When you can start seeing other people, going to restaurants, seeing movies in theaters and more.
While you've been staying home for weeks on end, dutifully obeying shelter-in-place orders instituted because of the novel coronavirus, you've probably dreamed of what you'd do the day it ends. Though it may be tempting to plan a massive party with all your friends, rush to your grandparents' house, and see as many people as possible, we'll still need to be careful and responsible with our social contact for the foreseeable future.
It's important to note that once shelter-in-place is lifted, it doesn't mean that the threat of coronavirus is gone. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says we won't be completely back to normal until we have an effective vaccine -- a process expected to take at least a year.
With that being said, let's get into the nitty gritty of exactly how you can start to reintroduce social contact with your loved ones -- finally!
When shelter-in-place orders are lifted, the first thing many of us will want to do is see family and friends we've been dearly missing. Due to concerns and restrictions about entering into crowded public spaces, these reunions will likely take place inside our private residences. Plus, you will have to make decisions about who you choose to interact with -- hanging out with your immunocompromised friends and family might not be the best way to go.
When you do see friends and family you'll still want to be taking common sense precautions, like washing your hands often and covering your mouth if you sneeze or cough. It could be a good idea to avoid hugging your loved ones or otherwise getting too close for the foreseeable future as well.
Another option for what the end of shelter-in-place could look like is that schools and businesses start to reopen, but people are encouraged to continue social distancing to the best of their abilities. If this is the case, you'll still want to limit discretionary social visits.
A recent study done in China suggests that the novel coronavirus is much more likely to be spread indoors rather than outside. The study is still under peer review, but we may be able to take some lessons from this finding.
If public parks and other outdoor areas near you are opened at the end of shelter-in-place, you could consider holding your family reunions outside because there will likely be more space to ensure adequate distance between everyone. Plus, if you see your friends and family in a place with more open space, you'll be less likely to be repeatedly touching the same household objects.
No matter where you initiate social contact again, just remember to follow your local official's and the CDC's guidelines for doing so. And, just because your social gathering is outdoors, this doesn't give you license to break social distancing or basic hygiene guidelines.
"I will just remind the American people again. This is a highly contagious virus," Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said in an April 15 briefing. "Social gatherings, coming together, is always a chance that an asymptomatic person can spread the virus unknowingly ... But for all of you that are out there that would like to join together and just have that dinner party for 20 -- don't do it yet."
Social-distancing measures exist to slow the spread of the virus, and the last thing we want to do is reignite community transmission. The CDC does not have any guidance yet on how to socialize when shelter-in-place orders end, but it's safe to say that this isn't the chance to throw a party for 30 of your closet friends.
Look, I miss my grandpa too. But when quarantine measures end, we should still be extra careful about spending time with the elderly or immunocompromised people in our lives. While the decision to hang out with your grandparents is a personal one to be made by your family, just remember that these are the people who are most at risk at developing a serious and potentially fatal illness if infected with the novel coronavirus.
But, you won't necessarily have to wait for a vaccine to come out until you can visit Great Aunt Becky. There are currently several antibody tests under development that can let you know if you've already been exposed to the coronavirus and are now immune. Until those tests are ready, keeping our distance from immunocompromised folks is probably the best way to go.
While restaurants may start to open for dining in, the experience will likely look a lot different than you're used to. California Governor Gavin Newsom says that there may be half as many tables as before, the servers might be wearing face masks, and we could transition to disposable paper menus. So yeah, it's probably not going to have the ambiance you want for your first date night post-shelter-in-place.
In Beijing, which has begun to ease social distancing restrictions, diners are reportedly "spooked" at the concept of eating out in public, and many restaurants are closing due to lack of customers. Of course, that might not be true in other parts of the world or the US. While you may technically be allowed to dine out, don't expect all of your favorite eateries to be open at full capacity right when shelter-in-place ends.
Any entertainment events where tons of people are packed close together to watch will likely not be back to normal for quite some time.
Let's start with sports. Taiwan has a basketball league with five teams that's been operating out of a single gymnasium, where everyone's temperature is being monitored. Sporting events in the US may start back up by the end of 2020, but we can expect them to look similar to Taiwan's -- no crowds or fans whatsoever until a vaccine is widely available. While you may be able to watch your favorite baseball team on television before a vaccine is developed, say goodbye to summer nights at the ballpark for the foreseeable future.
And concerts? Same thing -- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that we probably won't see concerts and other large gatherings in the Southern California city before 2021. We have a long, long way to go before we can get thousands of people in a cramped stadium again.
As for movies, President Trump said that cinemas would be among the first to reopen under his administration's current plan. However, Hollywood executives may have other ideas -- companies like Warner Bros and Disney have already started pushing back summer blockbusters for new fall releases. Plus, movie theaters will likely institute similar social distancing measures to restaurants, which could include groups of seats blocked off.
Long story short, while establishments may start to reopen before 2021 is upon us, social gatherings will look very different until we have a widely available vaccine, herd immunity or other scientific breakthroughs