Fashion

Do I Have Permission to Corona-Shame My Friend?

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I saw a post on my friend’s Instagram that infuriated me: a picture of seven boys in a row, their arms slung over each other’s shoulders, celebrating the 13th birthday of their friend (her son). Three boys wore face masks; four didn’t. We live in a state that recommends social distancing and face masks in public. I am sorry if this gets in the way of traditional birthday parties. My daughter will be extremely disappointed not to celebrate her summer birthday with friends in person. But we know these gatherings are not OK. I find this disrespectful to everyone who follows the rules and to our front-line workers. Should I confront my friend? Am I an idiot to be this furious?

ANONYMOUS

You are not an idiot! (Though I recommend you stop killing time on social media.) Parties like these are risky for kids and the families to whom they return. But we may have reached a point in the pandemic when trying to reason with people who disagree with us is useless. Unless your friend has been living under a rock, she has likely made up her mind about masks and social distancing.

The human toll of Covid-19 has been harrowing. It has also been scary to watch basic principles of public health be dismissed as overreaction, conspiracy or simply less important than birthday parties or haircuts. Many sensible people are making foolish choices. And many government entities have been weak: issuing toothless recommendations rather than lifesaving requirements.

So, back to Instagram. If you think your friend may be open to a calm discussion about safety precautions at parties, go for it. But if just want to register your outrage, save your breath.

Focus instead on keeping those you love safe and hunkering down for possibly greater turmoil as people so itchy to return to normal life jump the gun before it’s safe to do so. (And no more hate-scrolling on Instagram.)

Credit…Christoph Niemann

I am married with a new baby, and I work at a small company. My husband and I haven’t had child care since February due to coronavirus restrictions. We’ve had no free time. We’re either working, sleeping or caring for our son. I had a big deadline at work last week. After I met it, I asked my boss for a few days off. He said it was a good idea, but now I’m sensing coldness toward me. Was I selfish to ask for time off when everyone could use a break?

M.

Please be kinder to yourself! You asked for time off, and your boss agreed. If he seems chilly, it’s probably because he is saving his charm for workers who will help him complete new tasks. That pool excludes you (for a few days). This is work; it’s not personal.

And you’re entitled to your vacation. I suspect his transactional warmth will resume shining on you like the sun on the morning you report back for duty. Now, go and relax!

My husband is suffering from a serious illness that is not coronavirus related. With the dizzying round of diagnostic tests and doctors’ appointments, we are overwhelmed and exhausted. We are also confronting two other issues: telling friends we need some space and telling our son we need his attention. Any advice?

WIFE

It’s never a good time to be sick, of course. But I’m extra sorry that you and your husband have to deal with it now, during an all-consuming pandemic. Still, I predict that when you share your needs with friends and your son, most will come through for you. The trick is being clear and direct.

When friends try to engage you, say: “We’re keeping a low profile for now. My husband is dealing with a health issue.” That should take care of it. But don’t be shy to ask for help or to ignore a few calls if some pals are slow to comprehend.

The same goes for your son: Tell him exactly what you need, logistically and emotionally. It’s a common fantasy that loved ones will magically step up in times of crisis. But he may not know what you need until you tell him. I hope he delivers. If he doesn’t, move on. Now is the time for taking care of yourselves. Leave gripes for later.


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  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated May 28, 2020

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      More than 40 million people — the equivalent of 1 in 4 U.S. workers — have filed for unemployment benefits since the pandemic took hold. One in five who were working in February reported losing a job or being furloughed in March or the beginning of April, data from a Federal Reserve survey released on May 14 showed, and that pain was highly concentrated among low earners. Fully 39 percent of former workers living in a household earning $40,000 or less lost work, compared with 13 percent in those making more than $100,000, a Fed official said.

    • Is ‘Covid toe’ a symptom of the disease?

      There is an uptick in people reporting symptoms of chilblains, which are painful red or purple lesions that typically appear in the winter on fingers or toes. The lesions are emerging as yet another symptom of infection with the new coronavirus. Chilblains are caused by inflammation in small blood vessels in reaction to cold or damp conditions, but they are usually common in the coldest winter months. Federal health officials do not include toe lesions in the list of coronavirus symptoms, but some dermatologists are pushing for a change, saying so-called Covid toe should be sufficient grounds for testing.

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

    • How can I help?

      Charity Navigator, which evaluates charities using a numbers-based system, has a running list of nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak. You can give blood through the American Red Cross, and World Central Kitchen has stepped in to distribute meals in major cities.


I saw on Twitter that my ex-girlfriend posted about the death of a teacher who was a real mentor to her for years. I wanted to send my condolences, but I held back. We had a painful, drawn-out breakup, culminating in my asking her not to contact me. Did I make the right decision? (Tricky twist: I also have a book my ex lent me that is inscribed to her by this teacher.)

AMELIA

I respect your caution. But return the book with a warm note of condolence for your ex’s loss and a specific memory, if you have one, about this teacher’s importance to her. A selfless act of kindness nearly always trumps the angry turmoil of breakups from the past.


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to [email protected], to Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.

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