Let’s face it: in quarantine, most of us have felt a little lonelier. Zoom chats, text messages, and Facetime calls don’t always offer the same opportunity to connect as in-person interactions do—humans are social animals, after all.
However, the pestilential nature of the coronavirus can throw a wrench into your social status quo. A person infected with coronavirus can spread aerosols when they talk or breathe, even if they show no symptoms.
Contact with infected surfaces or objects also can spread the virus.
The precautions you should follow while socializing should be familiar at this point: wear a proper mask, stay at least six feet apart, and use hand sanitizer that’s at least 60 percent alcohol.
Additionally, it also helps to have your eyes wide open to the types of social situations you can enjoy and what you should avoid. In this post, we’ll arm you with the knowledge you need to stay safe as you take back your social life.
Social situations to stay away from
First, let’s discuss unsafe situations to avoid when you socialize in the COVID-19 climate. Stay away from crowded parties, a warning that is especially pertinent to college students and young people.
The virus is much more transmissible when several people are in close proximity, especially if there’s touching, talking, sweating, and sharing food or drinks.
In the Cape Cod area, ten people tested positive for the coronavirus after attending a party in July that had 30 and 50 people. People weren’t wearing masks or socially distancing.
Also, don’t even think of going to “coronavirus parties” that people have thrown to flout social distancing rules and even to see who could catch coronavirus first.
Kentucky is one state where these types of parties have occurred.
“We’re battling for the health and even the lives of our parents and grandparents, and don’t be so callous as to intentionally go to something and expose yourself to something that can kill other people,” said Governor Andy Beshear.
Always be mindful of the fact that the safety measures you take, like wearing masks and sanitizing, are to protect not only yourself but also your friends, parents, and older relatives.
Low-risk and high-risk events
So, what can you do? The pandemic has sparked an abundance of new methods for socializing online, ranging from virtual cocktail hours to workout classes to baby showers.
However, there are still plenty of options for in-person activity, especially if you follow specific safety guidelines.
The social activity with the lowest risk is staying at home alone or with housemates. Try to allow only people you live with into your home. The highest risk activities are indoor gatherings—try to avoid these as much as possible.
Don’t share food, toys, and other items, and avoid shared surfaces.
Outdoor activities and gatherings range from moderate to high-risk. Avoid shared surfaces, like swings or benches. Try to make your participation in outdoor gatherings like sports events infrequent.
As far as headcount for indoor events, it’s critical to check the regulations of your state. For example, in Massachusetts, the maximum remains 25 in an enclosed space.
North Dakota has a “Smart Restart Plan” that recommends that restaurants, cafes, and food establishments operate at 75 percent capacity.
Policies for dining out
The CDC advises the general public that before they visit a restaurant they should call and ask what extra prevention strategies they’re using (ex: requiring staff to wear masks).
Check Yelp to see if other patrons have commented on the restaurant’s COVID-19 safety procedures. Also, ask about self-parking options so you don’t need a valet service.
When you’re at the restaurant, wear masks when you’re less than six feet apart from other people or indoors. If possible, try to limit the use of shared server utensils, buttons, or touchscreens.
If you use the restroom, check that there are enough paper towels and soap, and the hand sanitizer is at least 60% alcohol. After you get home from the restaurant, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
Going swimming, hiking, and camping
Beaches, pools, and parks are especially tempting in the summer and warmer weather for exercise and leisure. For beaches and pools, there’s no evidence that COVID-19 spreads through waters. That doesn’t mean to lower your guard, though.
Spring breakers from the University of Texas at Austin are unfortunate examples of what happens when you let caution fly out the window on beach vacations.
Sixty college students tested positive for COVID-19 on a trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. 78 percent of them showed symptoms like fever and coughs. Shared housing and lack of diligence helped the virus spread like wildfire.
If you’re planning to visit a beach, read up on its local rules and regulations. Try to only visit a beach that’s not crowded, and keep your beach chairs six feet apart.
Avoid sharing beach equipment like balls or beach chairs when possible. Don’t wear masks during activities where they could get wet, like swimming. However, if you visit the restroom, keep your mask on and sanitize.
These rules also apply to pools. At pools, you need to be more conscious of the closer proximity of people and touching shared surfaces like pool railings.
Camping and going to parks are also activities many may miss. As with beach visits, don’t visit campgrounds or parks that are crowded. Visit parks that are close to home; traveling long distances can contribute to spreading coronavirus.
Wear a mask when it’s possible. They’re actually the most essential in times when social distancing is difficult, like when you’re hiking on trails that are public or crowded.
What if you're in an at-risk group?
Extra precautions are an absolute must if you’re a high-risk individual, or you’re around a friend or relative who is. This means people who are 65 and over, immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions like obesity or liver disease.
However, those in at-risk groups, like seniors, may also suffer the most from the pandemic’s isolation. “Loneliness among the older population will be a much more insidious cause of casualty than we previously realized,” says geriatrician Matthew L Russell, MD.
Therefore, it’s important to maintain a connection to at-risk individuals. If you want to visit an older relative or high-risk individual, consider getting a PCR test, which is the diagnostic test to determine if you’re infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Even if you have negative results, you still need to be cautious.
For your visit, plan ahead, and consider making it a road trip—a safer option than a plane or train. With planes, it’s hard to social distance in airports, and you’re exposed to people several rows ahead and behind for an extended period of time.
If you do take a plane, bus, or train to visit older relatives, “choose routes that are less populous,” says Dr. Emily Landon, a hospital epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Medicine. “Make sure you are wearing a mask and using hand hygiene. And look for an airline, train, or bus company that is enforcing rules like universal masking.”
Even though your social life might not be the same as it was in 2019, you absolutely still can have one. First, check with your state regulations before you attend a gathering or public area like a restaurant.
Equip yourself with masks, tissues, and hand sanitizer, and practice social distancing. Socializing is important for our well-being, but you need to do it in safe and mindful ways.