Coronavirus restrictions ease across America

At least 14 U.S. states are easing lockdown restrictions on Monday

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Monday marks a new beginning for droves of U.S. communities that are loosening restrictions meant to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

At least 14 U.S. states are easing lockdown restrictions on Monday, including Florida, which will allow gyms and fitness centers to reopen at 50 percent capacity and restaurants and retailers to increase their volume to 50 percent.

Friends, from left, Tracey, who did not give her last name, Cindy Coleman and Lori Stayberg meet for food and drinks at Jonesy's Local Bar on the first day of the bar reopening in Hudson, Wisconsin on May 14, 2020. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)

In Maine, restaurants in various counties are allowed to reopen with added safety precautions including physically distancing customers, ensuring employees follow enhanced hygiene and sanitation practices, and controlling customer flow through reservations, according to Gov. Janet Mills. These counties include: Aroostook, Piscataquis, Washington, Hancock, Somerset, Franklin, Oxford, Kennebec, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, and Sagadahoc.

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At the same time remote campsites as well as sporting camps, are permitted to reopen with public health safeguards in place for the aforementioned counties.

In Minnesota, "non-critical" businesses like retail stores and main street businesses are allowed to reopen as long as they have a social distancing plan in place and operate at 50 percent capacity, according to Gov. Tim Walz. This means that malls within the "Bread and Butter State" can also reopen their doors if they feel ready.

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Mall of America, the biggest shopping mall in the United States, announced it won't be opening its doors until June 1.

Monday also marks the first day that contact service providers, fitness and exercise centers, commercial gyms, and public or commercial pools across South Carolina will be able to open in a limited capacity, according to Gov. Henry McMaster.

Close contact service providers include barber shops, hair salons, waxing salons, threading salons, nail salons and spas, body-art facilities and tattoo services, tanning salons, massage-therapy establishments and massage services.

Group exercise facilities such as yoga studios and barre classes will also be allowed to reopen.

"We have an opportunity to set an example for the rest of the world by reinvigorating our economy while staying safe, but we can only do that if South Carolinians continue to follow the advice and recommendations of our public health experts," McMaster said.

Automakers Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler also reopened vehicle assembly plants on Monday at limited capacity. The industry employs about 1 million workers and makes up 6 percent of U.S. economic activity.

While President Trump and many Republicans press to reopen the economy, some fear reopening too soon could cause the coronavirus to flare up again, forcing reopened businesses to shut down again.

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Some experts have argued that too-hasty relaxation of social distancing could ignite a resurgence of COVID-19 cases as soon as this fall, sending the economy back into lockdown.

"Unless the reopening is carefully managed with extensive testing and voluntary social distancing, infections will rapidly rise in many localities," said Yongseok Shin, an economist at Washington University in St. Louis and a research fellow at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. "People will then hunker down for fear of infection, and local governments will re-impose lockdowns, quashing any economic recovery we will have had to that point."

Keeping businesses viable while keeping the general public safe is a balancing act that many local governments and health officials are still trying to navigate amid the coronavirus era.

Other states loosening restrictions include:

  • Arkansas: Casinos to resume limited operations
  • Indiana: Most Indiana Department of Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife archery and shooting ranges may begin to reopen
  • Kansas: Barbershops, hair salons, nail salons, tattoo parlors, tanning salons, gyms and fitness centers to reopen with restrictions
  • Louisiana: Casinos and video poker establishments may open at 25 percent occupancy and with half of their gaming positions
  • New Hampshire: Restaurants may offer outdoor dining
  • New Jersey: Non-essential construction and non-essential retail may open for curbside pickup
  • Rhode Island: Outdoor dining resumes
  • Texas: Gyms are allowed to reopen and office buildings may open with 25 percent of its workforce
  • Vermont: Retail stores may open at 25 percent capacity limit
  • West Virginia: Fitness centers, gyms, and recreation centers may reopen. Recreational activities include gymnastics, dance, cheerleading, and martial arts

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.