For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for numerous reasons beyond the virus itself. One of the most prevalent stressors is loneliness brought on by physical distancing. People need social interaction—without it the risks for depression, other mental health issues, and premature mortality spike. However, you may be uncertain how you can begin to reconnect with loved ones while the virus still spreads relatively unchecked throughout the U.S.

Though there is hope on the horizon with the coronavirus vaccine, it will be months before the vaccine is widely distributed and available to everyone. Until then, keep these tips in mind for safe social meetups with those you care about.

Stick with outdoor meetups.

COVID-19 isn’t technically an airborne virus. However, it is transmitted through the air via tiny droplets, or aerosols. So, any enclosed, indoor space will increase the likelihood of transmission. Outdoor meetups will offer a higher level of comfort and safety, although it’s still advisable to wear masks if you can’t maintain a safe distance of at least 6 feet between members of different households.

Keep visits short, for now.

It’s tough to suppress the desire to share hugs and long, in-person conversations after months of Zoom fatigue, but you’ll want to keep your in-person interactions limited to shorter visits for now. The longer you’re sharing space with another individual from outside your household, the greater the risk of transmitting the virus. So, limit social events to 15-30 minutes and skip the hugs and close greetings. Also, remember to keep plenty of hand sanitizer nearby.

Discuss boundaries beforehand.

You’re probably aware that you and your friends and family aren’t all on the same page when it comes to coronavirus precautions. But that doesn’t mean you can’t meet up safely and comfortably—you just need to communicate clearly and offer a space of understanding for your loved ones. For example, if your parents are adamant non-mask wearers, you can let them know that you’ll still wear a mask and remain physically distant during your visit for your own comfort and safety. If they don’t agree to your terms, then it may be best to continue postponing in-person meetups.

For any social interaction you’re planning, discuss the following with involved parties beforehand:

  • Are you meeting in public at a park or walking trail, or at home in your own backyard? What are the rules for the meeting space? What areas are off-limits (for example, can a friend visiting your home for a drink on the patio use your bathroom during their visit)?
  • Will masks be worn during the meetup?
  • What are your limitations for physical contact?
  • How long will the meetup last?

Remember that even with close friends and family members, it may be the first time you’re meeting in person for several months. So, establishing limits and making your comfort level known is essential for a healthy, friendly visit.

Pay attention to both local guidelines and CDC recommendations.

It’s easy to get swept up in different purported facts and figures about COVID-19 from various sources. Remember that the most reliable information will come from the CDC and WHO, so these organizations are your best source for guidelines about safe social interactions. You should also stay in tune with local guidelines and warnings from city or state government organizations. For example, there may be a spike in coronavirus cases locally in your area that may inspire some extra caution for social visits.

Navigating daily life during the pandemic remains a challenge, but resources are available to help you manage your mental and physical wellness with MeMD. Contact us today to connect with an urgent care physician on-demand or mental health professional within 24 hours.

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