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PHOTOS: Life And Work Amid The Outbreak

Mar 19, 2020
Originally published on March 20, 2020 12:26 pm

As Americans shift their lives indoors and away from large public gatherings, people across the U.S. are grappling with basic questions about life, work and social distancing in the age of COVID-19.

Schools have shut down or pivoted to online learning, restaurants have halted dine-in services, and businesses across the nation have altered their work hours or shuttered completely. NPR checked in this week, with residents of three U.S. cities that have been among the first to face high numbers of cases and restrictions related to the outbreak.

In places that rely heavily on tourism, like New York City, the steady stream of visitors has slowed or even ground to a halt. Nurettin Kirbiyik, one of the few horse-drawn carriage drivers on the street on Tuesday, says he's lucky if he gets one paying customer.

"Over the last couple days, cabs didn't get any rides," he says.


Maximo Valdez has been running a tire shop in Denver, Colo., for the past 20 years.

"Rent won't stop. Bills won't stop. If I pull money out of my savings — two months or three months at most and we go out of business," he says. "I don't have the heart to tell my workers that there's no work and 'Find something else.' They've been with me for six years."

Ten minutes down the road at a garden center, however, manager Trela Phelps says sales have been steady, as more customers have been stocking up on flowers to beautify their indoor spaces. "If they're going to stay home, they want it to look nice and they want to feel good about it," she says.

In Washington State, where the outbreak has more than 1,000 confirmed cases, Seattle is quieter than usual. Danny Hanlon, co-owner of a coffee shop in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, says it's difficult to anticipate changes from one week to the next, but he's still serving customers takeout coffee — one small piece of normalcy in an uncertain time.

"Even if this experience is not normal, it's normal that you come in, [and] I say, 'How are you doing?' and make a coffee for you. And then you say, 'See you tomorrow.' "

Those interactions, he says — people find them comforting.

From Seattle to Denver to New York City, here are some of those voices of people adapting to this new time amid the coronavirus outbreak.

In Manhattan, Isiah Turner isn't particularly worried about the outbreak. Other than continuously washing his hands and cleaning, he says, "it's just another day." (Right) Ali Sky isn't worried about her own health but says, "I'm really worried about my husband."
Elias Williams for NPR
Angel Padilla (right) works as Boudhas Mohammed's home attendant and says he's always aware of spreading germs. "I don't want nothing to rub off on him, so I wear a mask and gloves," Padilla says. "In my job, it's a universal precaution. So this coronavirus ain't scaring me, because I protect myself."
Elias Williams for NPR
Apple has shut down all its stores across the U.S., including this shop in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Elias Williams for NPR
Beth LaBerge / KQED
(Top) Two children ride a scooter near San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, which is largely devoid of foot traffic. (Bottom) Shoppers lined up at Costco before the store opened last Friday in San Francisco. Days later, a shelter-in-place order took effect for much of the Bay Area.
Beth LaBerge / KQED
Dougie Maloney, a manager of a cannabis dispensary in Denver, says that business has been better than usual, as people stock up on marijuana. "We're a little bit like a grocery store," he says. "People like to have it on their shelves and they don't want to run out."
Theo Stroomer/Redux for NPR


Shoppers last Friday, loaded down with packages of toilet paper, cross the street in front of Seattle's Public Market.
Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX Public Radio


Melissa Miranda runs a restaurant in Seattle's Beacon Hill neighborhood. Restaurant employees have been delivering food to health care workers, in addition to filling orders for takeout and delivery. "Whether or not Musang is able to stay open — for the time being, if we have the space, we can use it. If I have to sleep here, I will," Miranda says.
Chona Kasinger for NPR


A mural in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood (left) and a poster in the Central District (right) are signs of the times, as information about the coronavirus outbreak evolves quickly.
Chona Kasinger for NPR

Photographers Chona Kasinger in Seattle, Elias Williams in New York City and Theo Stroomer in Denver contributed reporting to this story.

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