- A vast national experiment begins in the face of the pandemic
May 22, 2020, 2:00 AM PDT
Customers keep popping into the New York City dry-cleaning shop where Rolando Matute works to say how happy they are to see it open again. He’s not so sure.
“I don’t really feel safe,” he said on Tuesday, his third day back at MCMB Cleaners in Harlem. “I’m dealing with a lot of clothes, a lot of credit cards and a lot of customers, but I feel like I have to because I have a family. Someone has to work.”
Americans locked at home for more than two months seem resigned to participating in a coronavirus experiment that begins in earnest this Memorial Day weekend, with all 50 states open at least in part. People are filling resorts, casting aside masks at the mall and weighing the dangers of a meal out. That freedom could revive an economy that has seen almost 39 million people file for unemployment over the past nine weeks, more than during the whole of the Great Recession.
However, many workers are anxious about returning during a pandemic in which cases have leveled off in many areas, but haven’t dropped as dramatically as many health experts would have liked.
Matute has moved into his basement in the Bronx out of fear of bringing the virus home to his wife, two daughters and asthmatic mother. His wife leaves his dinner on the back patio every night, alongside the food bowls for their two cats. His 3-year-old waves as he retrieves it.
“I’m like a cat, eating dinner on the patio,” said Matute, 36. “I don’t even go into the house anymore.”
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