract tracing away from the health department as the city prepares to begin its tracking effort. In promising news, the F.D.A. approved the first home coronavirus spit testing kit, but for many life post-lockdown is still difficult to envision. Here’s how 555 New York readers are feeling right now.(Note: Graphs show week-over-week responses, all other results are from week nine only.)

How would you describe your emotional state right now?

Very anxious and/or scared: 14.6%
Somewhat anxious and/or scared: 38.4%
Concerned: 34%
Slightly concerned: 8.8%
Totally fine: 4.2%

Do you, or anyone in your household, fear that your work puts you at significant risk of contracting the virus?

Yes: 77.5%
No: 22.5%

How often are you leaving your home?

Not at all: 9.5%
Just for essential errands: 78.5%
I still have to leave for work, but am not making any other trips: 10.5%
I’m living my life as normal: 1.5%

Are you sheltering in place somewhere that’s not your primary residence?

Yes: 10.5%
No: 89.5%

If so, where are you staying?

A family member’s home: 59.3%
A friend’s home: 3.7%
A second home that you own: 22.2%
A short term rental: 5.6%
A significant other’s home: 1.9%
Other: 7.4%

Has your employer reduced your pay since the outbreak began?

Yes: 16.2%
No: 47.1%
Not applicable: 36.7%

If so, how much of a pay cut did you receive?

Less than 5%: 6.2%
5-10%: 16%
10-15%: 4.9%
15-20%: 17.3%
More than 20%: 55.6%

Have you lost work or had your hours reduced since the outbreak began?

Yes: 27.2%
No: 47.6%
Not applicable: 25.2%

If you’ve lost work, have you applied for unemployment?

I’ve applied successfully: 21.2%
I’m trying to apply but I can’t get through (site crashing/ phone lines busy): 11.4%
I haven’t applied because I am not sure if I’m eligible: 22.7%
I haven’t applied for other reasons: 44.7%

Has anyone in your household applied for unemployment?

No: 81.4%
Yes: 16.5%
They’re trying to apply but can’t get through (site crashing/ phone lines busy): 2.1%

If you’re a New York resident, when do you think New York City will reopen?

June: 9.6%
July: 20.4%
August: 14.7%
September: 25.5%
October: 10.8%
November or later: 19.1%

How many of the following advances need to be made before you’d feel comfortable returning to public life?

• Comprehensive contact tracing around the country.
• Comprehensive contact tracing in my state.
• Readily available virus tests.
• Readily available antibody tests.
• Temperature checks at the entrances of businesses and offices.
• A vaccine.

The Five Most Common Responses:

Comprehensive contact tracing around the country, comprehensive contact tracing in my state, readily available virus tests, readily available antibody tests, temperature checks at the entrances of businesses and offices, and a vaccine: 21%

Comprehensive contact tracing around the country, comprehensive contact tracing in my state, readily available virus tests, readily available antibody tests, and a vaccine: 9%

A vaccine: 6% 

Comprehensive contact tracing around the country, comprehensive contact tracing in my state, readily available virus tests, readily available antibody tests, and temperature checks at the entrances of businesses and offices: 5%

Readily available virus tests, readily available antibody tests, and a vaccine: 5%

What do you think your daily life will look like once lockdown restrictions are eased in your area?

“I can’t imagine getting on a crowded rush hour subway from Brooklyn to Manhattan in order to do an office job that we have now proved can successfully happen uninterrupted from my home. I have started looking at alternative methods for the return – renting another monthly parking spot near the office and driving to work daily (horrible for the environment, my savings, and time efficiency), biking (only really feasible during the summer and nice weather, and terrifying in a different way), or moving walking distance to the office (but I love my neighborhood and who wants to live in a shoebox in midtown Manhattan if you can avoid it). I am grateful to have a job still but all of these seem like untenable long-term options.”

“It will probably take a year or so to feel comfortable going to a store without a list, a plan, and a mask.”

“Unless they put in the necessary precautions to keep us safe (testing, temperature checks, a widely available vaccine), I don’t think I would leave my apartment more than necessary EVEN IF lockdown restrictions are eased. I could see myself working from home the rest of the year. I would feel more comfortable about inviting friends to my home and hosting dinner parties. I’d love to go hiking or go to the beach when things open up. I could see myself going to museums or the movies (if theaters dont go bankrupt). But it would probably take me a few months after restrictions are eased to convince me to go to a packed bar like Bar 169 or go dancing. But I miss dancing and going to crowded noisy sweaty bars so much. I entered this pandemic as a 25-year-old and I think I’ll be leaving it with the lifestyle of a 40-year-old.”

“It’s hard to imagine, but I know it won’t be the same. I know that work is going to be totally different. We’ve surveyed our employees and more than 50% don’t ever want to be in an office environment five days a week. We won’t force them. I anticipate that companies will greatly reduce their commercial office space footprints during the next few years.”

I’m really looking forward to seeing friends and family and I can’t wait to go back to the gym and go swimming in the ocean, but I won’t be returning to daily shopping and being in crowded places and I don’t know if my favorite places will even survive. I’m sure this is lockdown brain but it kind of feels like any life we have afterwards will be small and grim and run by tyrants and grifters.”

“I will likely continue to work from home indefinitely. My company is small (just 25 people split mostly between NYC and SF) and has considered going fully remote. I just moved to New York in the fall, so I was still figuring out what life outside of work would look like even before quarantine. I don’t know what daily life will look like after restrictions are eased and I’m worried the community-building spaces I was counting on – coworking spaces, volunteer opportunities, networking happy hours, gyms – will be the last to return.”

“They have begun to ease here in Texas. In my household we still aren’t going out to eat or running non-essential errands, but it is oddly cheering to see restaurants reopened and people out on patios enjoying dinner and drinks. I think it will be a while before we are comfortable returning to restaurants or intimate services like the nail salon, but it is tempting to go out shopping more.”

“I’ve written several answers to this question and all of them make me cry. My daily life is so heavily influenced by my career and workload that the thought of idle hours facing me on the other side of this are too much to fully contemplate. My industry has been hit hard, and I fear I’m looking at a slower-paced work life with a lot of internal pressure to create new career goals and find a more affordable place to live.”

“I live in Boston, in a zip code that is highly infected. Most people do not wear masks, do not stay six feet away, and cannot wait to socialize and get back to work. Asymptomatic testing is still not allowed. My employer is starting to bring employees back, although we are not really essential workers. Supply chain is getting better for food and masks/filters, but it still takes a lot of time to get anything done. I don’t think people will be safe or responsible when lockdown is ended, and I don’t think we have the testing to find people before they get sick. It’s a mess.”

“Normal things like hugging friends, handing them a coffee, touching public restroom fixtures, basically all the things we do without thinking in a city now each demand a decision. There’s going to be decision overload for nearly everything. And that’s only for the people who choose to be careful, because the vast majority will choose not to be and then we’ll have a lot of people dying. Again.”

“I am completely burned out on the lockdown and am willing to resume 100% of my normal activities as soon as they’re available; if a bar opened tomorrow, I’d be there. I have zero faith in Cuomo’s or de Blasio’s responses, though, and am very worried that all the places I like will be permanently out of business by the time they are allowed to open again. I’m also concerned about my ability to afford anything; I applied for unemployment weeks ago and haven’t been able to finish the application (I haven’t been able to get through when I call, nor have I received a call from the Department of Labor).”

“I’ve been furloughed, but if I’m asked back, I will ask to continue working remotely – the subways are much too crowded during ‘normal’ life and so would avoid them as much as possible. I will continue to wear a mask in public for a long time and cut down significantly on airline travel. This may be my breaking point – what drives me to leave NYC, especially as no rent relief has been offered other than a moratorium on evictions. Folks are going to be unemployed – and racking up debt – for a long time. Easier and safer to live in a less crowded/expensive place.”

Note: Not every respondent answered every question.

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New York Readers on What Life Will Be Like After Lockdown