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Is It Safe to See Family and Friends Again Once Stay-at-Home Orders are Lifted? Here’s What Experts Say

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, our definition of normal has forever changed. Due to shelter-in-place orders and social distancing, family members and friends have been separated for weeks, and get-togethers have been impossible. For now, we can’t tell when this will be over.

Unless an effective vaccine becomes available, the virus is not going to go away that easily, and any interaction will have risks of transmission. Dr. Amesh A. Adalja, an infectious disease expert, says that it will eventually come down to each one’s risk tolerance and what they perceive as essential or inessential in their lives.

In an ideal world, people should stay at home and in quarantine until the COVID-19 pandemic goes away. However, that’s not realistically possible.

Liudmyla Guniavaia/Shutterstock | Shelter-in-place orders have made it almost impossible to see friends and family in person.

Dr. Adalja says that the purpose of the social distancing measures was to flatten the curve and give the medical community more time to prepare for COVID-19 cases. This has happened in several areas, so stay-at-home orders have slowly been lifted. But, that doesn’t mean that the coronavirus has disappeared.

The world has to live with the virus while waiting for the vaccine, says Dr. Adalja. He says that it will eventually boil down to our choices and how much living we want to do with the risk of spreading the virus.

Once the stay-at-home orders have been lifted, you can technically start seeing your family and friends again. However, infectious disease specialist Dr. William Schaffner says to be extra cautious and minimize close contact if you—or your loved ones—are immunocompromised or have a higher risk of contracting a severe case of COVID-19.

Dr. Schaffner points out that 25% of the people who contracted the viral disease have no symptoms. Therefore, there will be a chance that one could spread the virus without knowing it.

eldar nurkovic/Shutterstock | While waiting for the vaccine, the world has to adjust to the new normal.

It Might Be Safer to Meet Up Outside

Dr. Adalja emphasizes the importance of social distancing even after the shelter-in-place orders are lifted. This is because it makes it harder for the virus to move from one person to another, and it’s currently our only tool against the virus.

For Dr. Schaffner, doing your meet-ups outside is not a bad idea and should be done when possible. Since you won’t be stuck in an enclosed space, social distancing will be better maintained, and the risk of contracting the virus will potentially be lowered. The air and breeze around you can help dilute the potential virus. 

Linda Bestwick/Shutterstock | If you must meet up with people, you might want to consider doing it in well-ventilated areas like the outdoors.

Can We See Our Elderly Relatives?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that people aged 65 and up, those living in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, and those with pre-existing conditions have higher risks of getting a severe case of the disease.

Dr. Suzanne Willard, clinical professor and associate dean of Rutgers School of Nursing, suggests keeping your distance and using virtual communication instead. You can try to speak with them through phone calls or videoconference. However, it would only be possible if there’s a caregiver who can set it up for you.

It will eventually come down to the level of risk you’re comfortable with. Dr. Adalja says that although it’s the elderly’s choice, they still need to be careful. He suggests planning out safety measures together, like wearing masks or wiping down surfaces before you leave.

Experts believe that we all should stay as safe as possible while living our lives. Dr. Schaffner says that it’s important to accept the fact that life is not normal anymore, and it will probably remain that way for quite some time.

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