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Were you “weekending” on your first free weekend?

It didn't seem like a loaded question, but it generated an unexpectedly heated debate among parents who follow us on Facebook.

Lola Burnette’s family kayaked on Watson Lake in Prescott last weekend.

“What are you doing during your first real weekend following the May 15 expiration of Arizona’s official stay-at-home order?”

It didn’t seem like a loaded question, but it generated an unexpectedly heated debate among parents who follow us on Facebook. The controversy wasn’t about specific plans, but instead about timing, and whether it was too soon to pursue a “normal” life outside the home.

To some, it was important to continue protecting their own and others’ safety by staying in. Others evoked their right to resume “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as they had before the pandemic hit.

Many respondents, citing medical concerns and data trends, were passionate about keeping up the quarantine lifestyle. For them, weekend plans included watching TV (from Netflix to NASCAR), gardening, swimming, and DIY projects — even building patio furniture.

Those who shared about taking the plunge back into society were effusive about having some renewed freedom. They flocked to bars, restaurants, stores, and malls that were open, noting that only about half or fewer of the people they mixed with at various places wore masks or PPE. Still, none seemed overly concerned about the risk.

Still staying put

The majority of our social media comments indicated that families still favor staying home except for essential trips, despite the state’s reopening. Susan Erickson of Prescott said her family will remain home bound as much as possible for at least several more weeks “when I can see what happens from everyone going out and acting like COVID miraculously disappeared even though Arizona…opened up while still climbing in COVID-positive cases.”

Arizona has continued to add hundreds of new diagnoses each day. (Find the latest numbers.)

The numbers concerned Jo Nami of Phoenix late last week. “No need to rush the ‘opening up’ when the cases are still climbing and climbing and climbing,” she said. She planned a low-key weekend with swimming in her pool and tending her vegetable and gardenia gardens.

Jennifer Bell of Chandler said her family also was staying in but “hoping that all of our hard work in doing so wasn’t wasted” by those who go out too soon and potentially cause COVID-19 cases to rise. Bell had a packed at-home weekend schedule with her family watching movies, gardening, cooking special meals, studying French, and writing.

Going out with gusto

Last weekend, Suzanne Kostman’s goal was “going out and enjoying life!” The Mesa resident planned dinner at one of her family’s favorite restaurants, Ajo Al’s Mexican Cafe, and some leisure (not grocery-only) shopping.

“I refuse to live in fear,” she said. “Please people. When we are all relieved of our sentence and free to roam again, hug your family and friends. Shake hands. Talk to each other in a normal speaking distance… Please do not let this be the new normal.”

Amanda Wray of Fountain Hills was pleased that Governor Doug Ducey let the stay-at-home order, which had been extended from April 15, expire. She enjoyed dinner out at both Mastro’s Ocean Club and Fleming’s Steakhouse.

“Happy to see the state making the right decision,” she said. “Dinner out was amazing! We felt there were plenty of safety precautions. Pool party with friends next weekend to celebrate the end of school.”

Lidia Heinz of Peoria also jumped back into socializing without reservations. She and her husband had a “so needed” date night at their favorite Mexican restaurant, Macayo’s, this weekend. Friends met up with them after dinner. Heinz said she was unconcerned about the risk of catching the virus for a specific reason. “I believe I had it [COVID-19] in January. I recovered just fine, none of my family got it,” she said.

Cautiously testing the waters

Other families decided to begin easing back into their lives outside of home. “Taking precautions, but not locking ourselves [down],” said Wendy Mikus of Gilbert about her weekend plans. “We’re barbecuing with some friends (small gathering, just two families), going to Mass on Sunday.”

Nature and outdoor activities offered a good compromise between safety and freedom for certain families. Lola Burnette of Phoenix traveled up to Prescott to kayak on Watson Lake with her husband last weekend — and reports that the lake area was busy with families hiking, biking, fishing and paddle boarding too.

“It’s been hard to be at home and out of nature for me. I can’t stay cooped up,” she said. But she’s not yet comfortable with dining in a restaurant or hanging out with friends she hasn’t seen in months.

Kimberly Kowalski of Chandler also considered venturing up to northern Arizona with her kids and dogs for a day trip. She described her reopening strategy as “still staying out of the mainstream as much as possible.”

As more businesses and services reopen in Arizona, federal and state officials are still recommending wearing face masks for those over the age of 2 and social distancing in public places. Pima County health officials have put together mask-related advice at bit.ly/COVIDFaceMask. They advise those who go out to “Act Like You Got It” — behaving as you would if you had COVID-19 to protect others around you.

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