Georgians cope with 'new normal' as pandemic restrictions ease

In Atlanta's Little Five Points community, people are trickling back out into the sunshine.

Some are wearing a face mask, some are not.

As Georgia businesses begin to reopen, after putting strict social distancing guidelines in place, Rich Morris not a fan of this new way of doing things.

"I don't love the new normal,” Morris says.  “I don't like wearing a mask. It's getting hot outside.  But, I want to help protect people, and protect myself."

 At El Myr, a Mexican restaurant, where Morris is a bar manager, they're sticking with the changes they made early on in the pandemic:  no customers inside the restaurant, food, and drinks served to-go, through a window.

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They want as little socializing and physical contact as possible, he says.

"I don't enjoy it,” Morris says. “I miss hugging people.  My mom's birthday was yesterday; I didn't get to hug her.  So, those kinds of things are really sad."

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Emory School of Medicine and Grady psychologist Dr. Nadine Kaslow has been counseling health care providers and everyday people about how they're coping. 

Lately, Kaslow says, she's hearing a lot of anxiety from people, about having to go back out in public, or back to work.

“While we may not like sheltering at home, it's also scary to go back, because I think we're all concerned about increased risk for exposure to the virus,” Dr. Kaslow says.

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With so many unknowns and no roadmap for what's ahead, Kaslow says, people are being forced into some hard choices.

 “(They’re) feeling caught between, say, going back to work and not having enough money, or going back to work when your children aren't in school or camp,” Kaslow says.  “Who is going to take care of them? There are endless, complicated decisions, and there is no right answer."

 But, for all the bad this pandemic has brought into our lives, Kaslow says, it has given us some good things, too.

 "Maybe people had extra time with their children, or extra time with their partner, or reached out to friends that they haven't talked to for a long time,” she says.  “

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“I really hope we take those positive things, and that we move forward, and keep those in our life, and weave a new tapestry of our lives."

Rich Morris is ready to get back to hanging out, and hugging, and seeing his mom.

Still, he knows, getting back to his old pre-pandemic life will take time.

"None of us has gone through this before, on this kind of scale, this massive,” Morris says.

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