The new COVID-era etiquette

Only solitude is 100 percent safe

By Caitlin Kelly

Canadians have just had their Thanksgiving and Americans are already geared up for Hallowe’en and their Thanksgiving, let alone other holidays and the (large) family gatherings usually expected and anticipated.

Not us.

Jose’s parents are long gone, his nearest sister lives a four-hour drive away and my only close relative, my 91-year-old father, is in Canada, where my American husband is banned and I face a 14-day quarantine. I haven’t seen him in more than a year and haven’t crossed that border since late September 2019, when it was no big deal.

Every social gathering — let alone professional — is now so fraught with menace and fear, caution and basic human desperation for a damn hug!

This week we are joining two friends, outdoors (bringing a blanket!) for a two-person birthday celebration at a Manhattan restaurant. This weekend, we’re meeting three people, also outdoors, for lunch.

The grilling!

Who will wear a mask and when and for how long?

Who have they met with and how recently and under what circumstances?

Do we trust their friends — who we have never met?

We live in downstate New York, where daytime temperatures are still in the 60s or 70s but night-time plunging to the 40s, hardly a comfortable temperature for sitting anywhere for very long.

It’s wearying.

Our family’s first and only grandchildren are twins born in D.C. in May — and my father still hasn’t seen them. Nor have I, since my half-brother refuses all contact after a 13-year estrangement.

Millions of people have now lost loved ones to COVID and never had the chance to say good-bye.

Forget weddings and other groups….the latest NY crisis was the result of (!?) a Sweet 16 party, after a wedding in Maine had the same effect.

Our local church is now, finally, open again physically, with an indoor service (limited, it’s a small space) and outdoors at 4pm on the lawn. What I miss more than anything is belting out my favorite hymns…now a dangerous thing to do.

Yes, it’s hard and lonely to never see anyone.

Yes, it’s annoying and difficult to negotiate these times, especially with government “guidance” that shifts daily.

Needs must.

10 thoughts on “The new COVID-era etiquette

  1. Jan Jasper

    Caitlin, I admire your success in forming and maintaining friendships. I have acquaintances nearby, but the people I’m closest to live many states away – we keep in touch by telephone. I got back in touch with a long-lost cousin and we had a video call that lasted 3 hours, that was wonderful. I’ve been to some local social distanced events, like concerts, where people greeted each other by bumping elbows. You can tell people are smiling behind their masks because their eyes crinkle. I think sharing a meal would be more worrisome because you have to remove masks to eat, and I would want to question people about how cautious they had been re: exposure. A dear friend, who’s in his late 70s, went to his son’s wedding where he expected that people would not be wearing masks, and he worried about it weeks in advance. He was correct – at the wedding, nobody was wearing masks. But he did not want to skip his son’s wedding. This was two weeks ago and he has had no symptoms since- so we are breathing a sigh of relief. One of the worst parts of this is, there is no telling how long this will go on. It could easily be a year-and-a-half until we have a dependable and widely accessible vaccine.

    1. Well, I am very much in the same situation — locally, I have only 4 fairly close friends, and two of them live in Manhattan — a 45 minute drive away.

      Luckily I still have several deep friendships back in Canada and we stay in touch by phone.

      Any group setting is now so fraught with peril. It’s terrible.

  2. Yes, it’s difficult. We aren’t socialising much. We are fortunate because there haven’t been any covid cases in NWT since April, but this means that I won’t be able to take any holidays to other parts of Canada (two-week quarantine on returning) until who knows when. Our good NWT friends are also leaving permanently in December. I’m not looking forward to any of this, and yes, it’s probably going to be quite a while before there’s a vaccine or very effective treatment.

    1. So sorry about your friends moving away…my closest pal here just moved out of town and into Manhattan.

      It is very tough to have no idea — other than a LONG time — when travel might be safe. Few of us live as we once did, a few blocks or streets or towns away from friends and family.

  3. Covid cases, hospital admissions and deaths are increasing again in the UK. I’m staying at home — and I know I’m lucky to be able to — but it’s hard to see an end to this. I miss in-person social connection and I hate the anxiety that it causes.

    I was talking with one of my colleagues yesterday and she echoed Beth’s comment above: it’s so wearying not being able to see an end point. I suppose we just have to keep on keeping on!

  4. Dear Caitlin

    Thank you for having created your blog. It means an awful lot to have peoples ‘hearts’ on the web, as it were. We are not alone!

    It breaks my heart to hear the pain of those wondering when it will end, for I have know for some months now the answers, and yet due to ill health and needing to set out all the reasoning it has been difficult to tell people quickly as I might wish.

    I appreciate what I write will seem surprising to many, indeed I expect people to disagree, but I am 100% certain having spent nearly 7 months researching and checking the facts.

    So if you or others wish to consider what I have written, please go to my site and look for Covid 19 Summary which is under CV on the main menu bar.

    And it will all end when people realize the truth and no longer be afraid. My ill health with a cancer diagnosis last year has put me in the extremely vulnerable group, but as I like to say I am about as vulnerable (to Covid 19) as a lamb chop in a vegetarians larder is likely to be eaten!

    Of course, what a lamb chop would be doing there in the first place is a moot point!

    If you read my posts you will see what I mean.

    I wanted to add as one who has taken many photos over the years, especially of beautiful scenery and landscapes, how much I admire the reflection photo one your latest blog. Just stunning.

    Kind regards

    Baldmichael Theresoluteprotector’sson

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