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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life for everyone in Kansas City in ways we don’t even understand yet. KCUR is documenting those changes, one by one, through our individual stories. Share yours.

The Next Normal: How COVID-19 Has Changed Three Lives In The Kansas City Area, Probably Forever

Laura Ziegler
KCUR 89.3
James Howell says he's "bleeding money" each week his Waldo salon is closed. He worries how quickly business will pick up once he reopens.

In KCUR's new series, The Next Normal, we document how the lives of Kansas Citians have been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders.

James Howell wakes up worrying. He worries if he’ll be able to make his June rent. If he’ll get stimulus funds. When, or if, his clients will feel safe coming back.

His hair salon in Waldo has been closed since Kansas City mayor Quinton Lucas shut down non-essential businesses in mid-March. He comes into the empty salon every day to bleach the floors and wipe down the five styling stations, always wearing a cloth mask.

“The next normal? My God, the next normal will be that I will age with creases I never thought I had because I will be wearing a mask for the next 20 years,” says Howell, lamenting how a salon full of stylists in masks with Clorox cleaner at their stations will forever poison the serene vibe he has tried to create over the last 18 years.

The name Salon Mir came to him after a trip to Bosnia, where he learned that ”mir” is the Bosnian word for “peace.”

“I wanted a place where there would be peace and my clients could come in and be like, ’Yeah, this is the quiet place, the place I can relax while I get my hair done.’”

Introducing "The Next Normal"

As states and cities around the country gingerly begin to reopen non-essential businesses and relax stay at home orders, officials in the Kansas City area were bickering about what that will look like here.

To be fair, they have a particularly challenging problem. Porous borders between the 11 counties and more than 100 cities in the Kansas City metropolitan area make tracking infection rates of COVID-19 difficult. It's a problem exacerbated by a shortage of testing equipment and a lack of contact tracing. Politics plays a role, as well.

As communities turn their attention toward reopening businesses and gathering spots, KCUR will be bringing you stories about how life has changed, and what changes you might see in the future, as we know more about how this new virus behaves.

We’re calling the series The Next Normal, with the understanding no one really knows what that is going to be.

Here is a sample of some of the stories we will be telling.

James Howell
Owner, Salon Mir, Kansas City, Missouri

Laura Ziegler
KCUR 89.3
James Howell keeps up with his clientele via social media but comes in every day to check for messages and to make sure the salon is intact.

James Howell checks his appointment book to make sure he’s reached everyone whom he needs to cancel for the upcoming week. His clients typically book their appointments months in advance.

He’s been doing hair for more than 30 years, 18 of them at Salon Mir.

Doing hair isn’t a job for Howell, it’s a passion. He loves keeping up with the latest trends, the intimate atmosphere of the shoebox-sized salon, but most of all, he loves the interaction with his clients.

“Most hair stylists have a bit of the therapist in them,” he says. “For me, doing hair is all about the people. But we’ve got to keep them safe.”

When he comes in to the empty salon, in addition to cleaning, he tidies the shelves and straightens the magazines, even though he knows when he reopens, magazines will be one of the casualties of COVID-19.

“You know, having candy out for people to grab a piece of chocolate on the way out. That will never be again,” he says. “The hug. When I see one of my clients or when they’re leaving. It makes me ache, but this is the new norm.”

Leslie Scott
Volunteer Coordinator, Kansas City, Kansas

Laura Ziegler
KCUR 89.3
Leslie Scott is feeling more healthy since she’s having her groceries delivered, although the delivery people routinely get lost in an effort to find her tiny carriage house behind a fence.

For Leslie Scott, a volunteer coordinator from Kansas City, Kansas, the lockdown has had an upside.

Because she has asthma, which can easily turn into bronchitis, she is at risk for COVID-19. She’s been militant about social distancing.

Like thousands of people nationwide, she’s started having her groceries delivered to her at home via Instacart, one of several delivery apps whose use has skyrocketed in the last month.

“I’m an impulse shopper and can end up with a cart full of junk,” Scott says while she’s waiting for her delivery from Aldi. “I’ve been able to improve my diet. I’m doing more cooking and also getting out for walks.”

She lives in a tiny carriage house with four dogs, who keep her company during her isolation. She feels a new sense of community as neighbors are reaching out to one another during this crisis.

“I commented on my neighbors pretty flowers recently while I was on a walk,” she says. “The neighbor later dropped some of her flowers off at my house. I sense a drive to be supportive of one another.”

Beverly Murry
Orrick, Missouri

Laura Ziegler
KCUR 89.3
Beverly Murry is grateful to have moved in with her daughter and son-in-law. She lived alone in an apartment where friends and family come often to visit. Not knowing when she might go back makes her sad.

Beverly Murry, 91, has survived World War II, the polio epidemic, the Korean and Vietnam wars. But she says the uncertainty of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 scares her more than any of them.

“When the ban is all lifted, I wonder what the people are really going to do,” she says over coffee at her daughter’s house in Orrick, Missouri. “ Are they going to go wild and get us back in the same boat we’re in now, not take precautions?“

Murry was living by herself in an apartment in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, where she had family close by. She also had friends who checked in on her but who refused to obey social distancing rules. The family decided it made sense for her to move up to Orrick, at least temporarily.

She plays rummy and appreciates all the attention here, but misses her routines at home.

“(My other daughters) come to see me every morning,” she says. “I miss seeing my grandchildren. I miss going to Sunday School and church.”

Murry had planned to stay in Orrick for two weeks. It has already been over a month and she doesn’t know when it will be safe for her to return to her apartment.

Send us stories of how your life is changing now and into the future because of COVID-19 at TellKCUR@kcur.org or leave a message on our voicemail at 816-235-8930.

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions.
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