With COVID-19 case numbers spiking during the winter months, staying safe and healthy is now more important than ever before. Wearing masks and social distancing are the keys to doing so, but they also make most public interactions awkward, and different from what we are used to. But, until the COVID-19 vaccines become available to all, we will have to accept this new normal in order to keep ourselves and those around us safe. With that being said, it certainly is not impossible to see friends and family during these tough times. Although we would have to employ new techniques, there are still many ways we can see everyone while staying safe and healthy.

The first method is to utilize the technology available to us to connect with our friends and family digitally. This is by far the safest method, as nobody has to actually be in the same physical space together. Plus, there are no limits with who you can contact; it could range from  someone down the street or on the other side of the world. 

However, apps like Facetime, Zoom, and Google Hangouts do have their setbacks. They are heavily reliant on good internet, which not everyone has. Plus, bugs and glitches have the tendency to pop up out of nowhere. Regardless, being able to pass hours on end with people from the comfort of your own home is not a commodity that should be overlooked. Now that staying at home is the best option to protect yourself, take the opportunity to check in with friends and family while putting no one at risk.

On the other hand, if you want more of an in-person interaction, while still keeping risks at a minimum, you could go to someone’s house and talk to them while standing outside. There are a lot of ways to do this, and it all depends on the kind of house someone has. For example, some people like to talk through a closed window. If someone has an elevated porch, they could sit outside and talk to you from above. A see-through screen door would work as well. If it’s hard to hear each other, you could also call them on FaceTime to minimize the problem. 

At the end of the day, it is nice to be next to someone, even if there is a piece of glass separating you. Just being able to see a friend or family member in-person builds much deeper personal connections than staring at each other on a screen. But again, this method isn’t extremely convenient, especially during this time of year, as standing outside in the cold isn’t exactly ideal. However, it keeps both parties safe, and gives you the personal connection that Zooming or FaceTiming lacks.

Of course, the most obvious method for hanging out is simply social distancing with a mask. This is what most people do, and it is obvious why: you get to be close to people. You do not need an app to see them or talk to them. You can walk together, sit together, and eat together, while staying the recommended six feet apart. 

But, this is also the riskiest method. Even with masks and social distancing, the virus can still spread by people being close to others. If someone near you has COVID-19, being six feet apart with a mask does not guarantee your safety. It is possible for the virus to spread amongst a group of people who were all socially distanced and masked. 

On the bright side, if you and your friends and family are diligent with following the safety guidelines, socially distanced interactions can work. Of course, everyone wants to return to the days of being able to hang out with each other in-person without any limitation. Unfortunately, until the pandemic is over, these new methods of interactions are the only options, and at the end of the day, they are certainly better than nothing.