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Social Graces: How to handle friends and family who think the pandemic is over

By Hannah Herrera Greenspan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Fashion Daily

Q: What should you say to friends and family members who think the pandemic is over?

A: The COVID-19 pandemic is not over. It's still here, it never went away, and it's not going anywhere until there is a vaccine available.

This virus is very infectious. It's more infectious than influenza, so we really need to be more vigilant. States reopening may give some a false sense of security because, again, the pandemic is not over.

If friends or family members call COVID-19 a hoax on Facebook, don't engage online, because social media is not a realistic place to have a conversation. Engaging with loved ones who don't believe in the dangers of the pandemic is not worth your mental engagement. It's so frustrating to see the lack of compassion from some people who refuse to see past themselves.

If you are going to go out and engage in social activities, take the proper precautions and wear a mask, especially as cases rise in the U.S. If you want to support local restaurants and bars, try ordering takeout, dining outside or making a conscious effort to only go to places that are maintaining social distancing protocols and require masks.

- Emma Kate Loveday, postdoctoral researcher and virologist

A: This pandemic is so large and terrifying that many would prefer to pretend it's not happening. That's a coping mechanism.

It may seem unhealthy, but avoidance is the only way some people know how to make it through these historic events.

The best way to communicate to people living with this denial is to only speak in facts and to avoid personal stories or feelings.


"I think you should wear a mask" is a statement that invites conversation, but "Several countries have cut their number of infections over 50 percent by simply having citizens wear masks; it's proven to reduce the spread of infection" tells other people they'll have to do research to keep up with this conversation.

If strict facts don't work, it's time to take a good look at the relationship. Language like "I wish you would be careful" could work, but "If you keep being unsafe during this pandemic, I can't be close to you until it's over" sets a standard. If the person didn't know before how serious this pandemic was, then hearing someone close to them draw a line says it's time to start listening.

Yes, restaurants are reopening, but some have already closed again after staff members have become infected with the coronavirus. For every inch forward, it can feel like we jump 6 feet back.

We have to help each other. So, keep talking. Keep telling the truth. Keep showing facts, and don't back down. If they care about you, they will listen and, hopefully, change, because what you're asking them to do is incredibly low-effort.

Your safety matters, and it's time for us all to get better at verbalizing that our health is worthy of discussion.

- Ike Holter, Chicago playwright and screenwriter

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