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Lysol And Boredom: Norwood In The Age Of Coronavirus03:50
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Norwood Hospital set up a medical tent outside of the emergency room set up a tent to test for the coronavirus. (Meagan McGinnes/WBUR)
Norwood Hospital set up a medical tent outside of the emergency room set up a tent to test for the coronavirus. (Meagan McGinnes/WBUR)

The coronavirus is turning life upside down for many Massachusetts residents. Norwood was one of the first towns hit hard by the illness. The town manager tested positive, and 10 other local officials had to self-quarantine, after attending a private party with a resident who, it later turned out, had the virus.

As the town works to handle the public health issue, residents and business owners there are trying to adjust to a new normal.

On a recent weekday, many of the businesses along Washington Street, a main road, are empty. Some business owners say they feel customers are afraid to come out or are taking precautions and staying in.

"Emotions are high. You see a lot of hysteria," says Robert LaPann, the co-owner of Impeccable Barber Co.

LaPann has had a drop in customers and expects that to continue. But he thinks his business can survive.

He says the barbershop is already well sanitized. He sprays down the chairs with Lysol — and he’s taking extra precautions.

"We're not shaking hands. We're actually doing a high five with our feet," LaPann says with a laugh. "So, yeah, we're just trying to be as smart about the situation as we can."

You can find some moments of levity during the coronavirus outbreak. LaPann says he's just trying to keep spirits high.

Pre-school teacher Kathy Corbean leaves a salon next to the barbershop. She says her family is trying to figure out a new routine since schools are closed — and their beloved college basketball tournament has been canceled.

"We would be watching lots of basketball this time of year. We love March Madness, but we're calling it March Sadness now," Corbean says. "But, I feel like what's happening in the world is a lot bigger than basketball."

She says with so many things being canceled and people being urged to not gather in groups, she's planning for lots of family time.

"I don't know what we're gonna do. We're gonna get creative in our boredom," Corbean says with a smile.

Corbean, of course, isn’t the only one spending more time at home.

This week Norwood officials closed town hall due to the public health crisis. The move came after a heightened statewide response to the coronavirus.

And residents here are well aware of the concerns. Just up the block from town hall, retired Norwood resident Ray Johnson says he’s worried he could get sick with COVID-19, the diseased caused by the virus.

"Really, to tell you the truth, I'm scared," Johnson says. "I shouldn't be, but I’m old. I’m going to be 72 in less than two weeks. And it's bad for people with heart and lung problems, which I do have."

Johnson says he’s being careful and washing his hands more regularly. But he hopes to continue to take walks. He also has to get to doctor’s appointments.

"I'm going to try my regular routine. You know, I like to get out to walk because I need the exercise. And we'll see what happens," Johnson says.

It’s wait and see for many people in Norwood, as businesses, events and other services scale back.

Meanwhile, Norwood Hospital has already set up a tent to test for the coronavirus. And town officials continue to send out regular updates to residents electronically.

Norwood Hospital set up a medical tent outside of the emergency room set up a tent to test for the coronavirus. (Meagan McGinnes/WBUR)
Norwood Hospital set up a medical tent outside of the emergency room set up a tent to test for the coronavirus. (Meagan McGinnes/WBUR)

This segment aired on March 19, 2020.

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Zeninjor Enwemeka Twitter Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.

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