Ms. Dumont has four children under her roof, ages 20, 18, 12 and 9. Her mother and father live next door with her brother and his two children. One house down is her sister, her partner and their six children; a mile away are two nieces with their children and another brother and his son.
For the first five weeks of the pandemic they were all staying in their individual homes, trying to figure out what to do. That soon turned into yard visits. Ere long they had decided to pool their living arrangements so they could help one another stay safe. “It happened kind of informally,” Ms. Dumont said. “At one point I saw one of the babies outside, and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I said, ‘Come give me a hug.’”
The large, extended family now gets together for meals, to play in the yard and have movie nights complete with candy. Because they are in one another’s physical space, they also remind one another to stay safe. A few are working, and when they come home, they gently nudge them to change their clothes and wash their hands. They text their mother regularly to say, “mask check.”
But more and more people are seeing little reason to continue as they were.
Jake Littleton, 25, a mechanic in Dickson, Tenn., went to his beloved Waffle House as soon as it reopened. “I went by myself on my lunch break,” he said. “I always get the sausage and hash brown bowl, ‘all the way,’ which includes cheese, ham bits, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, jalapeños, onions, gravy and chili.” He said he didn’t wear a mask or feel unsafe, especially because plastic partitions divided the booths. “I decided to take a risk to return to some version of normality.”
Most of his summer plans have already been thwarted. “I don’t think there is anything I won’t do that hasn’t already been canceled,” Mr. Littleton said. “I play in a bluegrass band with some older guys, and we were supposed to play at a few events and festivals starting in May and going through the summer.”
Everything else, he figures, is fair game. “Other than that, I will probably live life as usual with continued precautions,” he said. “Unless there is a second wave of cases that results in another period of quarantine.”