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You can visit relatives but take precautions

Extending your 'social bubble'

Bernard J. Wolfson Kaiser Family Foundation | 7/17/2020, midnight

Be wary even of friends you’ve known and loved a long time. That may sound callous, but you need to know something about the behavior and recent whereabouts of anyone with whom you plan to visit. Don’t be shy about asking where and with whom they have been in recent weeks. If they are a close enough friend for you to want to see them, they should understand why you are asking.

A chart from the Texas Medical Association that generated controversy on Twitter in recent days listed numerous activities, ranked from lowest to highest risk. Among the riskiest behaviors: going to a bar, a movie theater or any other crowded venue — and eating at a buffet. You could ask questions based on that list, or a similar one, to determine if it’s safe to visit with someone.

With regard to play dates for your children, public health experts say you should apply the same safety precautions as for adult get-togethers. “Children can play together, especially if their families have been socially distancing, the activities do not involve physical contact, and they can engage in the activities with sufficient physical spacing,” says Stanford’s Maldonado.

For those of us who have craved more human contact, it may come as a welcome surprise that some public health experts think it can be safe to hug people (though not dog owners you don’t know) if you follow certain guidelines: Do it outdoors; wear a mask; point your faces in opposite directions; avoid contact between your face and the other person’s body; keep it brief and wash your hands afterward.

Shannon Albers, a 35-year-old resident of Sacramento, says she started hugging people again after reading a story about how to do it safely in The New York Times.

“After 89 days I finally got to hug my mom, and she started crying,” Albers recalls. “We were standing on the driveway, and I said, ‘Do you want a hug?’ She immediately tightened her mask and started coming down the driveway, and I said, ‘Wait, Mom. There’s rules.’”

Chronically ill and elderly people may not want to risk it, says UC-Berkeley’s Reingold. “But if you are out drinking beers with somebody in a crowded room, I’m not sure the hug makes a difference, frankly.”