Friends are not exceptions to the social distancing guidelines


By Matthew Fan, Co-Opinion Editor

This pandemic has brought out the best in people. Buying and delivering groceries to the elderly and immunocompromised. Donating hand-sewn masks. Raising money through online concerts. And everyone seems to understand how important social distancing is. In fact, I see messages on Instagram every day: “Stay inside so we can flatten the curve!” At the same time, these same people will post to their Instagram pictures of them hiking in the park with a couple of their friends, and none of them have masks on. To this, I can’t help but feel dumbfounded.

One of the biggest challenges of social distancing is avoiding loneliness. We Conestoga students have been confined to our homes for over a month now with no end in sight. The White House’s coronavirus task force coordinator, Deborah Birx, even says that some form of social distancing will last through summer. Sometimes, we feel extremely disconnected from our friends despite our vast social media connections. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deteriorating mental health is a huge concern during this pandemic, so it is indeed important to check in with loved ones and friends.

Art by Coco Kambayashi

However, this guideline does not grant you permission to disregard social distancing measures. I understand how tempting a get-together can be and how you can convince yourself of its safety. Even if you and your friend stay home for two weeks, Carolyn Cannuscio, a social epidemiologist at the University of Pennsylvania, says there is always risk. Perhaps your parent went to the grocery store or you came in close contact with a neighbor while exercising outside. The risk may be low, but it is still there. It would be a disservice to both yourself and your friend to meet in-person if it is not absolutely necessary.

Let’s say you really want to go on that walk with a friend. A decent substitute is what my friend calls a walk-and-talk. Go for a walk at the same time and simply call each other. What if you were really looking forward to making that French baguette with your best friend? Set up a device in your kitchen, video call, and follow the recipe simultaneously. You can still have so much fun watching the other person’s successes and blunders while you experience your own.

We all know that this pandemic is a war that is being waged in hospitals across the world. On the front lines are healthcare workers, some of whom lack masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that can prevent them from contracting COVID-19 from their patients. They put their lives on their line to save ours. Their one wish? “Please stay home for us.”

And it is not that huge of a request. In this modern technological era, there are so many ways to maintain face-to-face contact without having to break social distancing. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Hangouts. For me, video calls have been my savior. They make me feel connected with my peers and assure me that I am doing my part to keep them safe. So, just because you are physically separated does not mean you have to be socially isolated.

Matthew Fan can be reached at [email protected]