Empty Restaurant
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As COVID-19 cases decrease in Michigan, some Jews are more comfortable leaving the house than others.

Analyst group COVID ActNow announced last week that Michigan is currently on track to contain its COVID-19 cases, less than a month after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ended the state’s stay-at-home order in early June.  

COVID ActNow is a multidisciplinary team that provides intelligence and data analysis on COVID-19 in the U.S. Michigan currently has a low infection rate, a low rate of positive tests, plenty of room in hospital ICUs and a high rate of contact tracing. Those factors mean the state is flattening its coronavirus curve, according to the COVID ActNow model.  

As cases decrease and restaurants and shops open up, many people in the community have started to venture out into public again after a long spring inside.  

Alan Rosenthal of Huntington Woods has been to a few restaurants since in-person service resumed – he even went to see live music outside at a café in Detroit. He said all the places he’s been to have felt clean and safe, with waitstaff wearing masks and gloves and tables spaced at least six feet apart.  

Rosenthal said he did go back to work at his office after Memorial Day, but he feels more comfortable going out now that COVID cases in the state have plunged.  

“I think most people are trying hard to socially distance and do the right thing so we can keep cases down. At least for right now, it seems to be working,” he said. “Everything’s moving in a positive direction. I just don’t want to get too comfortable, which can easily happen.”  

Not everyone is eager to get back out into public spaces, though. Lisa Stern and her family have been quarantining diligently since the end of March. Stern said she still avoids going into public buildings unless absolutely necessary, and she isn’t comfortable with the idea of eating at a restaurant yet. 

“It was almost easier when the state was on lockdown, because everybody was in the same boat. It doesn’t matter who you were,” said Stern, a Franklin resident. “Now that the rules have been lifted, everyone is making their own interpretations.”  

Still, she said, “I feel like in some ways, now is a better time to be riskier than others, because our daily cases are so low.”  

Michelle Segal, also of Franklin, said her family has been on the extreme side of quarantining. In the last two weeks, they’ve started to make some socially-distant outdoor social plans, but she said that isn’t related to the state opening up.  

“They’re totally science-based for us,” she said.  

Segal said she’s glad businesses have been able to open up from an economic standpoint, but she wouldn’t feel comfortable going into one herself.  

“I’m trying to be more open to those ideas, but … nothing has changed,” she said. “I guess when I would be comfortable – actually comfortable – is when there’s a treatment that works when you get sick, or a vaccine.”  

Even as businesses have resumed service, at Jewish Senior Life, residents still can’t eat communally, have indoor visitors or hold community events. But when Michigan’s stay-at-home order ended, JSL did begin allowing family members to visit residents outdoors, from a distance and with a face covering.  

“Every time there’s a loosening of restrictions, we are concerned because nobody knows exactly what the effect of that will be,” said Nancy Heinrich, CEO of Jewish Senior Life. “So unfortunately, only time will tell if we’ve done enough.” 

But for Nancy Kalef, JSL resident and president of the executive board of the Meer Residential Council, COVID cases going down means life can resume some semblance of normalcy – and she’s happy about it. Kalef’s husband went grocery shopping last week for the first time in four months. She got her hair cut and had a manicure. The two of them went to Costco together to get their glasses adjusted.  

“We’re closer to the end of our life, and it’s not scary, because this is where we are in our life,” Kalef said. She’s 86, and her husband is 90.  

“For us, we talk very openly about death, so I’m not as frightened, I think, as people who have 25, 35, 45, 50 years to live.”  

That doesn’t mean Kalef is throwing caution to the wind. Whenever she goes out, she wears a mask and stays six feet away from others. Meer Apartments requires residents to sanitize their hands and have their temperature taken when coming back into the building, she said. Still, Kalef appreciates having some more freedom now. 

“I feel like we’re starting to get a little control of our lives again,” she said. 

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