Since mid-winter of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has served as an omni-present reality. There is literally no place to run. Yet people continue to move and relocate for work, for family and for quality of life. What they find is a diversity of responses to the coronavirus, whether the reactions have to do with mask-wearing, vaccines and boosters, social distancing, remote learning as well as the status of restaurants and bars. It is therefore safe to say that COVID-19 has touched every community in the United States -- just not to the same degree. What are transplants finding in their new environments?

Certain states have imposed more rigorous COVID-19 protocols than others. The lawmakers in these jurisdictions assert these restrictions are vital to the public health. Opponents call these measures draconian and freedom-killing, examples of the cure being worse than the disease. Differing opinions lead to divergent laws among the  states.

Stricter COVID Responses

California maintained stay-at-home orders until the summer of 2021. Anyone over the age of two years is required, independent of vaccination status, to wear a mask indoors. Meanwhile, proof of vaccination (with booster) is mandatory for attendance at an indoor event that welcomes 1,000 people or more. More locally, the City of Los Angeles ordered that vaccination credentials be presented when entering eating and drinking establishments. Public school teachers must either be vaccinated or tested on a weekly basis.

On the east coast, New York has also imposed tough rules to contain COVID. The Empire State shares many of California's restrictions. In addition, New York promises to dismiss hospital workers who do not receive the COVID vaccine; there is no option for regular testing. Like Los Angeles, a municipal regulation denies unvaccinated New York City residents and visitors access to any accommodation where food or beverages are served.

Softer COVID Responses

Those who pay attention to the news -- for good or for ill -- will know that Florida and Texas opt in the direction of fewer COVID controls. For example, the governor of Florida has executed executive orders that give parents the choice whether or not to mask their children for school. Although this order is being challenged in jurisdictions like Miami-Dade County, the order remains in effect statewide. The governor has also prohibited any requirements for vaccine passports. Texas was one of the first states to fully re-open after the first wave of the coronavirus. Governor Greg Abbott has forbidden vaccine mandates everywhere in the Lone Star State.

These examples tend to bracket the other states in the union, many of which are moderated versions of one side or the other.

What about the Economy?

Absent rules and regulations, COVID has left an impression on thousands of communities across America. Many state economies had all but collapsed yet are recovering slowly but surely. States like Utah and Nevada, for instance, have not only recovered the jobs lost during the pandemic, but added more than before. These states also see the steepest rises in home value as opposed to New England, Michigan and California where home value is expected to drop. South Dakota, Nebraska and much of the southeast have brought back over 85 percent of jobs lost.

Public assistance also jumped in many cases because of the pandemic. In 2019, Hawaii and California led the nation in participation in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. By 2022, however, the states with the highest percentage of recipients are Oregon, New Mexico and West Virginia. Needless to say, COVID has made an impact across the U.S. but normalcy makes a comeback.