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Locals express concern as state prepares to reopen

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Hands opening a window on the United States map symbolizing the White House's plan for Opening Up America Again amid the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown end.

Despite widespread social and economic hardships resulting from the state-issued “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order in effect since mid-March, some Vermonters are fearful the state is reopening too soon, citing continued lack of testing and other concerns.

“Most of us most certainly want to go back to work. But not everyone understands baby steps,” said chef Jason Bashaw, 50, of Morrisville. “It’s a pandemic. It’s not going to just go away.”

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States passed 1 million on Tuesday with more than 58,000 dead, according to a report from Johns Hopkins University.

“If we really have a low amount of people who have or have had COVID, we could open quicker. But I don’t think we have the testing done enough to be sure,” said Catholic priest Dan Jordan, of Richford.  “We’ll know if the hospitalizations jump up.”

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Worldwide infection rates for the coronavirus have shown signs of slowing down. South Korea reported on Thursday that for the first time since February it had no new domestic cases of COVID-19 and only four cases among those who had traveled outside of the country.

On the same day, Hong Kong reported that for the fifth day straight they had no new cases. 

“If the desire to reopen is based on public safety, and not politically driven, then fine,” said Peter Maes, an Applications Systems Support Analyst at Dartmouth–Hitchcock Medical Center. “I’m certain more businesses can reopen while taking measures to prevent a resurgence of the disease, which would cause us to go through all of this again.”

While the decrease in new cases is encouraging, some locals fear it may be the calm before the storm.

“I hate to be all Sturm und Drang, but the science and math behind this are that there will be a rebounding resurgence of the pandemic with even more deaths than before,” said Northfield teacher Brett Campbell, 60. “We’re already seeing it in places like Japan and Wuhan.”

“Personally I don’t feel like being a guinea pig,” said Montpelier writer Bronwyn Fryer.

“I can’t wait to have an employee with me, but also I can,” said Karen Williams, Cabot resident, and owner of Woodbury Mountain Toys. “I’m not sure when I’ll allow customers in the store. I want to take this slowly.”

To date, there have been 866 confirmed cases in Vermont and 49 deaths from COVID-19, with 33 confirmed cases and one death in Washington County.