‘Back to normal’

More locals out as Alabama relaxes restrictions

ice ice baby

Customers wait for some shaved ice treats at Choccolocco Park Saturday. The weather was fine for folks ready to get out and enjoy relaxed — though not eliminated — restrictions on COVID-19 protocols.

A line of red X’s made out of tape led the way Saturday into the Target at the Oxford Exchange. Inside, stickers reminded people to practice social distancing and employees wore masks as they worked.

The dressing rooms in the back corner of the store were closed, the entrance blocked by a clothes rack and a caution sign. All were efforts by the store to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Despite this, dozens of people were there.

They said it wasn’t a normal time out, but they were glad that things were reopening.

Joanna Parham of Villa Rica, Ga., who was wearing a mask, described her shopping trip as “strange.” 

“It’s different, just with the mask,” Parham said.

Parham, who wanted to buy a dress, said it was harder to find one because many stores were still closed and the ones that were open had restrictions in place.

“I couldn’t even try on shoes,” Parham said of her time in Target. “They wouldn’t even let me put on a sandal.”

Amber Randall of Talladega said she didn’t yet feel safe as she walked in front of Old Navy. She said it was her first day out and she had to buy a retirement gift for a co-worker. She said she make a point of staying away from other people.

“I’m not liking it,” she said. “I’m only out because I’ve got to be.”

Randall, flanked by her two daughters, said only one of them had a mask, so she felt there was no point in wearing one if they all three weren’t going to.

Several dozen people also walked the corridors at the Quintard Mall. Some walked in pairs or small groups, but they appeared to keep their distance from each other. About half of the stores were open.

Jarrod Cuthrell, who works in the fragrance department at Dillard’s, said Saturday was busy. Lately, he said, the store had about the same number of sales it had made this time last year.

“We’re doing really well, comparatively,” he said, sitting in the food court on his lunch break.

He said the store kept hand sanitizer “everywhere,” and employees had to wear masks and take their temperatures before their shifts. 

Angela Turner of Talladega, also with her two daughters, said there were good things and bad things about her shopping trip at the mall.

She said she was happy to finally be able to see an item in person before buying it.

“You still get to come by and look at things at stores like you can’t online,” she said.

However, she said, many of her family’s favorite stores, such as Rue21, Bath and Body Works and the AmStar movie theater, were still closed.

A handful of people could be found at Choccolocco Park, less than a mile south of the Exchange. The fence around the playground there was padlocked shut.

Lyndonna Charles of Oxford, who sat at a picnic table near the park’s restrooms, said the park had been open through the pandemic, but it looked like there were a few more people than normal.

“It’s nice to slowly get back to normal,” she said. “I would stress slowly.”

She said she felt good about being out, especially since the track was big enough to accommodate everyone who was there.

“Everybody has their space,” Charles said. “It’s probably one of the safer places to be.”

Jerry and Rachel Boyd of Anniston, who were walking on the track surrounding the park’s lake, said they felt safe there and in other public spaces.

“We’re not afraid to go into Publix or TJ Maxx,” Rachel Boyd said. “We have our masks, of course.”

Jerry Boyd said the couple had been to a mall in Douglasville, Ga., the day before, and more than half of the stores were closed.

He said the reopenings weren’t going “well enough.” In a big city, he said, he’d understand the closings and restrictions, but not in Calhoun County.

“They need to reopen everything,” Boyd said. “This is overblown.”