Once upon a time, the concept of leaving your house and actually doing something — anything — seemed absurd. Sure, we used to be well-versed in the art of rallying all weekend, our false lashes hanging on for dear life. But once the pandemic hit and everyone and everything shut down, we got realllll comfortable with the fact that not going anywhere was kinda… nice?
So, for over a year we’ve all just been sitting inside with our vibrators, ordering way too much food and begging our exes not to change their Netflix passwords. Other than that week or so when the world seemingly discovered Zoom and you had to go to virtual happy hours with everyone you know, plans were just a far-off, abstract idea. We agreed to anything because honestly, it wasn’t like it was actually going to happen.
Except now that more and more people are getting vaccinated, seeing friends and family once again is becoming a reality. Which is great… except for the fact that you made a lot of bullsh*t plans with a lot of bullsh*t people that you have absolutely no intention on keeping. Here’s what you agreed to, and a few ideas for getting out of this mess:
10. Drinks With Your Coworkers
For over a year you’ve been working on your couch, but after the company-wide email went out saying everyone was expected back in the office, the invites started rolling in. Happy Hour! Team Building! Draaaaanks! Whether you like your coworkers or they’re pesky annoyances you try to forget exist after you log off at 5pm, the barrage of “let’s go out after work” invites are a given as soon as the world opens back up. Back when you replied to those requests while sitting at home with acne cream on your face, it didn’t feel like they would actually happen. But now that the time is here here, you’re realizing you might actually have to interact outside of work with these people after not physically seeing them for over 12 months.
How To Get Out Of It: You can’t really. You work together. You sh*t in the same room. You can put it off as long as possible, but eventually, you’ll have to give in and go out with them. Sure it sucks, but out of all the “plans” you made, it’s the least offensive. Just make sure to schedule it on a day you have a time restraint (“one drink because I have to help my neighbor? with her printer??”) so you can down your vodka soda and peace TF out ASAP. It’s that or quit your job, so like, the choice is yours.
9. Brunch With Your Frenemies
Did you love them pre-covid but after seeing their idiotic IG posts for the past year you’re over them, or have they always been a little sh*tty? Chances are you have a few toxic friendships that need to be scrubbed, but that didn’t stop you from making “when the pandemic is over” plans with those a-holes. Now that things are “normal,” they expect you to join them for carbs and complaining. It’s not that you hate them, it’s just that you realized life was maybe better without them?
How To Get Out Of It: Unless you’re ready to cut this group loose, they’ll eventually guilt you into brunching. Wear your biggest sunnies so they can’t see your eye rolls and chose a spot with bottomless mimosas. If you’re going to endure a few hours with the friends you low-key despise, you might as well be wasted for it.
8. Dinner With That One Annoying Couple
Whether you’re coupled up or expected to third wheel, you keep getting invites from that one couple you can’t seem to shake. Perhaps they’re college friends who turned corporate or your friend and her obnoxious boyfriend, but the duo just won’t take the hint that the idea of breaking bread with them makes you want to die. Sure, you could just keep bailing, but if there’s any part of you that wants/needs to keep that relationship afloat, you know it’s only a matter of time before they choose a pretentious restaurant and expect you to give them a bite of your entree.
How To Get Out Of It: It’s honestly kind of embarrassing that they haven’t figured out you don’t want to hang, but that’s a prime example of why they’re so frustrating to be around. Still, if they’re true friends who turned lame, a coworker you can’t ignore, or a pal you love with a partner you hate, you don’t want to totally jeopardize things. Luckily, claiming to be on a strict diet might be the key to getting out of a meal. Say you’re working with your doctor and can’t eat X, Y, and Z, so dinner is out. Promise to reconnect once your cholesterol (wink) is at a healthy level (wink, wink), and just make sure not to post your drunchie food the next time you have a fry craving.
7. Partying With Your Old High School Pals
When you were stuck in your tiny apartment with no one to talk to other than your house plants, you found yourself reconnecting with your old friends from school. Ancient pictures resurfaced, memes were sent, and after your ten-year high school reunion got canceled, you all agreed that you needed to get together ASAP. Now that ASAP is here, you realize you’d rather leave the past in the past and keep those relationships where they belong: in high school.
How To Get Out Of It: Unless you live in your hometown (my condolences), timing and scheduling are on your side here. I mean, what are the odds that all of you will agree on a weekend, book flights, and get together? Slim. So the only real option is to meet up around the holidays, but after a year of family events were canceled, your parents are officially your “get out of plans without looking like a total dick” card. Say you’d love to get together and then once you’re in town, throw your family under the bus with “my mom keeps guilting me” or “grandma forgot to tell us she was coming by for dinner.” It sucks but, you know, they’re family *humble shrug.*
6. Coffee With Your Internet Friend
Whether she’s a friend of a friend who slid into your DMs or you connected in a Facebook group and started chatting, you’ve officially landed yourself an internet pal. One thing led to another and a few casual conversations became a passing plan of meeting up IRL after Covid. Which means you agreed to go awkwardly hang out with a stranger whose messages you sometimes ignore because the idea of actually being able to leave your house someday sounded less ludicrous than going on a platonic first date with a social media rando.
How To Get Out Of It: It really sucks to be ghosted, but that’s the beauty of social media. If the person has no ties to you, stop answering/opening their messages or even go so far as to block them. There’s probably a reason you don’t actually want to meet up with them. If, however, they run in your circle or there’s the possibility of seeing them again, you might want to be a little less bitchy. Keep putting off the actual coffee date until they get the hint, or destroy their spirit and tell them you’re not that into an IRL relationship with them. The truth hurts, but at least then they’ll stop sending you TikToks you’ve already seen.
5. Shopping With An Acquaintance
Is she a friend? Sort of. Do you know her middle name? No. Do you genuinely enjoy spending time with her? Also no. But again, she’s sort of a friend and somehow you both landed on the idea of getting together to go shopping. Like, in public. Back when you agreed to the idea, the thought of perusing shelves instead of Amazon sounded so absurd, you said yes without thinking because it wasn’t like it was ever going to happen. But alas, stores are open, you’re both vaccinated, and she’s trying to schedule a time to get together. Even though you’ve never hung out with her 1-on-1 (and never really had the desire to TBH), she seems determined to spend an afternoon shuffling around stores and making forced small talk.
How To Get Out Of It: This is a tricky one. On one hand, you don’t want to go shopping with this person. On the other hand, ghosting feels like a non-option, especially if they’re friends with your other friends. Say you’re trying to save money, turn the shopping date into drinks, and drown out the awkwardness with shots and sh*t-talking. Everyone knows the pathway to a new bond is paved with bottom-shelf liquor and newfound mutual hatred.
4. Manis With Your Mother-In-Law
It’s been a long year, but one of the very few perks was getting out of those obligations with the in-laws. Unless you love the family you married into (liar), the thought of spending some extended 1-on-1 time with your MIL is probably causing you some serious angst. You’d humor her calls and texts and gushed about how you couldn’t wait to get together with her, but now that she’s vaccinated, it’s clear this wasn’t idle chitchat. She’s sending you nail design Pinterest boards, photos of cats in salon chairs, and is continuously asking your S.O. why you won’t call her back. Did you not get her seven-minute voicemail?
How To Get Out Of It: I don’t think there’s anything worse than getting your nails done with someone you don’t like chatting with. You’re just sitting there for a very extended period of time with nothing to do other than talk. You can’t bring a book or scroll social without looking like an asshole, but you’re 100% certain you’ll run out of stuff to talk about before the clippers even come out. The only way to get out of this is to say you’re not visiting the salon due to health concerns (Mold? Germs? Covid still? You decide), and would rather just paint your nails the next time you get together. Grab a few bottles of the fastest dry polish you can find and tell you S.O. to stay in the room while you give your MIL the sloppiest mani ever. She’ll feel like she’s getting that mother-daughter bonding moment and as long as you have some polish remover to get rid of the lime green mess she made on your hand, you’ll be set.
3. The Cross-Country Visit To See The Friend You Talk To Once A Year
Around the time when everyone was Zooming each other for happy hours, game nights, and *gasp* virtual bachelorette parties, you casually reconnected with an old friend who went MIA after moving away post-college. When she left for work (or was it to follow her boyfriend’s work? Wait, does she still have a boyfriend?) you both promised to keep in touch, but that quickly went to sh*t when real life got in the way. With covid, however, you had the chance to drunkenly DM, and now she’s wondering when you’re going to come see her and her new baby, whose name is escaping you at the moment.
How To Get Out Of It: There’s nothing worse than being roped into an expensive trip you don’t actually want to take (looking at you, bridal showers, weddings, and baptisms), but luckily, this one is fairly easy to get out of. There’s a good chance she doesn’t actually expect you to pack a bag and take a four-hour flight to see her, but if she does, hit her with a “times are hard, sh*t is expensive.” It’s not technically a lie because last I checked, times are hard and sh*t is expensive. If that doesn’t work, offer to host her at your home instead, and hope to God she too, decides to flake.
2. Toxic Weekend Retreat With Your Estranged Family
Awww! Your aunts, uncles, and cousins were so sad you didn’t see them this year, but they get it! You’re just a liberal sheep who believes in science. Even though they all masklessly got together numerous times, you were easily able to opt out. Now that you’re vaccinated and slowly starting to post bar pics on Insta, your family is making it clear that they’re dying to see you so they can ask you probing questions, question the validity of your job, and gaslight you into oblivion. You know, like the good old days!
How To Get Out Of It: Extended family is super tricky because, on one hand, they’re family. But on the other hand, you disagree with them about everything, and you honestly don’t even know how to spell half of their names. The problem is, no matter how sh*tty sitting around a cabin with people who still call you “kiddo” sounds, you kind of have to go unless you want to
get written out of the will look like a dick. The only way to get out of it is to fake a work trip or wedding and make it clear how sad you are to be missing the big reunion. Sure they’ll talk sh*t about you, but what else is new?
1. Accomplishing Those Lofty Personal Quarantine Goals
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Sure, you made a lot of plans with a lot of people during the pandemic, but what about the plans you made for yourself? You know, the mission to really concentrate on your health during quarantine? Or what about the novel you were going to write? Or that new job you were going to get? Weren’t you supposed to have abs by now? You made a lot of promises to yourself and now that the excessive amount of “you time” is coming to an end, it’s clear: You didn’t accomplish sh*t.
How To Get Out Of It: Letting yourself down is the worst, but if you think about it really hard, did you actually think anything was going to change? I mean, after doing that ab video one time, did you ever try it again? And you went on LinkedIn once, but quickly left after seeing all the thirsty DMs from old men wanting to ~connect.~ Sure, you bought a lot of cute note pads to write in, but did inspiration ever strike? Nope. And while everyone else might not understand, at least you can cut yourself some slack for flaking.
Images: Autri Taheri / Unsplash; Giphy (9); betches / Instagram
Your European vacation is canceled and your shoe-box sized apartment is sitting at an unbearable temperature of 105°. If you’re one of the lucky ones who still has a job, Mondays are basically indistinguishable from the weekend and your vacation days feel pretty much useless. At least we’ve made it to summer, and halfway through this dreadful year.
The CDC still advises against travel, and the best way to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19 is to stay home and limit your interactions with other people. However, being around people—particularly in enclosed spaces—is what spreads coronavirus, not the actual act of traveling. This means that there are still ways to take a vacation and plan ahead to ensure you stay as safe as possible this summer. As every company’s email newsletter informed us back in March, these are unprecedented times. So take precautions when allowing yourself to decompress, safely take a vacation, and try to dull the pain of 2020 with tequila sodas.
Travel, But Make It Local
Travel, both internationally and domestically, has obviously taken a serious hit due to the pandemic, with a low point on April 14th of only 87,000 fliers, according to the TSA. Since then we’ve seen a gradual increase in travel both in the air and on the ground as states rushed to open. Memorial Day weekend seemed to be the turning point when everyone just thought we could forget about the pandemic and get on with our lives, with a 48.5 percent increase in road travel compared to the previous weekend. Unfortunately, this jump and people’s general unwillingness to socially distance resulted in a huge spike in coronavirus cases. Anddd this is why we can’t have nice things.
The moral of the story: don’t be that guy! If you’re going to travel this summer, now is the time to keep your group exclusive and spend your money on fancy sh*t rather than just flocking to the hottest vacation spot (or literal COVID hot spot). Forgo the crowded Lake of the Ozarks pool party and show off your bikini body via Instagram from a private pool in an Airbnb instead. Skip the long flight and treat yourself to summer loungewear or dinner on a socially distant street-side patio. We’re always talking about how we want to be where the people aren’t, so let’s take advantage of this opportunity and built-in excuse for getting out of plans.
It also helps to limit your groups, wear a mask when social distancing isn’t possible, and avoid peak travel times. Before booking and going on a trip, be sure to monitor the number of cases in the area you are visiting, follow travel recommendations, and definitely don’t ignore some states’ 14-day quarantine mandates and get arrested.
“Help Me, I’m Poor,” -The Airline Industry, Probably
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While your pink Away luggage set collects dust, your preferred airline has gone into a tailspin and the remainder of 2020 is looking increasingly bleak for the industry. American Airlines may furlough 20,000 employees starting October 1st when the federal bailout expires. United said they could lose 36,000 jobs in the fall. That said, should you be rushing to give them your money? While before, you would probably book flights based on what was cheapest, now you might want to choose your airline carefully.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, airlines have claimed to be doing all they can to prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, as the economic pressures loom and lockdowns are lifted, there has been a gradual abandonment of precautions. Flights have become increasingly full, and airlines like American are booking back at full capacity. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) called his jam-packed connecting flight to Texas “incredibly irresponsible” and “high-risk.” Meanwhile, airlines are not prioritizing cleaning, according to a recent Association of Flight Attendants survey where only 44 percent of flight attendants said their planes were thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between flights. A worker from American Airlines’ evening shift also stated that she and a few colleagues had only ten minutes to clean some incoming flights before they had to board more passengers. Considering I spend double that amount of time just on my nighttime skin care routine, I don’t think ten minutes is enough time to sanitize a whole plane’s armrests and tray tables.
As we know from collecting air miles (remember those?), not all airlines are created equally. Delta will continue to not sell middle seats through the summer, and United will allow you to switch to a different flight if the one you are booked on becomes too full. While most airlines have policies advising all passengers to wear masks during flights, some airlines (you can guess which one) are not enforcing them.
Not Feelin’ Fly Like A G6
Air travel is risky due to the increased time around large numbers of people in enclosed spaces, but if you must travel by plane, be sure to take the necessary precautions. Take the time to disinfect your seat, area, and hands, and opt for shorter flights without layovers to help reduce your exposure. Dr. Farley Cleghorn tells National Geographic, “Choose a window seat as far from the restroom as possible. Keep the overhead vent open and toward your face—continuous airflow creates a small, invisible ‘wall’ that restricts (at least slightly) the exhaled air from other passengers.”
If international travel is essential for you, be aware that some airlines are prioritizing business class seats, which currently can cost as much as some people’s annual salary. While on July 10th American Airlines told flight attendants that “for now, it’s OK for customers to move to different seats in the same cabin,” that policy isn’t always the case. For one couple trying to get home to Australia from the U.S., their only option might be a $24,000 USD business class ticket. Somewhere out there an out-of-touch, super-rich person (Ivanka, is that you?) who only flies private thinks that must be the normal cost of a seat in economy…must be nice.
Trains: Bad And Bougie, Or Just Bad?
Trains can conjure two types of imagery: relaxing on a humming passenger train in comfortable seats like you’re on your way to Hogwarts, or being shoulder-to-shoulder on the subway with a guy who smells as you try to drown out someone’s argument with a podcast on your daily commute.
Doesn’t the first option of train travel just feel so European? While you may just be chugging upstate, it feels like you could be making your way through the Italian countryside. Even though European travel is off the table this summer, trains remain a safer option during coronavirus. Amtrak offers flexible bookings, limited seats for sale, and even private rooms. If your train travel is a little less “martinis in the lounge carriage” and more “essential commute on the L in Chicago at 6am”, you definitely deserve a vacation. Even though cities like New York have gone to great lengths to clean and sanitize their subway systems, transit employees have been heavily impacted by coronavirus with many deaths in the early stages of lockdown. Regardless of the type of train you’re taking, be sure to stay six feet apart when possible and wear a mask.
Roadtrip > Eurotrip
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Ok, fine, an Aperol Spritz in Positano is probably better than Bud Lights from a cooler by a murky lake, but traveling by car is likely the safest way to vacation this summer. It allows the least contact with other people and the most control of your surroundings, plus gas is at record low prices. If you’ve ever dreamed of being Britney Spears in Crossroads and driving down the highway in a convertible with your besties, now is the time!
“Traveling by airplane is much higher risk than traveling by car with your family,” Carl Fichtenbaum, an epidemiologist with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Infectious Diseases, tells CNBC. If you don’t own a car, renting one is fairly easy, or upgrade to a camper van and convince your boyfriend that you are the next Caelynn and Dean, without having to meet on Bachelor in Paradise. Once you rent the vehicle, clean and sanitize it, then download Britney’s full discography for when there’s no cell service. (That last part is just a personal recommendation, not the CDC’s.)
Before you leave, pack a COVID tool kit with hand sanitizer, masks, and wipes. While on your journey, try to limit interacting with others as much as possible: bring your own snacks to avoid going into convenience stores, pay at the pump rather than inside, and limit your number of stops—particularly in public bathrooms, as they can be cramped, and flushing a toilet can stir up aerosol particles. (If we weren’t germaphobes before this pandemic, I’m pretty sure we are now.) Once you’ve completed your road trip checklist, you’re ready to hit the open road like a suburban family in a minivan.
Drinks Well Alone
2020 is certainly a wild ride, and America continues to be the world’s Florida. We won’t be getting drunk in the airport lounge this summer, and Maine is the new Greek Islands, but at least the panhandle state stays consistently wild. Plus, on the bright side, you can delay buying another millennial pink bridesmaid dress for your cousin’s destination wedding for at least a year.
With things looking so depressing, it’s definitely time to salvage what’s left of summer 2020 and book a vacation or even a long-term stay to take advantage of working remotely. Being safe doesn’t mean you have to stay in your apartment alone, but it does mean you have to take precautions and limit your interactions with groups of people. And remember, drinking alcohol doesn’t act as an internal sanitizer, but multiple White Claws can help you forget the terrible Zoom dates you went on in April and make summer feel a bit more normal.
Images: Anna Shvets / Pexels
“I have some news,” my dad tells me on our morning call, “my mother died.”
I immediately stop pouring my coffee and take him off speakerphone.
My father goes on to tell me that she passed away earlier that morning in her London apartment and that he would send me the Zoom funeral information when he had it. I then ask my dad the question that I’m sure many of us have been asking a lot more these last few months, the question that can change a 10-minute chat into a 3-hour conversation, the most important question at this time: “Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he says, “I’m fine.”
Back in November, my dad had to have his leg amputated. There are no words to describe the agonizing fear of waiting for the doctors to give you updates or trying to memorize every word and sound of your parent’s voice as they are being wheeled into surgery because, hey, it may be the last time you hear them say “I love you.” After three major operations, he has been recuperating and learning his new normal, including walking with a prosthetic. When COVID-19 hit the rehabilitation home where he is currently residing, they immediately followed protocol and shut down. I haven’t hugged my dad since my visit to the Bay Area over the holidays and now, when I visit from Los Angeles, I stand outside his window to see him. These last couple of visits, I’ve wondered, “when will I hug my dad again?” and when a parent loses a parent, it’s the harsh reminder that we don’t get to keep ours forever, either.
This pandemic hasn’t gotten under control because many believe that doing things such as wearing a mask when around others, staying home, and practicing social distancing will lead to the virus controlling their freedom. Thanks to social media, I’ve learned that some of these people aren’t just people on the internet—some were part of my inner circle.
When a friend asked me what I was doing for the 4th of July, I told them there were many reasons why I didn’t feel like being patriotic, but more importantly, I want to see my loved ones without the fear of getting them sick. When I asked this friend what their plans were, they told me they were driving from our state, California, to another high-case state. After reassuring me that they weren’t one of those people who don’t believe in masks, they stated that they were skeptical about the vaccine based on their own knowledge and research of epidemiology. They then stated the infamous line, “We can’t live in fear forever.” For the record, this person is not a doctor.
Now, I am all for questioning authority, but when things are uncertain and peoples’ lives are at risk, I am not one to put my opinion and assessment over facts and numbers. I did express to this friend that their decision saddened me, and although I do know they understood where I was coming from after almost losing a parent, I can’t be the only one whose friendships have changed or have ended during this unpredictable chapter.
I compare the decisions we make during this time to drinking and driving. Sometimes people get away with it, so they don’t think anything of it. But not getting caught doesn’t make it right. Also, what happens when you hit another car and hurt someone, let alone kill them? What if your decision hurts or kills the passengers in your car? Then your judgment, your decision, has severely impacted someone else—how can someone be okay with this?
I spent my July 4th by the pool alone, drinking piña coladas, FaceTiming friends and family, and of course, watching everyone’s Instagram stories. The IG stories I saw ranged from people secluded among small groups in other parts of the United States, to the politically slanted “If you don’t celebrate today, it defeats the purpose of this day” rants. I unfollowed and deleted and kept telling myself a quote a former colleague once told me: “Don’t you just love when the trash takes itself out?”
It’s incredible how a pandemic that has asked us to simply wear a mask when around others and to stay home has revealed who people truly are. My grandmother hid from the Nazis during World War II in Holland when she was eight years old. Having a gas mask was a luxury—it meant you had a chance at survival. She didn’t have an iPhone to FaceTime her parents that she was separated from. I mean, hell, she didn’t even have food—she lived off tulip bulbs. But sure, tell me more about how wearing a mask is infringing upon your life.
I am by no means an angel. I’ve received a speeding ticket, sent 3am text messages that deserve to be a meme, and, not to sound like a 45-year-old divorcée, I can be fun. I don’t take myself seriously, I’m the friend who keeps Twister and mini-beer pong on hand “just in case” and has a small reputation of being a bit of a wild child. I have managed to safely hang out with a couple of friends outside at a distance, and I will be the first to acknowledge that minimal human interaction is vital to everyone’s mental health. However, when you don’t choose to care about others’ health, others’ lives and your behavior is delaying many of us from being able to simply hug our loved ones again, amongst the many other long term effects it could have on others, then yeah…
You and I have nothing in common.
Images: Ranta Images / Shutterstock.com
Apparently, I had no idea what being “stir-crazy” actually meant until we entered this indefinite solitary confinement they call quarantine. Even as a proud introvert, it feels like the universe is shoving all the plans I’ve ever canceled in my face and screaming, “IS THIS WHAT YOU WANTED?” This is absolutely not what any of us wanted—as any introvert will tell you, part of the thrill is canceling plans. With no plans to cancel, this endless abyss of plans that could have been (canceled) feels like a discount version of Groundhog Day. Not only are we mourning the closures of our favorite restaurants, stores, and bars, but many of the activities that kept us sane are no longer an option. One of the most difficult aspects of my quarantine has been the closure of my gym, and not only because of the sense of community it provided. Physical activity has been one of the only things I’ve found in over a decade of pretty severe anxiety that actually helped keep it in check. According to the CDC, reduced anxiety isn’t the only noticeable benefit of regular physical activity. Just 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week (that’s like 7 episodes of Schitt’s Creek which, realistically, you’ve done in one day) can improve both your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Regular exercise can also reduce your risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular disease. So yeah, TL;DR, exercise is good for you and I’m sorry for all the times I pretended I had cramps to get out of gym in high school.
During this time of incredible stress and uncertainty, the anxiety-reducing aspects of physical activity are more important than ever. Being trapped inside a small space with no end in sight is stressful, to say the least. Exercise is definitely helpful, and nothing makes me feel quite as calm as the aftermath of a heart-pounding sweat session. There are plenty of workouts that can be done from the comfort of your own home, but when running is your go-to, working out while quarantined can be a little more complicated (unless you have your own treadmill, you lucky b*tch).
At the beginning of quarantine I was running four miles a day ….. Now I’m proud because I did a single squat
— Donese (@donese22) July 9, 2020
It’s SO tempting—outside is literally right there. You can see it and hear it screaming at you to lace up and get out there. So what’s stopping you? If your neighborhood is anything like mine, you’ve seen countless people jog by, headphones in, totally oblivious to the fact that we’re in the middle of a freaking pandemic. If they can do it, why not the rest of us? Well, because we both know we’re smarter than that. Yes, it’s tempting to squeeze in a quick 3-miler and be back inside before the coronavirus even has a chance to notice we left our bubble. Unfortunately, this isn’t some high-risk game of tag and we really can’t afford to take any chances. Here’s the great news, though—experts say that it is fairly safe to run outside, as long as we take the proper precautions. Family Medicine Physician Doctor Mike Varshavski—or as he’s known on Instagram, Dr. Mike—tells Betches that running “is considered a low to moderate-low risk activity based on the new chart put out by the Texas Medical Association” and notes that “throughout this pandemic, almost all shelter at home orders have continued to allow and encourage solo exercise like hiking, walking, and running.”
So that’s the good news! And as long as you follow these pretty easy guidelines, you can rest easy knowing that you put your safety and the safety of others first.
1. Jog Alone Or In Small Groups, But Make Sure You Maintain A Safe Distance
I get it, running with your best friend or your running group like you’ve done for years is a blast. However, just because you have been extremely cautious about protecting yourself from the coronavirus doesn’t necessarily mean your running partners have done the same. Make sure whoever you’re running with is also taking the proper precautions, and continue to practice social distancing even when running outside. Dr. Mike tells Betches, “any time you are exposing yourself to other individuals, it raises the risk of catching the virus,” reminding us, “those who look healthy can still be spreading COVID-19. If you have to go with a group (for safety reasons, perhaps), try and be with the smallest group possible.”
Brian Labus, Ph.D., MPH, assistant professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Nevada Las Vegas told Runners World, “If you deem running with a small group is something you’re comfortable with, you’ll want to ensure that these few people have been properly careful over the past few months, same as if you’re running with one other person. Additionally, your small group should run somewhere you know you won’t come in close contact with others.”
Labus also emphasizes that if you live with someone in the at-risk age group (over 65) or someone who is immunocompromised, extra precautions are necessary, and running with a partner may not be the best idea. He explains, “There have been over 182,000 cases (as of June 10) and over 77,000 COVID-19 deaths (as of June 6) in those age 65 and over since February 1, according to provisional data from the CDC. It is safer to run solo until disease transmission is low in your community.”
2. Bring A Mask With You When You Run
It’s probably not necessary to wear a mask while you run outdoors (and realistically, it would be really tough to wear a mask during any exercise that leaves you gasping for air) as long as you maintain the proper distance between you and anyone you encounter outside. Indeed, Dr. Mike tells Betches that “a mask should not be worn while running as sweat will make the mask wet and create other problems.” He advises, “The best protection is to wear the mask until you’re ready to exercise, take it off, and stay at least six feet away from others as best as possible.”
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That said, it’s probably not a bad idea to bring a mask with you when you run just in case. You may end up lost and needing to grab an Uber back, you could desperately need to run into Walgreens for a drink of water, or you might end up running into your ex and needing a disguise. Point is, there are a lot of reasons you may need a mask when leaving your house, so make sure you have one with you at all times.
Donald Milton, a professor of environmental health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health explained to the New York Times, “Outdoors is relatively safe, and masks would only be important if you are exercising in crowded areas or indoors in space shared with other people.” According to Milton, as long as you’re keeping your distance, you should be pretty fine running outside with your mask at the ready in case of an emergency.
3. Scope Out Your Street During Different Times Throughout The Day, Or Find A Different Street Altogether
Please withhold all “duh”s, because from what I’ve seen firsthand it apparently needs to be said—the easiest way to keep your distance when running outside is to run in a less crowded area. Now, this doesn’t mean driving 38 miles to the middle of the forest to knock out your run. This honestly may be as simple as spending a few days looking out your window every hour or two to see how many people are out and about. Peak hours in your neighborhood may also vary between weekdays and weekends, so also take that into account when planning your run. Ideally, you want to find both a time when not too many people are out, and a place where you have plenty of “escape routes.” This means not running next to a busy street that you can’t cross if you see a group of people on the sidewalk. If you’re running on a forest path, it means being able to step way off to the side if someone else is approaching (and, see #2, don’t forget your mask in case this isn’t an option).
Dr. Benjamin D. Levine, a professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas, explained to NPR the importance of keeping an even greater distance when exercising outside. He advises, “The greater volume and rate of breathing that occurs during exercise has the risk of spreading droplets farther. I think it’s reasonable based on the known changes in breathing during exercise.”
I don’t know how many times I’ve been out walking and out of absolutely nowhere, a jogger runs by me so close that I feel a small gust of potential plague-wind as they pass. This isn’t okay, guys. First and foremost, if we can’t be considerate to other people who have just as much of a right to use the sidewalk as we do, we shouldn’t be out running in the first place.
That said, if you’ve been keeping an eye on your street and it really doesn’t seem like there’s much of a break in the constant stream of people passing by, check out some other side streets nearby. Chances are, within a mile or so of where you live, there are some quieter residential streets that will be far less congested.
4. Make Sure That It’s Actually Okay To Run Outside In Your Area
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As we’ve discussed, it is more than tempting to grab your shoes and just GTFO. But even if you’ve thoroughly read through these important tips and feel confident in your ability to run outside safely, please hit pause for just a hot second. Because of the constantly evolving nature of how we’re handling this pandemic, running outside without a mask may not even be allowed in your area. Make sure you’re constantly checking mandates from your state health departments to ensure you’re adhering to your area’s current requirements. These mandates are changing fairly regularly in some areas, so it’s a good idea to check them daily before your planned run. Your state will most likely have a dedicated coronavirus page with all of the latest information, from things like the number of confirmed cases to reopening guidelines.
Dr. Mike emphasizes, “Know that there is no such thing as absolute safety when outdoors. The guidelines of wearing a mask, physical distancing, and washing hands will certainly reduce risk but not eliminate it. Know what is an acceptable risk for you.”
If you’re still hyped up to go for an outdoor run, more power to you. Just remember the four M’s, and you should be good to go. Maintain your distance, Mask (in your pocket/bra/around your neck/whatever), find tiMes of the day that are less crowded (ok that was a stretch, who cares), and Mandates (check your local mandates to see what rules are in place in your area). Happy running!
Images: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels; donese22 / Twitter; notskinnybutnotfat, dietstartstomorrow / Instagram
After 95694845 days of quarantine (I lost count), our collective #QuarantineClub efforts have not been in vain. And now I’m actually seeing other humans IRL (yay!) out and about. We’re getting our lives back in this so-called “new normal” and cautiously doing all right in Phase 3 with non-essential businesses opening up. Parts of New York are allegedly even entering Phase 4, but that seems too good to be true.
The light at the end of the tunnel seems to be within our reach, but remember—it’s a marathon, not a sprint. All things considered, we can keep up our momentum so long as a few bad apples don’t f*ck over the entire cart. Unfortunately, parts of the U.S. are experiencing just that—sheer amounts of stupidity (i.e. COVID-19 parties… seriously, WTF Alabama??).
Extreme cases aside, I understand that at this point, you’re saying to yourself “omg, I’m so over COVID-19. O-VeR. IT.” And I get it. 2020 is canceled. The pandemic was not exactly what we wanted for summer. But think about how the frontline workers must feel? My close friend Mira MacLeod, a Registered Nurse who works in the COVID-19 ward of a major Toronto hospital (which was also the same converted facility used to treat the first SARS patients) said, “hell (lol) I’M OVeR IT. If anyone has COVID fatigue, it’s me, girl.”
So for her sake and for every one of these caregiving heroes, when it comes to our collective health, reckless behavior is inexcusable. In fact, it’s NOT okay when you decide to be a d*ck by not wearing a mask in a shared public space and jeopardize the lives of others. Additionally, I honestly feel like the warm weather must be frying off some of the common sense in some people’s brains. I guess when you throw sunny skies and balmy weather into the mix, it’s like everyone suddenly forgot that there’s still a deadly pandemic in our presence which, may I remind you, still has the power to come back to bite us again (like it did to South Korea and their second wave) and force us back into our homes.
Do the people begging for stuff to reopen not realize that means having to wear a bra on a regular basis?
— The Salty Mamas (@saltymamas) May 17, 2020
In light of people filling up their social calendars once again and taking to the city streets, the Department of Health released some guidelines on how we can all be safe when gathering together and dining out. However, what these documents neglect to state or inform us about is how the heck these rules will be consistently enforced. Mayor Bill de Blasio is essentially telling us all of this is based on “trust” and calling people out when you see them breaking the rules. Basically like “if you see something, say something.” While that’s definitely one way of approaching it, despite reporting the situation, the damage will have already been done.
Dr. Sidney Chiu, an emergency doctor at North York General Hospital, reminds us that we must each do our part and continue to take initiatives in safeguarding our community. Furthermore, we made it this far in flattening the curve—let’s not f*ck it up folks! Here are useful guidelines to keep in mind:
When In Doubt, Wear A Mask
MacLeod says that if you want to be safe, you should wear a mask indoors—even if the business doesn’t state that it’s mandatory. “You should be wearing one in confined spaces like at the grocery store, on the transit system, or at a retail store—places where you’re touching a lot of things.” You should be wearing disposable rubber and/or plastic gloves for this as well (think clothing items, transit railing, etc).
Wear A Mask When Walking On The Sidewalk
MacLeod says her major pet peeve is when people don’t walk around each other on the sidewalk: “It irks me that some just don’t care and/or take liberties. They walk by you in close proximity, and this is particularly troublesome when there are small children nearby.” As a mom of two kids, this is especially triggering for her. So she advises that when you see someone approaching, go around them, if you can. Remember, social distancing means you should be six feet apart, which is further than you think.
There Is Still NO Vaccine
“Just based on how I’m seeing some people behave, I think many believe that the pandemic has mostly passed—and that’s certainly not the situation. The reality is that although we’ve passed the first wave, we are constantly at risk of new cases,” MacLeod says. She adds that precautionary measures should be as routine as checking for your wallet, phone and keys before leaving the house. “A mask, disposable gloves, hand sanitizer (making sure that it contains 60-95 percent alcohol), and disinfecting wipes should all be a part of your ‘toolkit,’” which means that these items should be considered part of your “new normal” for the foreseeable future. If you’re forgetful, a good strategy is to set up a daily pop-up alert on your phone to remind yourself of these essential items. Or consider keeping it all in a stylish bag near your door.
No Hugging Or Shaking Hands
“This is tough, understandably, because we are by nature, social creatures,” explains Dr. Chiu. He adds that “in lieu of physical touching, air hugs/air high fives, or toe tapping is better than exposing any part of your body to someone else. You just don’t want to run the risk.” As a friendly reminder, he says that COVID-19 is spread through droplets and/or physical contact. “Just think that when you’re embracing someone and that close face-to-face, any number of things could happen: coughing, sneezing—even talking and breathing could aid in transmission.” He adds that what could then theoretically occur is that even though it appears that “nothing happened” during the hug, since you effectively touched that person, you could then absentmindedly touch your mouth, nose and eyes, thereby spreading the virus.
Just Because They “Look Healthy” Doesn’t Mean They Are
“We always assume there are obvious visual cues to someone being ill. However this is certainly not the case when someone is asymptomatic and can transmit the virus to you,” says Dr. Chiu, who adds that these individuals may not even be aware they have COVID-19. “So for your sake, it’s better to err on the side of caution and to wear a mask whatever the social situation may be.” Another scary and not-so-fun fact from him: “the chance of a test detecting COVID-19 is very low if you are asymptomatic, and it is unlikely to be helpful in determining if you have COVID-19 if you have zero symptoms.”
Invest In Anti-Technology For Your Sunnies
Dr. Chiu says that “I’ve heard some people complain about their sun/glasses getting fogged up due to the mask wearing.” To remedy this, he says to do the following: “mold your mask to the bridge of your nose, tighten the mask, or simply invest in some anti-fog spray or wipes which will do the trick nicely (and you should be prepping all of this before you leave your home).” This is an overlooked issue but an important one, and he explains that “you want to minimize the amount of time touching your face. If your glasses are fogged/smudged, etc and you’re constantly readjusting them, you’re increasing your chances of exposure.”
Invest In An Automatic Soap Dispenser
When returning home, immediately wash your hands with hot soapy water before doing anything else (the CDC advises you do this within 20 seconds of entering your home.). To avoid contamination, MacLeod advises people to get one of those automated hand soap dispensers.” Additionally, she says that bar soaps are a big no-no because bacteria and germs CAN survive on them (ewwww).
And in terms of venturing out in the world à la Oh, The Places You’ll Go Post-Pandemic (!), here are a few tips and best practices to be mindful of in the following social scenarios:
If available to you, always opt to use the restaurant’s QR code, which allows you to see the menu on your smartphone rather than touching paper. An exception to this is if you have a visual impairment and require a hard copy.
Wearing a mask while dining in a patio/restaurant space isn’t required (cuz um, how else can you eat that food if your mouth is covered?!); however, you should absolutely wear one when walking to your table and using well-ventilated washroom facilities (which are 99% of the time located inside of a confined restaurant space).
Another food-related issue is regarding pick-up and take-out: you just grab the order and go. Don’t linger and/or congregate on the sidewalks.
The CDC recommends that if you’re welcoming people into your home for, say, a BBQ cookout (specifically an outdoor space like the backyard) to consider keeping a guestbook of attendees for contact tracing needs. Disposable but recycle-friendly cutlery, plates, and cups should be used in lieu of the silverware you have at home.
Both Dr. Chiu and MacLeod say that if you can, visit these spaces on a weekday when it’s less crowded. “Because it’s an outdoor setting, it’s technically safer than, say, a shopping mall because these types of places are conducive to offering more room and fresh air.” For any communal seating (such as park benches and beach chairs), use hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes prior to use.
Individual Appointments (Including, But Not Limited To, Dental And Medical Offices, Nail Salons, And Hair Salons)
Ensure that it’s not a walk-in situation, and whenever possible, book your appointment in advance. If you’re feeling uncertain, ask what sorts of protocols the business or service has implemented, such as adequate HEPA filters/ventilation, PPEs, and plexiglass barriers to minimize the risk of exposure. When you do arrive for your appointment, wait outside and arrange for the staff to text or give you a call when they’re ready for you. Lastly, if you know you have to fill out any documentation, bring your own pen—don’t use the communal ones supplied at the office/salon.
With all the news and Karen-shaming, I’d like to think that the majority of us are better than that. However, we’re all human and can still be prone to slipping up once in a while. So I recommend screenshotting this handy color-coded infographic to act as your “pocket guide” if you are ever uncertain about venturing into a specific social situation. It’s nice that we can FINALLY see our loved ones IRL again, so let’s not take any of it for granted and remember to be considerate of each other by adhering to these practical and safe protocols.
Images: Gustavo Fring / Pexels; Giphy (2); Twitter / @saltymamas
Like everyone else, I’ve been working on bettering myself in quarantine (and by bettering myself, I mean watching all of the shows I’ve been adding to my Netflix queue). My first official quarantine binge was obviously Parks and Rec, but when I realized that I couldn’t watch Parks over and over until this ends, I started looking for new content, which is where Schitt’s Creek comes in.
Honestly, it took me a few half-watches of the pilot, but once I got like, 10 minutes into the second episode I became hooked and made it through the series in, like, a week and a half. And, since I can’t stop thinking about the show, I decided that there is no better use of my brain cells then to tell you how I think the characters of Schitt’s Creek would be quarantining.
At first, Johnny believed COVID-19 was just like the flu, but after David yelled at him enough times, he started taking precautions and wearing a mask in public at all times. Now he’s going a little too far in the other direction, wearing gloves even at home and Lysoling the entire motel on the hour, despite there not being any visitors since even before the pandemic. While he is trying to keep his cool for the sake of the family, Johnny is kind of losing his mind, and his family obviously notices. He won’t stop watching the news and parroting every single new COVID-19 development he hears, and is having trouble distinguishing between conspiracy theories and legitimate news. He splits his day between the motel and the cafe, where he’s handing out face shields to everyone coming in and trying to install plexiglass barriers at all the tables.
As we know, Moira does not enjoy being around sick people, so this whole pandemic thing has sent her spiraling. To keep herself sane (to the detriment of those around her), Moira has taken to organizing weekly Jazzagal rehearsals via Zoom. The audio delay makes them unbearable. Moira has been spending her time organizing her wigs, matching them to her face mask du jour, and she’d actually be pretty big on TikTok if she could figure out what it is.
David somehow managed to get Rose Apothecary to be declared an essential business, largely because he truly believes that luxury skin care items are essential. However, he is extremely diligent about social distancing and is only operating via curbside pickup. He makes Patrick deliver the customers’ orders because he’s convinced he’s high-risk. Every time he gets a panic attack, he convinces himself it’s COVID-19. Ted has started screening his calls. When he’s not spiraling, he’s developing a Rose Apothecary hand sanitizer that doubles as a scented hand cream.
Alexis’ business has been growing and she is determined not to let quarantine dampen her success. A true innovator, Alexis bought a sewing machine from a store in Elmdale, and she and David have started learning to make branded masks to sell at Rose Apothecary. The plan was to embroider them in Swarovski crystals and sell them for $500 a pop. So far they’ve made one mask successfully before the sewing machine jammed and they “took a break”.
Since there are apparently no hospitals in Schitt’s Creek, Johnny has decided that the Rosebud motel would rent out rooms to healthcare providers at a reduced rate. While this is honestly a really good idea, he (unsurprisingly) had no plans regarding the logistics and left all of the details to Stevie. She is one more half-baked idea away from “accidentally” locking him out of the motel.
Roland won’t stop telling everyone how much he is doing his part, but he goes out in public wearing a mask that only covers his mouth. He also purposely forgets items on his grocery runs so he has an excuse to go back out. He continues to spend time with Bob, claiming the two are quarantining together, even though they are not living together…
Since Jocelyn is a teacher, she has been crazy busy over the last few months. On top of conducting her classes via Zoom, she’s been going the extra mile to both drop off and pick up homework for her students.
Since the diner is evidently the only place in town to get food, Twyla is working overtime on carryout orders, and it has never been busier. While working around Johnny’s developments to the diner, she’s been trying to enlist the Rose family to help her deliver orders. They have all left her on read, and she’s too nice to double text.
Unsurprisingly, Ronnie has been holding it together the most through this whole ordeal. She virtually walked every single member of the town council through the Zoom set-up process so they could still hold meetings. In her spare time, she’s been delivering PPE to the local hospitals, but you’d never know because she doesn’t make a big show out of it. She is, however, judging the sh*t out of everyone who is going about their regular lives unbothered.
Bob somehow brought coronavirus to Schitt’s Creek. No one is really sure where he got it from, but when he started showing minor symptoms, he assumed that he just had allergies. Even though Bob should be high-risk due to his age, he did not have a severe case. He did, however, spread COVID-19 to half of the customers at the diner.
In true David Rose fashion, Dan Levy posted a video explaining the importance of wearing a mask on Twitter, and I’ll leave you with that super pure content.
— dan levy (@danjlevy) May 20, 2020
Images: Courtesy of Pop TV; Giphy (10); danjlevy / Twitter
We’re more than two months into quarantine as we help flatten the curve to get back to life as we knew it, but I’ve been seeing some alarming stuff on my Instagram. Like many of us, I haven’t seen my friends since March since I’m practicing social distancing, but as I’m sitting in my house, I tap through Instagram stories filled with rule breakers. I’m talking about influencers traveling across the country, people attending in-person baby showers, barbecues on the lake, and college parties. Honestly, like…what the f*ck?
For me, this is personal. My sister, a NICU nurse, has self-isolated herself from her 11-year-old son since March because of this pandemic, but you’re going to go to a party because you don’t want coronavirus to ruin your social life? Ok.
NY Governor Cuomo recently said that the current rise of cases in New York City is not from essential medical staff and other workers, but rather, from people who are leaving their homes to shop, exercise, and socialize. Trust me, I don’t want to be self-quarantined any more than you do, but we have to do our part if we ever want to get the f*ck out of here. But what I don’t understand, though, is if these people are being selfish and not following social distancing rules, why would they then take a video of it and post it on their social media for everyone to see? I’d think that if you were doing something wrong, you would want to hide it, not flaunt it.
And this, my friends, is the beginning of our investigation: Why are people posting on social media and not social distancing? Many DMs later, I found some social distancing rule breakers and interviewed them, and also consulted a psychologist for her expert analysis. Let’s meet the culprits.
Since the start of the lockdowns, influencers have been in hot water over quarantine, putting out half-assed apologies on their IG stories (hi, Arielle Charnas), and that trend is not stopping. We’ve all seen the jokes about how quarantine is going to show us who’s really a natural blonde, but a number of influencers are taking that really seriously. Recently, Bachelor alums Amanda Stanton and Corinne Olympios broke quarantine to drive hundreds of miles to get their hair done, and they’re far from the only offenders. We came across one influencer, Serena Kerrigan, who posted an entire video explaining to her followers that she’s getting her roots done (still not an essential service in New York). She says “don’t come after me” at the end of this video, but people came nonetheless.
no words pic.twitter.com/4bBRH7dgJF
— gays0n (@feelinlikeclunt) May 10, 2020
Kerrigan chose to break social distancing rules because, as she explained via Instagram stories to her 56.4k followers, she “hates seeing her roots on camera.” Forget the pandemic, people dying, and families that can’t say goodbye to their loved ones, this girl’s roots are showing!
Dr. Purvi Parikh, allergist/immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network, warns that the problem with meeting up with others (whether it be for a roots touch-up or to have a picnic in the park), even when following social distancing guidelines, is that “you do not know where the person has been in the last two weeks, who they have interacted with.” And while you could take certain precautions, like, as Dr. Parikh explains, asking “if they or anyone they have been in contact with has traveled, had fever, tested positive for COVID-19, or had other symptoms like a cough in the last two weeks”, she ultimately concludes, “anytime you interact with anyone, it is a potential risk.”
Kerrigan says in the video that she made sure the woman who came to do her hair had been isolating, and that they were going to wear gloves and masks and “take all the necessary precautions”. Amanda Stanton and Corinne Olympios, however, did none of that, and photographed themselves at a salon with not a single mask or glove in sight.
While neither Olympios nor Stanton outright encouraged their followers to go on an interstate quest for highlights like they did, and Kerrigan ends her video saying, “I’m not saying that you guys should do this, I just am going to do it”, the reality is that influencers can make an impact, positive or negative, on their followers with every post. While they may think that they’re only putting themselves at risk by bending the rules, they may unknowingly be swaying their followers to break social distancing rules too. This is why we can’t have nice things.
The College Senior
I want to note that no one is winning in this pandemic. We’re all making the best of this awful situation. It really sucks for college seniors who are not able to experience their last semester together or walk at graduation—these are moments they’ll never get back. But as tough as it is, it’s not an exemption to break social distancing.
Earlier this month, a group of more than 20 graduating seniors all traveled down to their college in South Carolina. Allie and her friends have been posting their last hurrah escapades, and I asked her why she was posting, knowing that the rest of the country is following quarantine guidelines and watching closely to call out those who aren’t. She tells me, “At first I didn’t post and I would get annoyed seeing my friends’ posts. I saw more and more posts of kids hanging and completely ignoring the rules. As the weeks went on, I started breaking the rules too because it made me so angry seeing everyone else having fun. We went down to school for the last two weeks because we didn’t want graduation to be taken away from us.”
Among close friends, she felt peer pressure to resume the life she had. Allie says, “I wanted to maintain my social life as we all just wanted a sense of normalcy. I felt a strange pressure to show my followers that I was having fun with our happy hours despite being in quarantine. I wanted to keep up with the quantity of content that I was used to posting before the virus.”
While Allie didn’t receive any backlash personally, she feared that people were talking behind her back. Hypocritically, she adds, “In my group chat with my close friends, we would discuss different people’s Instagram and Snapchat stories and bash them if they were not social distancing. We were definitely judging anyone who was not being ‘safe’ by our standards.”
Max’s Instagram stories consist of him and his friends playing soccer on a turf field, even after NJ parks have been shut down. He tells me that the police were called to the scene to ask them to leave on numerous occasions, but they kept returning.
While he doesn’t feel pressured to post about his illicit games, this New Jersey native tells me, “Soccer for me is a way to decompress, long before quarantine happened. For my mental state I need my escape, and if people have a problem with that I honestly don’t really care.”
Dr. Parikh says, “Soccer and other sports where there can be physical contact are especially risky, as usually people are spreading the virus more when physically exerting themselves—breathing heavier, coughing or sneezing outdoors, and from physical contact with sweat, there is potential for viral spread.” She recommends wearing a face mask while playing sports, maintaining a 6-foot distance, and if you’re meeting friends in a park, “do not share blankets—everyone will likely need their own.” But above all, she says, “I would avoid sports with close physical contact.”
With an invincible mentality, Max has no intention to stop going to the field with his friends. “If I get it, I get it. If I die, I die,” he says. “I’m not blaming anyone else. We all know the risks and potential problems that arise. I’m so sick of everyone on Instagram acting like they’re suddenly a doctor now trying to tell me how to live my life.”
What The Psychologist Says
Dr. Joanna Petrides, a licensed clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, specializes in anxiety and human behavior. She acknowledges that everyone is trying to maintain a sense of normalcy right now, and says, “These three people highlight the desire to engage in activities which energize us, lift our spirits, give us a boost in self-confidence, and help us to find comfort and balance in our lives while publishing it on social media. Unfortunately, these same activities are also putting ourselves at risk and there is a really selfish undertone to the reasoning behind it. Many of the people breaking the restrictions have stated they accept the consequences of becoming ill and were willing to take that on.”
It’s fine, I guess, to not have any regard for your own life, but that mindset conveniently ignores the real reason we social distance: to protect others. “What we’re not hearing is the awareness that they could unknowingly spread this illness with tragic effect after indulging in a seemingly minor activity,” Dr. Petrides warns.
“If enough influencers start breaking the rules or enough people post about social gatherings on social media, then people are going to think, ‘If they’re doing it, why can’t I,’ which was exactly what Allie said was her influence,” she adds. “And when this level of groupthink is present, the desire to fit in with others we relate to can lead to additional problematic decisions and inadvertent consequences of spreading infection when it could have been prevented.”
So, given the potential for blowback, why go out of your way to expose yourself breaking the rules? Dr. Petrides weighs in: “As we saw in the example of the influencer, there’s a push to not let down followers and still try to stay relevant.” She also considers, “being controversial is one way we stay on followers’ radars.”
“Lastly, there’s also a desire for attention during an isolating period like what we are currently experiencing. One way to express, demonstrate, and minimize effects of loneliness and facilitate discussion is through posting on social media and spurring reactions in others. Even if it creates negative attention towards the person posting, it still satisfies our need for attention and provides a break in the loneliness felt.”
Am I the only one who feels like we’re all in one giant group project, where some people are doing all the work to flatten the curve while others just goof off? That, and the whole “do anything for attention, even if it’s negative attention,” feels very middle school. But even though some people care more about likes, replies, and keeping up with their social media presence than potentially getting COVID-19, and a pandemic with over 100,000 deaths and counting in the United States isn’t shaking them, I did find that a lot of people are with me, doing good and following the rules while helping others however they can. Hopefully, we will continue to course-correct the rule breakers to get back to the 2020 we originally anticipated.
Images: Drew Dau, Chichi Onyekanne, United Nations COVID-19 Response / Unsplash; feelinlikeclunt / Twitter
As we approach week 9 (58? 102??) of quarantine, many of us are noticing that our skin is reverting back to its acne-riddled high school days. Seriously, what the hell? We’re not spending much time outside getting attacked by free radicals and pollutants, and we have more time than ever to do our involved skin care routines. So, what gives? Dr. Shari Marchbein, a New York-based dermatologist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, spoke with us about why our skin is still not behaving even when we’re in quarantine, and what we can do about it.
Why Quarantine is Causing You to Break Out
According to Dr. Marchbein, hormones are a crucial reason our skin is breaking out rn. There’s no way to pinpoint just one culprit, she says, since our sleep, work, and skin care routines are all out of whack from sheltering in place. The key ingredient in all of these, she says, is stress.
When we think about hormones, our minds typically wander to testosterone, progesterone, and like, things that relate to the pill or middle school health class. However, Dr. Marchbein explains, the hormone causing our current skin woes is cortisol, “which increases in the blood at times of stress or with lack of sleep and can trigger acne breakouts by stimulating sebaceous glands to make more oil.” Increased cortisol, she says, “can worsen other skin conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis, as well as cause an increased breakdown of collagen and hyaluronic acid, which is the good stuff that gives skin its glow and plumpness.” Yeah, no thanks.
How to Prevent Stress-Related Flare-Ups
To avoid flare-ups in the first place, Dr. Marchbein recommends several ways to de-stress. “First and foremost, get plenty of sleep,” she says. When our body is sleep-deprived, it makes more cortisol, causing inflammation and bodily stress. Staying active is also important, according to Dr. Marchbein. Her go-to ways to de-stress are meditating and taking a yoga class. To help reduce your cortisol and stress levels, you can also go for a socially distanced walk, if possible.
And just like your mom’s been telling you for years, “maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet and drinking plenty of water are key.” By following this advice, which tbh you should be doing anyway for your general health, you can be like that meme that’s like, “my skin is clear, my crops are flourishing, my depression is gone” (but like, with actual, non-sarcastically clear skin).
How to Treat Acne Flare-Ups
If you’ve got a particularly aggressive breakout, don’t freak out, because here are a number of treatment methods to try. Under normal circumstances (lol what are those), Dr. Marchbein would advise visiting your dermatologist for a steroid injection. These injections “reduce the pain and inflammation of cystic breakouts,” she says, but at this point, “most medical visits are being done by telemedicine, and in-person visits should be for true emergencies only.” So that’s out.
Then what to do about the acne glaring back at you in your reflection? For starters, Dr. Marchbein recommends certain over-the-counter products to treat existing flare-ups. Retinoids are one useful treatment for acne breakouts—Differin 0.1% gel is the strongest non-prescription one available, she notes. Salicylic acid, a type of acid that can unclog pores, is also helpful.
“I like St. Ives Blackhead Clearing Scrub with salicylic acid and green tea as a gentle scrub, and I use a St. Ives salicylic acid gel cleanser once daily,” Dr. Marchbein says. She also recommends stronger 1-2% salicylic acid gel for spot treatment. Products with benzoyl peroxide, which is anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial, can help calm irritated skin too. Dr. Marchbein likes 10% Panoxyl wash and 4% CeraVe wash.
Finally, acne patches deliver active ingredients to a pimple. “By occluding the pimple, these active ingredients are able to penetrate the skin more deeply allowing them to potentially work better,” she explains. Watch out if you have sensitive skin, though—acne patches might be too harsh for you and could make the situation worse.
“Most importantly,” Dr Marchbein warns, “do not pop or squeeze a pimple, as this will cause even more inflammation and can make a potentially bad situation even worse.” I know Dr. Pimple Popper videos can be satisfying, but seriously, don’t do this to yourself.
Skin Care Advice in the Time of Public Face Masks
As much as we’ve been staying indoors these days, we occasionally have to venture out into the real world to stock up on supplies or grab our curbside pick-up order of pad thai. For those of us responsibly following the CDC’s recommendation to wear cloth face masks in public, our skin might be suffering. Dr. Rajani Katta, a dermatologist and clinical assistant professor at Baylor University, warns against using masks made of irritating materials like polyester that trap sweat, in a blog post for the Baylor College Of Medicine. She suggests masks made of absorbent materials like cotton, which can help absorb sweat and prevent breakouts.
If you’ve got dry skin, Dr. Katta advises moisturizing before putting on your mask, but if you’re particularly acne-prone, she recommends skipping greasy products like foundation. “These products can get trapped under the mask and possibly cause more skin issues,” she explains. For healthcare workers on the front lines, Dr. Marchbein recommends avoiding retinoids and exfoliants. Wearing abrasive N95 masks daily, she says, “could cause further irritation and shearing of the skin.”
If your quarantine = breakout central, all hope is not lost. There are plenty of products and habits that can help repair your skin and prevent further flare-ups. Plus, it’s not like many people are seeing you these days. If you’ve got a particularly nasty zit, just turn off your video on Zoom.
Images: Andrea Piacquadio / Unsplash; Vera Davidova / Unsplash; Breakingpic / Pexels