The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted just about every aspect of life in 2020, including dating. Dating apps and Zoom dates can help keep your romantic life in check, but what happens when you start vibing with someone and want to take things to the next level? If you're considering having your first date at home during the coronavirus, experts say reconsider, big time. "While most singles are considering meeting after endless days and weeks of chats and FaceTime calls, it gives a false illusion that your relationship has ramped up, that you know this person well, or that you've already fast-tracked your relationship status to 'In a Relationship,'" Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships, tells Elite Daily. "While meeting in person allows you to see their smile, hear their voice, and can lead to a more physically intimate experience, you still need to play it safe."
Vincent R. Racaniello, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology, agrees. "Dating a stranger is absolutely not a good idea as long as the SARS-CoV-2 virus is circulating," he tells Elite Daily. "Although cases are declining rapidly in many major U.S. cities, the virus is still present. You simply don't know if your date is infected, as many infected people don't show symptoms. The pandemic has destroyed and disrupted many aspects of society, and first dates are one of them."
The reason for the experts' caution comes down to how the virus is spread. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 (the disease caused by the novel coronavirus) is primarily spread by close contact with other people within six feet of one another. Spread can happen when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. But the virus can also be spread by people who are asymptomatic, meaning even though they don't show any signs of infection, they are infected.
While all this explains why having a date in your home, in close proximity, is risky to say the least, Spira cautions against first dates at your place regardless of COVID-19. "I always recommend meeting in a public place in case the date goes south, so you have an easy out, without someone showing up on your doorstep," she says.
Given all this, the question becomes: How can you safely go on a first date with someone new? Dr. Racaniello says there's no real way to be 100% safe on an in-person date during this time. "You could ask your date to have a polymerise chain reaction (PCR) test to determine if he or she's infected. Same for yourself. However, it will take several days to get the results, at which time you or they could be infected again. Sadly, there's no way to make a first date safer until a vaccine is available," he explains.
So, does that mean you can't date at all? Amesh Adalja, MD, FIDSA, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who specializes in emerging infectious diseases, pandemic preparedness, and biosecurity, tells Elite Daily that it's ultimately up to you to decide. "Every type of social interaction is going to have some risk of transmitting or acquiring the virus in the absence of a vaccine. So, whether or not a person thinks it's safe is really going to be reflective of their own personal risk tolerance," he says. Adalja adds that the best way to protect yourself is to practice social distancing and frequent hand-washing.
This leaves you with a couple of options, Spira says. For one, you can opt to keep your interactions online for the time being. "There are so many fun and creative things you can do with your date virtually. Going on a virtual picnic, sending a Venmo payment to treat them to dinner, playing trivia games, or taking a virtual yoga or workout together are ideal first dates. The thought of building up a sweat together can be pretty sexy," she suggests. She also says you can meet while taking precautions to help ensure your interactions are, if not 100% risk-free, at least safer. "You still need to play it safe," she says. Her advice is to meet up outside in a park or for a hike, wear a face mask, and keep your distance. “While it's tempting to hug your date, finally, or even desire a makeout session or have sex, hookups are out, and meaningful conversations are in right now," Spira warns.
While that might not be ideal, knowing the facts is the best way to protect both your health, and that of your date. Remember: This situation isn't forever. “Patience is a virtue, and the best things in life are worth waiting for — including that first hug,” Spira concludes.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all Elite Daily's coverage of coronavirus here.
Amesh Adalja, MD, FIDSA, specializing in emerging infectious disease, pandemic preparedness, and biosecurity
Vincent R. Racaniello, Ph.D., microbiology and immunology professor
Julie Spira, online dating expert and author of Love in the Age of Trump: How Politics is Polarizing Relationships