Three women sit at distance wearing masks in a yard.

10 questions to answer before making IRL plans during a pandemic

I’m not a scientist, doctor, or public health expert. But, I am a high-risk individual with a sociology degree who delights in modern-day Emily Post-style etiquette. And right now, we have an etiquette problem.

Everyone has a different risk tolerance for how they want to engage with people in real life (IRL), and that risk tolerance may change over time. That’s fine. But, we can’t make assumptions about what is and isn’t important to someone to factor into their decision-making.

Before making any IRL plans with people, first check the latest national and local guidelines. Ideally, you and those you’re planning a get-together with would follow any official mandates. Then, make sure you together share answers to these 10 questions before you solidify IRL plans during a pandemic:

  1. Have you been going regularly into a workplace or other environment? If so, how are you getting there, and what interactions with other people do you have there?
  2. Have you traveled in the past month? If so, where and how?
  3. What kinds of activities have you been doing outside of your home? Do you wear a mask during these activities?
  4. Have you had a fever, cough, loss of smell, shortness of breath, or other symptoms recently?
  5. Have you tested positive for Covid-19 at any point? Are you currently waiting on the results of a test? Have you had any known exposures?
  6. Are you planning to see other people between now and when we are planning to get together?
  7. Who is in your pod? How would you answer the above questions for other people in your pod?
  8. Before we’re together, what expectations do you have so that our get-together will feel safe?
  9. Are there other people who you envision gathering with us? What conversations have you had with them about Covid-19 safety?
  10. When we’re together, what will help you feel safe as far as social distancing, mask-wearing, greeting each other, location, kids playing, food, hygiene, and any other factors?

Right now, there’s still a dearth of reliable, concrete information available about the virus itself*. It shows love and care to be honest with people about the above information so that they can make as informed a decision as possible based in their own risk tolerance.

Hopefully, it goes without saying, but if someone doesn’t want to get together with you after this conversation, don’t take it personally. Respect their decision, and don’t shame them for being more cautious than you might be, or making a different choice than they might have a few weeks prior or with someone else. Try to schedule a video chat date instead, or send snail mail if people are zoomed-out.

I hope these questions serve as a useful tool to you and those you might see. If after this conversation you agree to meet up, have fun! Savor it! Seeing a few people with intention and appropriate cautions is quite good for the soul.

*A favorite, trusted source for my learning is Andrea Love, an immunologist and microbiologist. She’ll be launching a website soon but for now, you can follow her on Facebook.

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