Just how anxious will people actually be to return to normal economic activity in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic? We have grown accustomed to sharing space and social distancing in grocery stores, of course. We might even have enough practice to mitigate propagation in retail stores even while handling merchandise that might have been handled by others. Restaurants and bars will take even more time to reach comfort levels, while hair and nail salons will beckon just because of pent-up need for personal grooming.
However, one question looms over all of these issues, the Washington Post notes. Where will people actually go? You know … go? The need for relief might be a major limiting factor to the ability to rebound economically from the shutdown, no matter how aggressive state and local authorities try to roll back restrictions:
The idea of a return to life in public is unnerving enough for many people. But it turns out that one of the biggest obstacles to dining in a restaurant, renewing a doctor’s appointment or going back to the office is the prospect of having to use a public restroom — a tight, intimate and potentially germ-infested space.
It’s a hurdle vexing many business owners as they prepare to reopen in a time of social distancing, reduced capacity and heightened anxiety about the very air we breathe.
A Texas barbecue restaurant reopened only after hiring for a new job category: a bathroom monitor, who assures that people waiting their turn are spaced well apart. In Florida, malls are installing touch-free sinks and hand dryers in restrooms before opening their doors. McDonald’s is requiring franchisees to clean bathrooms every 30 minutes. Across the country, businesses are replacing blow dryers with paper towels, decommissioning urinals that now seem too close together, and removing restroom doors to create airport-style, no-touch entrances.