• Other Friendship Advice

Visiting A Friend During The Pandemic: A Good Idea? It Depends.

Published: July 2, 2020 | Last Updated: August 23, 2022 By | 6 Replies Continue Reading
Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

As some of us begin to slowly emerge from pandemic lockdown, every action we take seems to require more planning and scrutiny than it did before—from going to the grocery store to visiting the dentist. Even in communities where COVID-19 infection rates are decreasing, things are nowhere near back to normal.

Yet, tired of Zoom chats, phone calls, texting and staying physically apart, many of us desperately want to reconnect with friends, in person. We yearn to be with people. However, doing that in the midst of a pandemic requires some thoughtful decisions. 

What considerations should someone make before visiting a friend or attending a gathering of friends?

The tale of the backyard barbecue

When food columnist Melissa Clark was planning a backyard barbecue with friends, she knew she had to make sure everyone at the get-together would feel safe and comfortable. In her New York Times article, How To Host A Socially Distanced Barbecue, she explains the overarching dictum of pandemic socialization: “The only way to bring people together is to figure out how to keep them apart.” 

To allow for six-foot social distancing at the barbecue (constrained by the size of her backyard), Clark limited the group to seven people (her immediate family of three and four guests). In addition to providing some great recipes, the article also describes the precautions she took, too: She wore gloves, quarantined silverware for 72 hours, purchased individual portions of sparkling water and potato chips, had people serve themselves the cooked food on the grill, and provided wipes and paper towels. 

Before the event, guests had to agree on bathroom protocol: Only one person inside the house at a time, wearing a mask, using the hand sanitizer and paper towels, and closing the lid before flushing. 

Clearly, even for a pro like Melissa Clark, cooking and entertaining for friends is no longer business as usual—nor should it be.

Visiting a Friend? Questions to Ask

Visiting a friend? A good idea?

If a friend invites you to visit, you will want to think about the answers to these questions that are relevant when visiting a friend during the pandemic. Some may entail having a dialogue with your friend.

Will my visit be indoors or outdoors?

It’s safer to socialize outdoors rather than indoors and at locations where there is more rather than less space for social distancing. For example, does your friend’s home have a balcony or patio? If you are meeting at a restaurant, is the restaurant taking the precautions it should (e.g. outdoor seating that is properly spaced, waiters with masks and gloves, disposable menus, etc.)

How lengthy will our visit be?

The longer the contact the greater the risk.

Will we be eating a meal?

If that is the case, you may want to offer to bring your own meal as well as a disposable plate and utensils.

How many people will be joining us?

The greater the number of people you are exposed to, the greater the chance of infection. While your friend may be diligent about social distancing and washing her hands, adding other people to the mix—especially people you don’t know—adds to the risk.

How will we greet each other?

After you’ve been apart for months, the impulse to hug someone you love and have missed can be strong! Resist and plan your strategy in advance. You can let your friend know how much you missed them by smiling and telling them that in words.

When will you wear masks and when will you take them off?

Although the at-least-six-foot rule is generally recommended, it isn’t precise. Depending on your own health status and comfort level, you may or may not want to wear a mask while social distancing. Remember that if you are planning to eat or drink, you’ll have to remove it.

Will we be drinking alcohol?

When visiting a friend after a long time, you may want to celebrate with a glass of wine or cocktail but don’t overdo. Alcohol tends to loosen inhibitions making it easy for you or your friend to forget common sense but essential measures like social distancing, hand hygiene or wearing a mask.

A Tale of Two Cities

Another cautionary tale comes from journalist Roxanne Roberts of The Washington Post. The long title of Roberts’ article is self-explanatory. The virus didn’t stop a Washington socialite from throwing a backyard soiree. Then the tests came back positive

After throwing a 75th-anniversary fundraiser for the Washington Ballet, the socialite catered a backyard after-party for more than two dozen people. This, despite DC government guidelines limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people. “And the tables were large rounds with eight or 10 place settings — which is lovely for dinner conversation but perhaps unwise during a pandemic,” wrote Roberts. 

Several hours after the party, the hostess fell ill, later diagnosed with the virus. She had also unwittingly placed the health of her guests at risk.

Bottom line

It’s easy to wish that this pandemic was over or to forget its devastating consequences, but we can’t. 

Before you accept an invitation from a friend or extend one, prepare ahead, think of the risks and consequences, weigh them and decide whether visiting a friend is a good idea for you.

And if someone doesn’t abide by the agreement once you’re together, don’t be shy about reminding them.

The decision about visiting a friend right now, one-on-one or for a party, can be a tough decision. Describing a first social foray away from home, Judith Matloff writes In the New York Times (Getting Back to ‘Normal’ May Not Be So Easy. Crisis Experts Can Help):

Our encounter brought home to me how stressful this transition period, when we’re not fully taking refuge but still in danger of exposure, will be. The lockdown cave had its lonely challenges, but we were safe inside. In the cocoon, we did not go in and out of high alert in an ambiguous situation.”

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Comments (6)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Cynthia says:

    Thank you for this helpful post. Up until this summer, we didn’t personally know anyone in our Midwest suburb who had been hit with the virus. Now, several of our close neighbors have come down with COVID — one works at a hospital and brought it home to his family. Some got mild cases; one was very ill for nearly two weeks.

    We also just learned that our grandchild’s babysitter (a college student) tested positive for COVID — and she has been totally asymptomatic so far. She was quarantined for the required time, after the test came back, but she retested positive last week again. Anyone who was exposed to this young woman also had to be tested, of course.

    So if you think COVID won’t touch your life, or that you can’t pick it up at your neighborhood BBQ, think again. I’m being a lot more careful than I used to be now that I see the reality spreading around me quite suddenly.

  2. LauraSL says:

    This is a really difficult time with not everyone in agreement on how vigilant to be! Last week my book club was held on patio andfood was served. Most people didn’t feel the need to wear masks outside. I went, wore my mask and kept my distance. I brought my own water bottle and didn’t eat a thing, not my usual normal,lol. With COVID when you spend time with someone, you’re also spending time with the germs of everyone they’ve been with. If you live with someone, you’re like one person; what you each do, has direct affect on the other person. A smaller in-person social circle is my solution.

Leave a Reply