When the coronavirus pandemic began, we were figuring out how to stay safe, how to stay home and how this was going to affect our lives in the long run. Now that we have better answers to many of these questions, new ones have surfaced. How can I stay healthy while interacting with others? How can I prevent the spread of this disease? What can I do if I’ve lost a job? How can I explain this to my kids? Simply, how can I live in this new normal?
Six Big Questions
Where are we in developing a vaccine?
So far six vaccines have been approved for early or limited use. And 48 other vaccines are in earlier clinical trials, with dozens more in the pipeline.
Rigorous trial testing makes vaccines among the safest medical products in the world — with vaccines first tested on cells, then animals such as mice or monkeys. If vaccines make it through these experiments, researchers test them on people. Clinical trials have three phases, the last typically involving tens of thousands of people. These enormous trials enable researchers to detect even rare adverse effects. Vaccines have to meet this high bar because, unlike drugs given to people who are sick, they are intended for hundreds of millions of healthy people.
In the United States, four vaccines have entered Phase 3 trials. None have yet received an authorization for widespread use.
Two of the most promising vaccines, made by Moderna and Pfizer, are based on the same basic design. They contain a genetic molecule called messenger RNA, or mRNA, that contains instructions to build a coronavirus protein, known as spike.
In November, the trials of both vaccines had advanced far enough that researchers could make a preliminary analysis of how well they worked. Moderna estimated that the efficacy of its vaccine was 94.5 percent, while Pfizer said its was 95 percent. (The F.D.A. said in June that any approved vaccine would need an efficacy rate of at least 50 percent.)
Pfizer has asked the F.D.A. for emergency authorization, which would fast-track the vaccine to market.
Soon after, the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford announced promising results with their own vaccine. A limited study showed that their vaccine, which uses a harmless virus from a chimpanzee, had an efficacy rate as high as 90 percent.
In recent years, while aiming to contain outbreaks of Ebola, SARS and pandemic flu strains, scientists have worked to hasten the trial-to-market process for vaccines. To date, the mumps vaccine, approved more than 50 years ago, still holds the record — taking four years from collecting viral samples to licensing the drug. The Covid-19 vaccine is braced to obliterate that record.
Within weeks, the F.D.A. is expected to review safety and efficacy data for what could be the first Covid-19 vaccine in the United States. Once the F.D.A. authorizes a vaccine, the C.D.C.’s advisory group will determine how to distribute it.
On top of researching and testing the vaccine, manufacturing it for widespread use is another complicated process, often involving large sterilized vats and the mobilization of hundreds of pharmaceutical factories. Another logistical headache: disseminating hundreds of millions of vaccine doses, some of which need to be kept at very cold temperatures.
But many Americans are concerned about the safety of a hurried vaccine. A Gallup poll released since the election showed that 58 percent of the adults were willing to be vaccinated, up from 50 percent in September.
Washington and seven states — mostly led by Democratic governors — are poised to review any approved vaccines, in what they say is vital to building American trust in the vaccines but critics worry will result in unclear messaging.
But while many roadblocks may lie ahead, we can all take comfort in the fact that the world’s most elite experts are urgently centered around the same goal — another first and one with promising returns.
There are five vaccines that have been approved for early or limited use, according to our regularly updated Vaccine Tracker. More than 50 possible vaccines are in earlier stages.
In mid-September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that two unidentified vaccines might be ready by October or November. The technical details of the vaccines, including the time between doses and their storage temperatures, match well with the two vaccines furthest along in clinical tests in the United States, made by Moderna and Pfizer. AstraZeneca also revealed details of its large coronavirus vaccine trials in mid-September.
Still, there is little consensus in the scientific community whether such accelerated timelines are feasible. Even after a vaccine is researched and tested, manufacturing vaccines is complex. The process typically requires large, sterilized vats and the mobilization of hundreds of pharmaceutical factories. The record for developing a vaccine is four years (for the mumps). A decade is not an unusual timeline.
Logistically, it’s also complex. Developing an effective vaccine is just the first step. Then comes the question of how to deliver hundreds of millions of doses that may need to be kept at very cold temperatures.
But even if there is an approved vaccine — and even if it can be kept cold enough to reach millions of Americans — polls are finding Americans increasingly wary of accepting a coronavirus vaccine. In recent weeks, President Trump has stated that a vaccine will be ready before the presidential election on Nov. 3, raising fears that one could be rushed against the advice of scientists and regulators. Still, optimists point out, there has also never been a time when so many experts in so many countries focused simultaneously on a single topic and with such urgency. That, alone, gives some researchers hope.
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins found in the blood made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University.
The real problem is that your antibody test may be inaccurate, according to guidelines issued in September by a major medical society. Some tests look for the wrong antibodies and even the right antibodies may fade away.
Because current tests cannot determine if someone is immune, the Infectious Diseases Society of America said, antibody tests “cannot inform decisions to discontinue physical distancing or lessen the use of personal protective equipment."
Will the virus return in full force with the cold weather?
There has been some speculation as to whether warm weather has had an effect on slowing the virus. So far, we do know that you are safer outside, provided you wear a mask and stay far apart from other people. When winter comes, it will be harder to spend time outside, especially if you are in a cold climate. If you do need to move inside, only spend time in places with good ventilation, as the virus seems to hang in the air for hours. But be prepared in case of another spike in cases where you live.
Will there be another stimulus payment?
What little hope Americans had remaining that they would get a needed coronavirus relief package before the election was dashed on Oct 26, when Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, adjourned the Senate for two weeks.
What’s the deal with schools?
We have a section on this below, but expect the significant disruption to continue. Some K-12 students are back in classrooms (many part-time), but millions more are learning from home. Either way, expect plans to change.
There may well be cases at your child’s school, but that’s not necessarily a cause for panic. And although some colleges have reopened for in-person instruction, many went all remote, while others are going to all-remote classes after outbreaks hit campus. Some colleges have limited the term length and some students are just trying to have a regular year.
What about work?
Some non-essential workers are already back in offices and others will soon be returning to plexiglass dividers and alternating schedules, even though cases continue to rise. For some companies, however, the return-to-office date keeps getting pushed out later and later. We have more information about this below, but as an employee, you have some rights. That choice might be made for you, though.
We have things to celebrate. What should we do?
This is going to be hard, and there’s no right way to do it. But the coronavirus is happening right now, and it’s not specifically happening to you or your family. There are still ways to celebrate.
With events, you have three options. You could postpone them indefinitely. You could host them over video chat. Or you could have a much smaller celebration — masked up and distanced — with the people who matter the most.
What should I do about the holidays?
The timing of the holiday season couldn’t be worse — infection rates are on the rise as people start cozying up together indoors. In November, the virus set new daily infection records a million new cases reported in 10 days.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said his three adult daughters, who live across the United States, aren’t coming to a family dinner. He acknowledges: “You don’t want to be the Grinch that stole Thanksgiving."
So? The best advice is to limit this year’s in-person holiday celebration to your household. You could always celebrate the holidays with your larger circle of friends and family later. Take a page out of young adult author Jenny Han’s books and host a “Fakesgiving" next year. (And there’s always the alternative Zoom-giving.)
If you are still determined to have a festive holiday dinner on a traditional calendar, then proceed with caution: do it outside and wear those masks when not eating. And keep reading below for tips to keep everyone safe if you do have people over.
What about traveling for the holidays?
Traveling increases the risk of getting and spreading the virus. But if you do decide to travel this year, be sure to check this regularly updated list of statewide restrictions, which includes mandatory testing and quarantines for the 50 states and District of Columbia. Be sure to check for both your home state and to wherever you’re traveling. Requirements may vary and continue to change.
For instance, those coming to New York must quarantine for two weeks once they arrive in the state. Or they can get tested three days before they arrive, quarantine for three days once they get there and then get a test on the fourth day — allowing them to leave quarantine if they have a negative result. Yet those traveling from states contiguous to New York do not have to quarantine but still must fill out this Traveler Health Form. (Find other ways to reduce your quarantine time here.)
Complicated? Yes. Sounds like a lot of work? It is. And you need to remember that if you’re leaving New York and then coming back in, you’re expected to follow these regulations as well. (Such travel guidelines have led to long lines outside testing centers across the city — with almost 75,000 New Yorkers getting tested on Nov. 13 alone.)
If you decide to travel, driving only with your household is the best option, but if you have to fly, consider the airline. After the pandemic hit, three of the four biggest airlines in the country — American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines — vowed to block the sale of middle seats to provide more social distancing in the air. (United Airlines was the sole holdout.) American Airlines has since brought back the middle seat. But Southwest is keeping it free until December 1, with Delta extending that through the holidays — until at least January 6.
But what if I really want to have family over?
The lowest-risk Thanksgiving meal is the one you have with just the members of your household, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But before single people imagine sitting down to an entire turkey themselves, there are a few things you can do to keep you and your family safe if you do choose to gather.
First, keep your guest list small. Experts advise limiting the number of households attending. (It’s best not to mix households at all.)
The C.D.C. suggests asking your guests to quarantine for 14 days before gathering, but if two weeks is impossible, then do the best you can — a week of restricting your contacts is better than nothing. And if possible, all guests should get tested ahead of time. (See below for information about testing to determine the best test for you and when you should get it. And get more information from the C.D.C. about testing here.)
No matter the location or style of the event, everyone should wear masks as much as possible when not eating and people from different households should do their best to keep their distance. The recommendation is keeping 6 feet apart at all times.
The best safe-hosting option? Move your Thanksgiving outside. Outdoor gatherings lower risk because wind disperses viral droplets, and sunlight can kill some of the virus. Open spaces prevent the virus from building up in concentrated amounts and being inhaled, which can happen when infected people exhale in a confined space for long stretches of time, according to Dr. Julian W. Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester. (Go here for some tips on safe picnicking.)
If it gets cold, you can crank the heater — in fact, the C.D.C. suggests putting your central air and heating on “continuous circulation." Exhaust fans (like those over your stove or in the bathroom) can also help, but don’t turn on a regular fan — because that will simply recirculate the same, potentially contaminated air and increase everyone’s risk.
Other ways to lower the risk to you and your guests is to limit the length of your celebrations, keeping shouting and singing to a minimum, and limiting the sharing of serving bowls and utensils. And don’t bother getting out the nice guest towels. This year, paper towels are the way to go.
The C.D.C. also reminds us to drink responsibly: “Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice Covid-19 safety measures."
This year, being a good host means letting your guests know the expectations and safety standards up front — so no one is uncomfortable by unexpected rules or the lack there of — and have extra masks on hand in case a guest forgets. (Pro tip: Only invite the family members who you think will respect the rules or be amenable to a kind reminder — i.e., this year, you can pick favorites.)
Is it safe to go grocery shopping?
We’ve all learned how to safely food shop during the pandemic — wear a mask, avoid crowds, keep the shopping trip short and wash your hands (when you get home and after you’ve unpacked groceries.) While it may feel like a more hazardous time to shop compared to earlier months of the pandemic, the level of risk varies around the country. Your risk of crossing paths with an infected person is higher when an indicator called the test positivity rate is above 5 percent in your community.
In 28 states, test positivity rates were in double digits as of Wednesday, including Wyoming (90 percent), South Dakota (56 percent) and Iowa (51 percent). By comparison, New York City’s test positivity rate now is hovering around 3 percent, meaning your risk is lower compared to last April, when the rate was close to 70 percent. That said, case counts and test positivity rates are beginning to rise everywhere, which is why everyone needs to take precautions.
To find out how your state is doing, use this chart from Johns Hopkins University. To find the test positivity rate in your local community, check your state or county health department website or try the Covid Act Now website.
If everyone is traveling locally, should we all still get tested?
While testing is an important part of limiting spread, it’s not a catch-all defense against the virus.
The purpose of testing is to safely separate people who test positive from the rest of society to limit the number of infections ... not to have Thanksgiving just like the good ole’ days of 2019.
While a positive test means you need to isolate and cancel your Thanksgiving plans, a negative test is not a free pass. It can give you some reassurance, but you still need to take all precautions, including wearing a mask and keeping your distance. Even the most reliable tests can have a high false negative rate, depending on the timing of the test — and you may also contract the virus between taking the test and getting the result.
Covid-19 takes up to 14 days to incubate and in that time, you may test negative and show no symptoms — even as you’re passing it to people around the dinner table. In fact, about half of transmissions occur before people notice their symptoms. And the accuracy of your test results depends greatly on when you get tested — because the virus needs time to replicate in your body before any test can detect it.
So if you got tested the day after you were infected, one study in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine showed your test results would yield a false negative every time. And while results show greatly diminishing false negatives in the early days after symptom onset, they tick back up on the backend of the illness.
The type of test you choose can also lead to varying results. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers molecular tests (PCR tests) that detect the virus’s genetic material to be “typically highly accurate" although it takes longer to get the results back and you could be infected in the interim. Meanwhile, antigen tests (many of the rapid tests) are used to detect certain proteins on the surface of the virus. While you can get results back in under an hour, a false negative is more likely and the F.D.A. suggests that those with “negative results may need to be confirmed with a molecular test."
So even if you’re local and you want to gather, experts still suggest quarantining for 14 days when possible, driving to the destination while limiting contact along the way, keeping your mask on and doing your best to keep some distance from loved ones. You could throw a test on top for extra precaution.
But if you’re truly worried about getting Uncle Harold sick, stay home. It is the surest way to keep him safe.
And remember, no matter how far you traveled: If you develop Covid-19 related symptoms (fever, shortness of breath, etc.) within 14 days of celebrating or later test positive, make sure to let your host know and follow these guidelines to keep others safe.
What about college students who are returning home for the holidays?
Take extra precautions for college students hurtling home from campus this year. The C.D.C. notes that college students who typically live away from home should be treated as members of “different households." Even if they seem healthy, be sure they quarantine or get tested before socializing with the rest of the family. When your student arrives, even a few days of isolation in their own room with their own bathroom, if possible, is better than nothing.
But I've never cooked a small Thanksgiving before … how do I do it?
If you plan to cook for the (reduced) masses, the F.D.A. suggests frequent hand washing and disinfecting surfaces during food preparation and notes that: “Currently there is no evidence of food, food containers, or food packaging being associated with transmission of Covid-19," although “like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes Covid-19 can survive on surfaces or objects."
Need inspiration? Melissa Clark has a few ideas about how to scale down the menu without losing any of your holiday favorites — and even get the little kids involved. And just because you’re minimizing the guest list, that doesn’t mean you can’t experiment with a few new dishes — with hundreds of our best Thanksgiving recipes from NYT Cooking to try.
How else can I make Thanksgiving Day special without extended family over?
An at-home Thanksgiving can still be festive. While there will be no in-person Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, families can still gather around the television to watch performances from the comfort of their couch.
The production will air from 9 a.m. to noon for all timezones — with performances from the Radio City Rockets and cast of “Hamilton," as well as special appearances by Karol G., Keke Palmer, Dolly Parton, and, of course, Santa Claus. (Go here for the full performance listing.)
And afterward, if you haven’t already lost your taste for Zooming, consider hopping on to say hello to the rest of the family — either to play a game like charades or just to virtually cook or eat together.
You can also pass along favorite recipes ahead of time, so no one is without Grandmother Jean’s beloved sweet potato casserole. If you’re looking for a little friendly competition, consider making it a contest: who’s table is set first, who carves the best turkey?
And before you go, be sure to share what you’re thankful for — maybe that you don’t have to spend quite so much time with Great Aunt Marge this year.
After eating, a walk around the neighborhood (masked, of course) remains a safe option from Thanksgivings past.
And with a little less family time, you’ll have more time to get the couch cushions just right (with limited screen-sharing interference) ahead of that Ravens vs. Steelers game at 8:20 p.m. EST.
Or if football really isn’t your thing then maybe it’s time to decorate that tree, take the menorahs out of storage or add some decorative winter flair to your house. (We’ve seen a few holiday decorations well ahead of Thanksgiving this year … Instagram doesn’t lie.)
Finally, if you are still looking to observe Black Friday, you can shop safely from the couch. Preferably, with a slice of leftover pie.
What should we do about birthdays?
You could skip a year, and no one would be the wiser. You could try for a socially distant park hang with friends who live near you. Or, you could host a party over video conferencing, which is really more fun than it sounds. Set a time limit, call on people the way you would if you were leading a meeting and decorate your own place.
You could also ask everyone to bake the same easy mug cake, or something, so it feels like you’re all together. Get creative, and take the long view. Next year, you’ll be a year older. Maybe you can host one birthday party with two times the fun?
This is, of course, harder with kids. Start by talking to them about how this year is going to be different. You might want to try for a split-level birthday: in-person activities at home with the members of your household, and online activities with friends.
At home, you can build a fort at home together, or try for an ambitious craft project. Try some funky baking project, or give them “magic powers" for the day.
For the virtual party, keep it short and sweet. One hour is probably the maximum amount of time, so make sure you give your guests both a start time and end time. The other parents on the call will appreciate it.
Not sure how to fill time online? You could hire virtual entertainment. There are still music classes and magicians and clowns, and they offer virtual shows. (The website Mommy Poppins has a good list.)
What about our wedding? What should we do?
You could postpone. Lots of people are. If you really want to be able to celebrate with everyone you love in person, be flexible about choosing a date — you wouldn’t want to have to re-cancel.
Long-held wedding decorum may no longer be applicable, especially when it comes to uninviting guests. To avoid having to retract invitations, Steve Moore, an owner of Sinclair and Moore Events in Seattle, says couples should either skip the save-the-date cards or include a disclaimer noting they plan to adhere to state and federal guidelines for gatherings. “We’ll ask in advance for your flexibility, understanding and grace," he offered as a suggestion.
Or, just invite your very closest people to celebrate in person, making sure they all get tested and swabbed before you all get together. Your immediate family, your partner’s immediate family, your best friends. There will be other moments in your lives when you can get a bigger group together to celebrate.
What about a funeral?
There are steps you can take to treat the dead with dignity.
If someone you love is in hospice or nearing the end, start planning. Death is always logistical. Now, it’s even more so. Call a few funeral homes to ask about pricing and procedure, and check your state laws on the size of the gathering.
If your religion mandates you bury someone within a specific period of time, turn to a religious leader for help. They will have worked with other people in your situation, and should have suggestions about how to cope.
Understand that as much as you would like to honor your loved one in your traditional ways, the changed world has also affected funeral services. Consider the risk of a funeral gathering, and the comfort levels and health concerns of those who would like to attend. You may choose to organize a smaller in-person memorial, schedule a service at a later date or hold a Zoom memorial.
As for grieving? It’s going to be hard. You cannot hug your friends, and you cannot have them over. But with technology, you can lean on your community virtually. Maybe that’s just regular phone calls to your support network over the first few weeks. Or maybe that’s a Zoom shiva or wake. If you go the videoconferencing route, ask everyone to show up with a memory or a poem to share. Call on people one by one.
Science and Health
What is the difference between the coronavirus and Covid-19?
A coronavirus is a type of virus. There are lots of common coronaviruses, which are basically just forms of a cold.
This coronavirus — the coronavirus — is novel. It causes Covid-19, a disease. The 19 signifies 2019, the year when it started. The two terms are used interchangeably in conversation, but actually mean slightly different things.
I keep hearing about droplets, aerosol clouds and surface contamination. What does this thing attach to, how does it get around and how would I get it?
If you were to share saliva with someone — kiss, drink from the same cup — you could obviously get the disease. But it’s not just direct contact that can cause transmission. After pressure from researchers, the W.H.O. conceded that the virus can be transmitted through particles that can linger in the air for hours after an infected person has left.
The nastiest recent revelation is, perhaps, that flushing a toilet can also spread the virus throughout a bathroom.
There is some good news, though. After months of sanitizing our groceries, packages and mail, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the risk of catching the coronavirus from a surface is low.
What does the virus do to my body?
In the beginning, the coronavirus seemed like it was primarily a respiratory illness — many patients had fever and chills, were weak and tired, and coughed a lot. Those who seemed sickest had pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome — which caused their blood oxygen levels to plummet — and received supplemental oxygen. In severe cases, they were placed on ventilators to help them breathe.
By now, doctors have identified many more symptoms and syndromes. (And some people don’t show many symptoms at all.) In April, the C.D.C. added to the list of early signs sore throat, fever, chills and muscle aches. Gastrointestinal upset, such as diarrhea and nausea, has also been observed.
Another telltale sign of infection may be a sudden, profound diminution of one’s sense of smell and taste. Teenagers and young adults in some cases have developed painful red and purple lesions on their fingers and toes — nicknamed “Covid toe" — but few other serious symptoms.
More serious cases can lead to inflammation and organ damage, even without difficulty breathing. There have been cases of dangerous blood clots, strokes and brain impairments.
What are my chances of getting sick?
It’s a moving target, and depends a lot on where you live and when. If you’re somewhere with an outbreak, you’re at higher risk. If your state is reopening and cases are climbing, your risk is highest.
Lots of factors determine how sick you actually get. Younger people tend to do better than older people, and having underlying conditions increases your risk. And if you were exposed to a lot of the virus — as many essential workers were — you have a higher risk of getting a severe case.
Black and Latino people have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus in a widespread manner that spans the country, throughout hundreds of counties in urban, suburban and rural areas, and across all age groups.
However, a better question might be what your chances are of getting someone else sick. People in their 20s, 30s and 40s account for a growing proportion of the cases in many places, raising fears that asymptomatic young people are helping to fuel the virus’s spread.
Most people have a low chance of getting a severe case. But if you’re not careful, you have a very high chance of infecting someone who is vulnerable. It’s sort of like drunken driving. You could harm yourself, but you could also harm other people, too. That’s why we don't do it.
If I am sick, how will I know?
If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on how to get tested and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that if you’re sick or think you’re sick, but only mildly ill, you should isolate yourself, and you shouldn’t leave your house except to go to the doctor.
But a lot of people get the coronavirus without showing many, or any, symptoms. That’s why you should always wear a mask outside your home — the only surefire way to know you don’t have it is to get a test. And tests are still not reliable.
How do I get tested? How long do tests take to come back?
The situation is constantly changing.
One thing is consistent across the country, though: Testing is a mess, and the levels testing being offered are still not enough.
Only 14 states are meeting the target as of Sept. 22.
Even when the right number of tests are being conducted each day, people have to wait for results days, or even weeks later. (Other countries are doing a lot better.)
And tests are not always accurate. The standard tests are diagnosing huge numbers of people who may be carrying relatively insignificant amounts of the virus. Most of these people are unlikely to be contagious, but they may clog up the system.
Instead of less testing or nixing asymptomatic tests, new data underscores the need for more widespread use of rapid tests, even if they are less sensitive. And scientists are pushing for tests that go beyond a “yes-no" evaluation, to help patients quantify how much of the virus is in their system. Only a little bit might not call for quarantine.
I’m asymptomatic but was exposed to someone with the virus. Should I get tested?
Yes, absolutely. Although earlier guidance from the C.D.C. suggested otherwise, the agency reversed their controversial recommendation. The agency now says anyone exposed to an infected person for more than 15 minutes needs a test.
The previous phrasing, which suggested asymptomatic people who have had close contact with an infected individual “do not necessarily need a test," now clearly instructs: “You need a test."
When should I go to the hospital?
Going to the hospital should not be your first interaction with a doctor.
If you’re feeling sick, speak with a medical professional over the phone and get a test. If you can, consult with a doctor before you go to a medical center or the hospital — they might have insights or suggestions.
As soon as symptoms start, mark the days. While most patients recover in about a week, a significant minority of patients enter “a very nasty second wave" of illness, said Dr. Ilan Schwartz, assistant professor of infectious disease at The University of Alberta. “After the initial symptoms, things plateau and maybe even improve a little bit, and then there is a secondary worsening."
What precautions do pregnant people need to take?
If you or a loved one is pregnant right now, congratulations! This crazy world could use every bit of new joy it can get. We hope you’re having an easy ride.
This is, though, probably a stressful time to be pregnant, especially since there’s so much that’s still uncertain. Here’s what we know:
Pregnant people might be at increased risk from severe illness from Covid-19, according to the C.D.C. Pregnant people might also be at risk of interruptions to their pregnancies, such as a preterm birth. And a study of pregnant Black and Latino people in Philadelphia shows they have an increased chance of being exposed to coronavirus, which bolsters other research showing that the coronavirus disproportionately affects Black and Latino people.
Experts are cautiously optimistic that the coronavirus won’t alter fetal development, although one study found strong evidence that a baby was infected with the virus in the womb. A more common concern is that the parent carrying the child is at increased risk of suffering complications if infected. Pregnancy is already a stressor on the lungs and cardiovascular system, and the immune system changes significantly during the course of carrying a baby.
So. Just as raising a child takes a village, though, it will be a community effort to keep this new baby safe before it’s born. As a family, take extra precautions to protect the pregnancy. Keep your mask on. Socially distance whenever possible.
Importantly, though, keep your appointments. Talk to your doctor about how to safely come in for vaccines and check-ups, or whether remote visits are an option. That’s more important now than ever.
Preventative Measures and Treatment
Why do masks work?
The coronavirus clings to wetness and enters and exits the body through any wet tissue (your mouth, your eyes, the inside of your nose). That’s why people are wearing masks and eyeshields. They’re like an umbrella for your body; they keep your droplets in and other people’s droplets out.
But masks only work if you are wearing them properly. The mask should cover your face from the bridge of your nose to under your chin, and should stretch almost to your ears. Be sure there are no gaps — that sort of defeats the purpose, no?
What should I consider when choosing a mask?
There are masks everywhere. There are N95s and respirators, homemade masks and bandanas. Respirator valves should be avoided, but they do look cool. Even Kim Kardashian has waded in.
There are a few basic things to consider when you’re wearing a mask.
Does it have at least two layers? Good.
If you hold it up to the light, can you see through it? Bad.
Can you blow a candle out through your mask? Bad.
Do you feel mostly OK wearing it for hours at a time? Good.
The most important thing, after finding a mask that fits well without gapping, is to find a mask that you will wear.
Every brand in the history of clothing, it seems, has entered the mask market. Spend some time picking out your mask, and find something that works with your personal style. You should be wearing it whenever you’re out in public for the foreseeable future.
What about gloves? Should I wear them too?
Not really. Gloves become a second skin. They themselves could become contaminated (don’t touch your face!) and depending on how they’re made, they might have holes.
Gloves may be helpful if someone in your household becomes sick, so you can reduce the amount of times you have to wash your hands. But you will have to change the gloves every time you leave their room or interact with the sick person.
The most effective intervention is still washing your hands thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds, every time you enter your home.
Why is six feet away the right distance?
The coronavirus spreads primarily through droplets from your mouth and nose, especially when you cough or sneeze. Six feet has never been a magic number that guarantees complete protection. The C.D.C., one of the organizations using that measure, bases its recommendation on the idea that most large droplets that people expel when they cough or sneeze will fall to the ground within six feet.
But some scientists have looked at studies of air flow and are concerned about smaller particles called aerosols. They suggest that people consider a number of factors, including their own vulnerability and whether they are outdoors or in an enclosed room, when deciding whether six feet is enough distance.
Sneezes, for instance, can launch droplets a lot farther than six feet, according to a recent study.
It's a rule of thumb: You should be safest standing six feet apart outside, especially when it's windy. But keep a mask on at all times, even when you think you’re far enough apart.
Should I get a regular flu shot?
Yes. You should always get a flu shot annually because the flu virus changes and it is a safe and effective vaccine. Even if you do get the flu after being properly immunized, the illness is likely to be significantly less severe.
This year, it’s even more important you go get your flu shot. You could help prevent a “twindemic" of influenza and Covid-19, experts say, which could overwhelm hospitals and testing centers. Both ailments can produce similar symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath and fatigue that can be extreme. Here is a closer look at the differences between the two diseases.
Does the virus live in clothes and hair?
Probably not. If you are practicing social distancing and making only occasional trips to the grocery store or pharmacy, experts say that it’s not necessary to change clothes or take a shower when you return home. You should, however, always wash your hands upon entering your home.
The same advice goes for head and facial hair: If you practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently, you probably don’t need to worry.
Can hydroxychloroquine treat the virus?
There has been a lot of talk about hydroxychloroquine, a drug used to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, but a National Institutes of Health panel has specifically advised against using the combination of hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin outside of clinical trials.
A study of the records of 368 patients in the Veterans Affairs system, which has yet to be peer-reviewed, found that hydroxychloroquine, with or without azithromycin, did not help patients avoid the need for ventilators. And hydroxychloroquine alone was associated with an increased risk of death.
The study was not a controlled trial, and patients who received the drugs were sicker to begin with. The authors wrote: “These findings highlight the importance of awaiting the results of ongoing prospective, randomized, controlled studies before widespread adoption of these drugs."
I have the coronavirus. What should I expect my recovery to look like?
First off, we hope you get better soon.
Recovery is sort of a case-by-case basis. Some people show none or few symptoms, and only find out they have been infected when they test positive for antibodies. Other people are left with continuing shortness of breath, muscle weakness, flashbacks, mental fogginess and other symptoms months after they first got sick. And there’s a range of experiences in between.
Mara Gay, a member of The Times’s editorial board, wrote candidly about her experience in recovery.
“I am one of the lucky ones. I never needed a ventilator. I survived. But 27 days later, I still have lingering pneumonia. I use two inhalers, twice a day. I can’t walk more than a few blocks without stopping," she wrote.
Many people recover, but it may take a while. Go easy on yourself, and be forgiving if your body isn’t performing the way it used to. You survived a pandemic. That alone is cause for celebration.
How I Can Help
What can I do to stop the spread?
Wear a mask and stay far away from other people. That’s it. That’s the tweet.
Can I give blood?
You can. Transfusions are still needed for cases like organ transplants or complications of childbirth.
The American Red Cross is collecting donations at blood banks, which have enacted new safety measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Those measures include checking the temperatures of staff members and donors before they enter a drive facility, providing hand sanitizer for use before and during the donation process, enhancing their disinfection of surfaces and equipment, and spacing beds — when possible — to enable social distancing between donors.
And even if you’re under a stay-at-home order, donating blood is an essential need, so public health officials have made an exception for your trip to the center.
I’ve recovered from Covid-19. How do I donate plasma?
Plasma is, basically, the liquid part of your blood: it’s light yellow and about 92 percent water. Any antibodies that your body creates are contained in the plasma. Once you’ve recovered, or convalesced, from a given virus, those antibodies stick around in your plasma for a certain amount of time, ready to fight that virus if it comes back.
If you have antibodies, your convalescent plasma can be transfused into a patient still battling the disease.
To qualify, donors must pass normal blood-donation requirements and be symptom-free of Covid-19 for at least 14 days, and, in most cases, must have positive results from a test. (Other restrictions may apply, depending on the organization.)
Many health care institutions nationwide are involved in plasma donations, including the Red Cross, so to find a location near you go to the website for the National Covid-19 Convalescent Plasma Project or visit the Red Cross’s website.
Where should I donate money?
If you are looking to give money to those who need it most, you may want to consider an organization that provides food or helps with medical efforts.
You can also consider giving to local businesses and families in need directly. Or helping your neighbors in ways that are not necessarily monetary.
I want to help other families with school-age kids. How?
Many families are struggling, and you can offer a helping hand, either through donations or volunteering. If you can afford it, a recurring monthly commitment — set up with an automatic withdrawal from your bank account or credit card — gets your family to commit for the long run. Charity Navigator has a list of vetted nonprofits working in communities affected by the outbreak.
Involve your children by asking their opinions on where they think you should focus resources. They can also help raise money by hosting a socially distant bake sale or starting an online fund-raising campaign.
For school supplies, donate to First Book, a national nonprofit that provides free or inexpensive books and learning materials to children in need.
Or establish an ongoing connection with another family. One New York organization, the New Neighbors Partnership, pairs refugee families with families who have slightly older kids, so a relationship built on clothing donations can be maintained over several years.
Is it safe to return to life as (kind of) normal?
Please practice caution no matter where you live. At this time, it is just not safe to jump back into the world with two feet, especially if you are in an area where cases are surging.
And in many states, that's the situation. Many re-openings have been followed by a surge of new cases. When you do visit businesses or are otherwise out and about, maintain your social distance and keep your mask on. Just because many Americans are bored of the pandemic, it doesn’t mean it’s over.
What businesses are safe to frequent?
This is a hard question to answer. The increasing moves to reopen businesses reflect the immense political and societal pressures weighing on the nation’s governors, even as epidemiologists remain cautious and warn of a second wave of cases this fall.
Since the spring, through, a lot of businesses have learned how to welcome customers safely. Temperature checks at the door probably don’t do much, but mandatory masks and limits on the amount of people who can enter at one time do.
In general, here are things to keep in mind. If you have a choice between outside and inside, choose outside. You’re less likely to get or give the virus outdoors because it can hang in the still indoor air. And if you have to go inside, wear a mask as you possibly can.
To reduce your risk of exposure, consider what most people will be doing at various businesses. Where are people going to feel most at ease, and where will they most want to get close to one another and remove their masks? At a store, you can do your best to get in and get out.
But at businesses that exist for socialization, that’s a lot harder. Bars can be loud, and alcohol is flowing. Gyms are inherently germy, and working out in a mask is hard. Dining in restaurants is tricky: Tables are close, you’re eating so you cannot keep your mask on, and waiters keep dropping by to check up on you.
How should I decide where and how to go to stores?
This is a hard question, especially because a stagnant economy also damages the lives and livelihoods of many people. We are in the midst of a financial crisis, and spending money at local businesses (if you can) is a good way to re-grease the wheels. But no one wants to get sick or contribute in any way to a second wave either.
You can find your way back into a new kind of normal if you approach reopening thoughtfully and apply ethical guidelines to your behavior.
Most importantly, when you shop, wear your mask. (We know that’s the entire thesis of this page, but epidemiologists and public health experts agree: a mask is the best thing you as an individual can do to cut down on the spread of the virus.)
1. Is this necessary? If you’re going to a store for food or supplies, the answer is yes. But if you are dealing with your emotional health and the health of your relationships by seeing the people you love, that answer might also be yes.
2. Is this necessary now? Again, this might also be a yes. But separate needs from wants. You might want a haircut. Do you need one? You want to go sit in a restaurant. Must you?
3. Can I do this thing in a safer way? This requires some creative thinking, but the answer is also, probably, yes. You might be missing your religious community, and your house of worship is back open. Is there a way to move the service outside, instead of sitting in the crowded room? You’re desperate to see your friends. And you should — mental health matters. But can you see them in their backyard, instead of their living room?
What about getting a haircut?
But fixing a ’do is one of the most beloved types of self-care there is. Even when you’re visible only on Zoom, split ends and straggly edges can crimp your confidence. When barbershops reopened in New York City, people came rushing back.
If you go to a salon, make sure you and your hairdresser or barber are both wearing masks. They have to get close to you, so be extra careful. Also, unless you’re getting your hair done outside, make sure they have fans running and windows open, to keep air moving through the space.
To keep yourself safe, shampoo your hair at home, so your stylist doesn’t have to bend down over you. Wait for the appointment outside and keep the haircut time short. Skip the blowdry.
That’s true for getting your hair colored, too. Step outside while the chemicals are taking, and wash your own hair out.
And, ah, masks. But what about the hair behind my ears? That’s an easy fix. Either settle for a not-so-close shave this time, or unloop one ear at a time, holding your mask to your face. Safety first. Vanity second.
What about the dentist?
Taking care of your pearly whites is not just a good beauty habit; it’s also essential for your health. With all the baking and drinking we’ve been doing during lockdown, you’re going to need a visit sooner rather than later. In fact, that’s part of the reason economists are using dentists as a bellwether for comfort about reopening writ large.
Dentists have mobilized and are ready to accommodate visitors. Dentists and hygienists should wear head-to-toe personal protective equipment and change between appointments.
Getting the first appointment of the day may also limit risk, though many dentists said they are seeing fewer patients so they have more time to disinfect rooms between visits. But the risk might be more to the providers than it is to the patients; they keep their mask on while you take yours off.
What about laundromats?
In confined spaces, droplets spread. The C.D.C. suggests that, while doing the laundry of a sick person, you should wear gloves and try not to shake the clothing, to minimize the possibility of dispersing the virus through the air. If possible, wash items using the warmest water setting, and dry thoroughly. But you can wash their laundry with everyone else’s.
That being said, the C.D.C. also says that surfaces contaminated with droplets of the virus can infect people, it is “not thought to be the main way the virus spreads." We know that’s contradictory information. Safe is always better than sorry, though, and if you’re living with someone sick, it’s always good to take precautions.
At the laundromat, if you leave your home to wash your clothes, don’t hang out in the room between cycles. Sit in your car or lounge outside as you wait, just for social distancing purposes.
How about gyms?
By their very nature, athletic facilities like gyms tend to be germy, and gym equipment can be difficult to sanitize. In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, flu virus and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in four different athletic training facilities.
If your gym is open and you plan to go, see what healthy and safety steps they have put in place (there will probably be more than enough signage). For what you personally can do, start by disinfecting any surfaces that you touch. Wash your hands frequently, or use hand sanitizer. When spraying a disinfectant, give it a fews minutes to kill germs before wiping. Clean any grime or dust off surfaces first. Once you're done with that machine, disinfect it again for the next person.
New York City reopened gyms in August, after much outcry. State officials said that they had tracked coronavirus infections connected to gyms in Hawaii and South Korea as case studies to inform their policies. Their policies might be good for you to adopt, no matter where you live: weights and machines are available to use, but studios are not. One-on-one training sessions are allowed; indoor group fitness classes are not.
When weighing whether to head back to your gym, consider the fact that a gym is still a confined space, and exercising through a mask is hard. Maybe just exercise outside instead? Or, there are many exercise classes streaming online. Set up a corner of your home, lay out a yoga mat, and stream those instead.
Socializing and Friends
Why is it safer to spend time together outside?
Outdoor gatherings lower risk because wind disperses viral droplets, and sunlight can kill some of the virus. Open spaces prevent the virus from building up in concentrated amounts and being inhaled, which can happen when infected people exhale in a confined space for long stretches of time, said Dr. Julian W. Tang, a virologist at the University of Leicester.
And, since it’s summer, outside is fun. Picnics are a great way to share a meal with friends — just bring separate blankets and utensils, and sit far enough apart. If you don’t want to cook, takeout and delivery are safe, and will support the local economy. Getting around can be tough without a car, but there are ways to protect yourself on public transportation, if you need to take it.
What are superspreaders?
A superspreader is someone who is really good at passing on the coronavirus to others.
The good news is: They’re rare.
But superspreaders exist. There was that Texas birthday party, where one man reportedly infected 17 members of his family. What about Biogen employees, who infected people after a healthcare conference? And there was that Connecticut soirée, dubbed “Party Zero."
Now researchers are trying to figure out why so few people spread the virus to so many. For the most part, they’re trying to answer three questions: Who are the superspreaders? When does superspreading take place? And where?
The answer to these questions is, for the most part, unknown. As with everything coronavirus-related, assume the worst and be hypervigilant.
How should I throw a party now that reopening is possible?
Start with: Should you throw a party? Is it necessary? Now? And is a party the best way to celebrate together?
Again, the answers to these questions may very well be: yes. An elderly relative has a big birthday. You are getting married (more on this later).
So. Invite a few people that you trust. Will they keep their masks on? And, if they forget, will they be open to gentle reminders?
As for food and activities, keep it outside. Suggest that everyone bring their own blanket, food and utensils. A “bring your own dinner" is better than communal food, but if you go up one at a time to serve yourselves, you should be OK. You can even splash around, albeit at a safe distance.
If these restrictions still give you anxiety, try a party on Zoom. It’s honestly pretty fun.
What if I have to be indoors in a small space, like an elevator?
Are there stairs? Can you climb them? If not, or it’s too many flights, wait until the next car with no one in it.
Wait until you can ride the elevator on your own. But since droplets can hang in the air long after you leave, wear your mask at all times.
And, no talking. Keeping your mouth shut lowers the risk of you spewing coronavirus droplets into the contained space.
Can I hug my friends?
Ugh, same. Hugs are great. We actually need physical touch. So, is there any safe way to do it?
Tara Parker-Pope, founding editor of Well, posed this conundrum to Linsey Marr, an aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech and one of the world’s leading experts on airborne disease transmission. Dr. Marr calculated that the risk of transmission is surprisingly low if both people are wearing a mask — in part because the duration is so brief.
“If you don’t talk or cough while hugging, the risk should be very low," Dr. Marr told her.
A few tips for lowering the risk further: Wear a mask. Do it outside. Turn your heads away from one another (no cheek-to-cheek, dear). Don’t linger, you don’t want to breathe into each other’s faces. Wash your hands afterward.
Of course, if you’re really worried about it, you can make a “hug glove" with a clear tarp with sleeves. It’s like an umbrella for your entire body.
I actually … like … not seeing people. Help?
That’s really normal. For many people, the coronavirus has offered a strange respite from the pace of the world. Many of us, also, are more introverted than we previously thought.
Instead of self-flagellating, use this as an opportunity to reset. Tell someone you’re wiped out from life right now. Real friends will understand. Politely decline Zoom calls if you’re tired of them. Don’t feel like you need to eat outside with someone until you’re ready. It is a good time to take stock: Who and what is important to me, and who and what do I want in my life after all of this?
Eating and Drinking
I am not really eating normally. What should I do?
If you are eating differently, you might be able to manage the change on your own. If you are snacking a lot, that’s OK. But if it bothers you, try to assess whether you are actually hungry and, if so, try to add fruits and vegetables into your routine, if you can.
If you’re regularly not eating enough, find something you can tolerate. Schedule your mealtimes like any other essential appointment. You can also set alarms as reminders to drink some water, or to eat something.
But eating disorders can be serious, even life threatening. Roughly one in 10 Americans struggle with disordered eating, and the pandemic has created new hurdles for those managing difficult relationships with food.
“When the world feels out of control, people want to have control over something," said Jessica Gold, a psychiatrist at Washington University in St. Louis who treats patients with eating and other mental health disorders. “Often, it’s what you put in your mouth."
So if you are struggling, speak with people you trust and consider seeking professional help.
What should I do about restaurants?
"We’re all tired of cooking. And spending money in local businesses is a great way to help the economy. Restaurants have been especially hard hit: 87 percent of New York City’s restaurants and bars couldn’t pay their full rent in August.
But an open restaurant doesn’t mean a safe restaurant either for you, or for other customers or staff. The rules with outdoor dining are fuzzy: many people take their mask off when they sit down to dinner and don’t put it back up until they’ve paid the check. That could endanger you and the people you are dining with. That could also endanger the staff who have to bend over you to serve you. (Let’s also assume you’re not only going out to dinner with people in your household pod, tables aren’t usually six-feet wide).
Already, open restaurants have been linked to viral spread. The food itself if not the problem. It’s customers, whose laughter and talking can spew viral droplets throughout the area and all over waiters and staff.
If you want to eat restaurant food, consider getting it as take out and eat it as a socially-distanced picnic at a local park. (You could also try a ghost kitchen -- restaurant food designed specifically for takeout.) That way you can support a local business, see your friends and avoid having to cook — without as many ethical or safety concerns.
I am drinking a lot. Should I be worried?
Drinking is a hard one. If you imbibe, it makes a lot of sense that you are drinking more now. The coronavirus can be both stressful and boring, and drinking can dull the stress of waiting. New Yorkers, for example, flocked to buy cheap wine.
And although you might have normally had wine with friends, drinking alone — especially if you live alone — is not inherently frightening.
But substance abuse experts say they are worried that the pandemic could also trigger more serious drinking problems and even create new ones for people who have never struggled with dependency before. And without regular meetings, alcoholics are struggling to stay sober without the help of counselors and group support.
There is no right answer as to when it’s time for you to be worried. Some questions, though, might help you get a clearer sense of the problem. These are drawn from several self-administered quizzes put out by rehabilitation facilities and medical centers, but are mostly common sense gut checks.
First, just try to quantify your drinking. How many days a week do you drink? When you do drink, how many drinks do you have? Is there a time of day that you most want to drink? Can you sleep without a drink?
What about your attitude toward drinking? Do you get angry or irritable when someone tries to take your alcohol away, or suggest you might have a problem? Are you secretive about drinking?
And, primarily, have your drinking patterns changed dramatically since the pandemic started? Have you had major life changes — beyond lockdown — like losing your job or the death of a relative?
If your answer to some, or many of these questions, is yes, it might be time to step back and reconsider. If it continues to escalate, talk with friends, family and doctors about what professional help might look like.
Why are bars linked to outbreaks?
Think about a bar. Alcohol is flowing. It can be loud, but it’s definitely intimate, and you often need to lean in close to hear your friend. And strangers have way, way fewer reservations about coming up to people in a bar. That’s sort of the point of a bar. Feeling good and close to strangers.
It’s no surprise, then, that bars have been linked to outbreaks in several states. Louisiana health officials have tied at least 100 coronavirus cases to bars in the Tigerland nightlife district in Baton Rouge. Minnesota has traced 328 recent cases to bars across the state. In Idaho, health officials shut down bars in Ada County after reporting clusters of infections among young adults who had visited several bars in downtown Boise.
Governors in California, Texas and Arizona, where coronavirus cases are soaring, have ordered hundreds of newly reopened bars to shut down. Less than two weeks after Colorado’s bars reopened at limited capacity, Gov. Jared Polis ordered them to close.
To understand the connection between bars and outbreaks, consider a simple question: Are you your most vigilant self after a few drinks?
Ok, I’ll bite. What is sourdough and how do I start it?
Baking more? We see you. During the lockdown, stress baking skyrocketed. Everyone and their mother was suddenly a bread aficionado. Baking necessities like flour and yeast were in short supply and bread makers sold out across the internet.
Basically, sourdough is a type of bread that rises due to natural fermentation. Instead of adding instant commercial yeast to your dough, you add parts of a live bacterial culture that you feed and keep in your fridge. That’s called the “starter." Once a baker has a starter, she can make endless loaves, provided she has flour and a can-do attitude.
By this point, you probably know someone who has a starter: put a blast out to your followers on social media. If not, that’s an easy fix. You can buy one online, or make one yourself. Just leave some flour and water out for a few days, and yeast will start to ferment. You’ll know it’s ready when it smells, well, sour.
What should I consider when ordering food?
Both takeout and delivery are safer than eating in restaurants, because social distancing is possible. And, good news, packaging has a low risk of transmitting the disease. Although the C.D.C. says that surfaces contaminated with droplets of the virus can infect people, the agency notes that it is “not thought to be the main way the virus spreads."
Delivery, though, is slightly safer because of contactless delivery, which lets workers leave food at your door, said Ben Chapman, a professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University. Since the ordering and payment can be done electronically, customers and workers never need to touch.
If you choose to pick your food up, ask the restaurant staff member to put the food down and walk away before you pick it up. Wear a mask. Stand far apart from other patrons. And whether you choose takeout or delivery, try to pay in advance. You can do it electronically, which will keep both you and the workers safer.
As the world is reopening, I’m anxious. What should I do?
Lots of people with anxiety are struggling more than usual, and lots of people who haven't been anxious before are dealing with symptoms. With different messages coming from varying levels of the government, people can be left feeling as if there are few reliable answers about what precautions they should take or without a clear sense of whether things are under control.
“Uncertainty drives anxiety," said Dr. Ellen Hendriksen, a clinical psychologist at Boston University and the author of “How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety." “Anxiety is rooted in not knowing what is going to happen."
Just because the world is reopening, you don’t have to start living your life as if it’s before the pandemic. Instead of focusing on what frightens you, think of the things that you want to have back in your life that would enrich and fulfill you. Ease back in with activities that you actually want to do, and view this time as an opportunity, weighing whether you want to continue past relationships and activities.
Feel free, also, to tell people what your boundaries are, or name the awkwardness. You might just ask what the other person feels comfortable with. “Should we elbow bump? Do you want to go first? I guess I’ll take the next elevator, right?"
“A problem shared is a problem halved," Dr. Hendriksen said. “Naming the uncertainty is helpful because it shatters the illusion that there is a right way to do this."
Am I depressed? Or just in a bad mood?
Most experts expect to see rates of depression and other psychological disorders increase in the coming months, as the pandemic continues. And yet, a majority of those who seek treatment for depression will improve if they persist.
“I don’t know anyone right now that’s not having depression-like symptoms," said Luana Marques, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and the president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. “It’s hard to keep going when our brains are constantly on fight or flight. It makes people really tired. If you’re having trouble concentrating or getting out of bed, it’s not abnormal. It’s an evolutionary response to a threat."
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.
What about meditation?
Meditating is a great way to take care of your stress. If you’re a novice looking to start, try for just five minutes every day. There’s no right way to do it, but a consistent practice is a good way to build your relaxation muscles. Apps can be helpful: Wirecutter, a product recommendation site that’s owned by The New York Times, recently named the meditation app Headspace (which costs $69.99 a year, after a free two-week trial) as its top choice.
Or, just try to find a comfortable space and breathe through your distress. Breathe from your belly, imagining your breath moving up from the depths of your body. Slow it down, close your eyes, and feel your lungs expanding and deflating.
How do I find a therapist?
Finding a therapist can be difficult, even under normal circumstances.
First, figure out what your insurance is and how you can pay for it. The logistical structures will make it a lot easier to move forward, and narrow down your choices for you. Of course, that’s not always an option — therapy can be time-intensive and expensive. You may not have insurance. If it is possible for you, though, here’s a quick guide.
Then, determine what type of professional you need. If you’re mostly looking to talk, a psychologist is a safe bet. Keep in mind that they do not prescribe medication.
If you’re suffering from a specific ailment — panic attacks, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, sociopathy, borderline personality disorder or schizophrenia — see a psychiatrist or a psychologist with considerable experience in that specialty.
Then, set up a few preliminary calls and consultations. The getting-to-know-you session is often free, and you should take it as an opportunity to talk about what you are looking for from therapy, and how they approach their practice.
You might click with someone, the way you would with a friend. And there’s nothing wrong with trying a few initial appointments to learn about your own wants and desires. Remote options are now widely available, so you can still attend sessions while staying distant.
I’m having trouble sleeping. What should I do?
While there’s no single trick that works for everyone, one thing you can try now to improve your sleep is setting up a consistent schedule. That means sticking to a regular bedtime and wake time. Melatonin is also worth considering.
Try to go 90 minutes without any screentime before bed — that means no emails, social media or watching TV. (Read a book, take a nice shower, etc.) You can also take baby steps, beginning with 15 minutes, then working your way up.
Working out, whether that means taking a socially distant walk or doing an at-home routine, can help tire you out and dispel extra nervous energy. Taking a warm shower or bath 90 minutes before lights out may also help prime you for a better night’s sleep. And be sure to nix the coffee, alcohol and any food before bed — these things don’t promote quality rest.
How can I stay motivated to work?
As the weeks morph into months, the ennui of coronavirus-induced isolation can undermine our enthusiasm for getting anything done.
If that sounds familiar, remember: Doing what’s meaningful — acting on what really matters to a person — is the antidote to burnout.
Motivation might best be fostered by dividing large goals into small, specific tasks that are more easily accomplished, but not so simple that they are boring and soon abandoned. Avoid perfectionism — the ultimate goal could become an insurmountable challenge. As each task is completed, reward yourself with virtual brownie points (not chips or cookies!), then go on to the next one.
Help! I’m frustrated with my partner.
That makes sense. If you’re cohabitating, you could be in a tough spot. If you’re not, you’ve probably had to figure out ways to see each other — or not — that feel safe and nurturing for you and the people around you.
Or as Eric Spiegelman, a podcasting executive based in Los Angeles, tweeted in April, “My wife and I play this fun game during quarantine, it’s called ‘Why Are You Doing It That Way?’ and there are no winners."
No matter who you are or how you are interacting, make sure you take care of yourself first. Then, make a plan. If you are both working from home, when can you take time to care for each other and feel normal and romantic again? What rituals can you implement to separate day from night, roommates from lovers? You might just have to impose boundaries.
If you were both at work before the pandemic, separately, during the day, you probably didn’t talk for 14 waking hours straight. Build in time apart, as if you really were at the office, so seeing each other is a nice break at the end of the day, rather than a droning grind.
“The traditional marriage vows are ‘for better or for worse,’" said Jean Fitzpatrick, a relationship therapist based in Manhattan. “This is for worse. And so how do we navigate a time like this? Our relationships will either grow as a result, or they will be harmed."
But this time together might actually make you closer. So many parts of our lives have changed without our consent, and we may be feeling a kind of grief about it. Some people may not want to complain to their partners about these bad feelings, but if you don’t honestly share these feelings, you two might feel a sense of disconnect. Lean on each other right now.
And, you can still do nice, intentional, romantic things. Get dressed up. Foot rubs. Chocolate. You’ll be OK.
My partner wants to go out more than I do. What should we do?
You are going to have to work together to weigh each other’s needs. One partner might have parents who are older and at higher risk of complications from the coronavirus; the other might be an extrovert who thrives on being around other people and is, emotionally, at a breaking point.
Remember that you’re on the same team. “It’s not, ‘My needs versus your needs, and let’s negotiate,’ but asking the question and having the posture of: ‘What is best for our relationship?’" said Jennifer Bullock, a psychotherapist based in Philadelphia.
Several psychologists and counselors recommended presenting a united front when explaining shared decisions to friends and family. Any sort of “I would, but he’s afraid" seeds resentment and can amplify the problem far past the boundaries of your own home.
In any fraught situation, sit down with your partner and listen. Instead of offering rebuttals, try to treat it more like an interview about where he or she is coming from. Ask open-ended questions — which can’t be answered with a simple “yes" or “no." You could try: “How should we approach our safety when I go back to the office?"
But remember, this is a pandemic. If one person is seriously scared about their health or the health of their family, their needs might take priority. Ultimately, your well-being and others’ should take precedence.
How do I date during this time?
That’s a tough one.
By nature, pandemic dating is much more serious than any other type of dating. Even if you feel willing to take the risk, you’re basically co-mingling your quarantine pods when you make out. That doesn’t mean that you have to marry the person, but it does reframe the pace of everything.
There’s something sort of nice, though, about taking it slow. Start with a socially distanced walk with masks or a video chat, maybe. Get to know them. If you are going to be physically intimate, you’ll need to have frank and honest conversations about your limits and your living situations.
Now, though, sex is way more complicated. A number of public health agencies have offered tips for dating and sex during the pandemic, but the New York City health department has recently updated its Safer Sex and Covid-19 fact sheet with more-detailed and descriptive advice. The new guidelines still say that “you are your safest sex partner," and that the “next safest partner" is someone in your household.
Some couples are wearing masks during the deed; others are getting tested before getting intimate. The only sure thing is that this is going to be a bumpy year for single people.
One of the good things about dating during quarantine, though, is that it’s cheaper. Two drinks might be $25. A video chat with your own wine is much less.
I’m worried that I, or my friend, might be suffering domestic abuse. What should I do?
If you are in danger, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.
This is a problem that is affecting people across the world. Since the pandemic started, abusers and their families are often stuck in the same house, and tensions are running high. Doctors and advocates for victims are seeing signs of an increase in violence at home. They are hearing accounts of people lashing out, particularly at women and children.
“No one can leave," said Kim Foxx, the chief prosecutor in Chicago. “You’re literally mandating that people who probably should not be together in the same space stay."
Across the country, hotlines are seeing increased traffic, with calls and text messages mounting. But in many places, reports are dropping. That’s not because abuse is falling, officials say. Instead, it’s because people are having a harder time reporting. Reports of child abuse cases are falling, which is also worrisome.
Be careful when reaching out for help, especially if your partner monitors your phone. Maybe ask a friend to call for you, or use their online chat tool.
Is it coronavirus or the common cold?
It’s inevitable. In the fall and winter your child is likely to develop a fever, runny nose or cough. Maybe even all three.
You likely won’t know if it’s the coronavirus or a common cold because the symptoms are so similar. If there’s any chance your child may have the virus, don’t send them back to school without a negative test, because research suggests they can be asymptomatic but still contagious. And if they have symptoms — even sniffles or an upset tummy — play it extra safe.
A chart on the C.D.C.’s website shows just how often these symptoms can overlap.
“This is not the year to just send your kid to school," said Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency physician and assistant dean at Brown University. “This is the year to respect the community and get your kid tested before sending them back."
If you think your child has been exposed, get her tested. That might pose new challenges, though: pediatric tests can be hard to come by.
“Kids weren’t really out in the wider world when this whole testing infrastructure was set up," said Sarah Kliff, an investigative reporter at The Times. “But now they are. Day cares are reopening. Some students are going to school in person. We don’t really have a testing infrastructure meant to handle that."
So don’t assume that your local pharmacy will also swab your kid. Call ahead, and take deep breaths.
Should my kid get a flu shot?
YES. (Sorry to be extra, but, YES.)
As any parent knows, cold and flu season always brings a host of respiratory viruses and runny noses, but this year there’s the possibility of getting both the flu and Covid-19. So public health leaders are urging everyone to get the flu vaccine to both protect ourselves and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with sick patients.
If your child is younger than 9, keep in mind that they might need two flu shots: their immune system isn’t strong enough to launch a response after one. And get their shot early — Sept. or Oct. That way, they’ll be protected from early flu season. But you might also get it out of the way before the coronavirus flares up again in cool weather.
What about a coronavirus vaccine for kids?
No one really knows for sure when a vaccine will be available. Even if adults can get a vaccine by next summer, their children will have to wait longer. Perhaps a lot longer.
Thanks to the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed and other programs, a number of Covid-19 vaccines for adults are already in advanced clinical trials. But no trials have yet begun in the United States to determine whether these vaccines are safe and effective for children.
Only if researchers discovered no serious side effects in adults, would they start testing a vaccine in children, beginning with teenagers and working their way to younger ages. Vaccine developers are keenly aware that children are not simply miniature adults. Their biology is different in ways that may affect the way vaccines work.
How should I explain this to my kids? How is their mental health?
Before you talk to your children, it’s important to understand your own anxiety and keep it in check. If your child is worried about the coronavirus, listen to him or her, rather than respond with comments like, “It’ll be fine." Dismissive reactions can make children feel like they’re not being heard, said Abi Gewirtz, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Minnesota.
Talking about the pandemic and its impact may help avoid the harmful effects of stress. Help your kids understand that there are things they can do to help others — like staying home whenever possible and wearing a mask when they go out. Kids feel good when they know they are helping solve a problem.
Also, avoid making assumptions. While we may be struggling with schools being closed, kids could be rejoicing in it. We might assume our kids miss their friends, but they may appreciate having more time with us. And some who were dealing with bullying or social challenges at school may be relieved to not have to see other kids.
How does this affect kids, physically? Can they transmit coronavirus?
Fewer children seem to get infected by the coronavirus than adults, and their symptoms tend to be mild. But it can be serious, contrary to earlier belief.
A very small number of children with the virus have shown symptoms associated with toxic shock or Kawasaki disease. This is a rare illness in children, according to the New York City health department, that involves inflammation of the blood vessels, including coronary arteries.
Two studies offer compelling evidence that children can transmit the virus. While neither proved it, many epidemiologists who were not involved in the research said that the evidence was strong enough to suggest that schools should be kept closed. (We have more about schools in a later section.)
If your child develops severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing, an inability to eat or drink, or a change in behavior, you should contact a doctor.
My partner and I both work from home, and now both parent from home. What should we do?
Honestly, the first step is to acknowledge this is totally bonkers. The writer Deb Perelman, who created the food blog Smitten Kitchen, laid it out plainly in her essay: "In the Covid-19 Economy, You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both."
“Why are we not hearing a primal scream so deafening that no plodding policy can be implemented without addressing the people buried by it?" she asks.
There are a few strategies to try. Most importantly, work with your partner and present a united front. Division will create disorder, which will create chaos, which will drive you all up the wall.
However you can, try to create boundaries. That might be a physical boundary (“This is the adult room") or a time boundary (“You are not allowed to talk to Daddy until 2 p.m. today"). To do that, you might need to use time more effectively — sleep whenever you can and use noise-canceling technology, if need be. Having a daily schedule also helps.
But most important, be kind to yourself, and to one another. This is not like anything that has ever happened before. That’s OK. If the kids are spending more time on their screens, or if you’re not whipping up super healthy organic meals every night, whatever. You’re getting through it, and you’re loving one another. That’s what counts, right?
What about grandkids and grandparents?
Older people are more likely to have a severe case of the coronavirus, so visiting grandparents or grandchildren is risky.
In the nice weather, you could spend time together outdoors. Don’t forget a mask.
Video chat does work, although you might need to walk your older parents through the twists and turns a few times before it’s second nature.
If you live close, perhaps you conjoin your quarantine pods. Get tested, quarantine while you’re getting results back, and then spend time together normally. That might be necessary: Parents, stressed from working at home, desperately need reliable child care. Some grandparents who have become the primary caregivers are delighted, and exhausted.
That might be your best option. Social distancing is hard to explain to kids, and often harder to explain to grandparents. You want kids to have their grandparents around at high school graduations, first jobs and weddings. If you can’t see each other safely, maybe you should wait until you can.
How do I get my kid to wear a mask?
Older children can be a little cranky about adapting to life with masks, but younger children are perfectly positioned to learn a new drill.
Most children enjoy the chance to feel morally superior to adults (and adults often make this all too easy); go ahead and encourage a little righteousness. They can be the family monitors, reminding their parents not to forget their face coverings when they leave the house.
For some children, though, even the humblest of masks can be scary — scary in themselves, and scary as reminders of the threat of infection and the generally frightening moment. By making it into a game, or buying see-through or emotive masks for the family, you can alleviate their anxiety. Or, maybe it’s an opportunity to play dress up?
How do I explain social distancing to my kids?
Use their imaginations and tell stories. To explain why social distancing is important, one mother in Los Angeles compared it to pulling to the side of the road to let an ambulance pass.
You could also try to make it into a game. (Think hot potato, but people.) You win points if you’re far away.
Debates about using rewards to motivate children are endless, but parents trade favors for obedience all the time. Even the C.D.C. signs off on rewarding good behavior (say, wearing a mask outside without fussing) with praise, a board game or an extra book at bedtime.
Don’t threaten them, though. Child psychology experts say that threats hurt motivation and undermine parent-child relationships. But you can still take away privileges for not following the rules (like wandering too close to strangers without a mask). Just make sure you explain the consequences beforehand and make the punishment fit the infraction, psychologists say.
How do I help my kids entertain themselves without socializing?
Maybe don’t. Let them amuse themselves.
That’s tough: Research has shown that our heavily scheduled lives have contributed to a significant decrease in the amount of free time kids have, so their independent play skills may not be ready for the moment we are facing.
But it might really be necessary. “Independent play encourages time management, executive function and organizational skills, and emotional and physical awareness and regulation," said Dana Rosenbloom, a parent and child educator in Manhattan. “All skills that help us be successful individuals as adults."
You can help them play on their own. Start slow — let younger kids direct play for 20 minutes, 35, then an hour. Keep toys out of rotation, said Avital Schreiber-Levy, a parenting performance coach in New Jersey who has created a play guide for parents on lockdown. “When toys sit out too long, they go stale," she said. “It’s about making them novel again, either because we take them away or we set them up in a new way."
Let kids get messy, and keep play in a specific zone where they can wiggle and jump. And, be patient. If your kid is used to socializing and screentime, self-directed play might be tough for them. Letting them work out the kinks on their own will develop strength and resiliency that can last them a lifetime.
What about socializing with other children? Can we do it safely?
If your family or friends live nearby, consider linking up quar-pods. If you as parents agree to community norms and guidelines, you can probably let your kids play together as if the world were normal.
But if you’re unable to do that, or you want to see someone for a play date, know that there are risks. Playgrounds are open in some states, and young children are being asked to stay six feet apart and wear masks, an often unrealistic expectation.
If you’re trying for a play date, good communication with a parent is essential.
“A start would be, ‘Hi, our kids have been asking about getting together, and as you know, this is a complicated conversation right now,’" said Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. A parent could continue, “I wanted to start with an open conversation, see where you are, tell you where I am, and see if it’s possible to send a consistent message to our kids."
Enlist your kids for help, too. If they feel like it’s a project that they’re doing together, they might find some way to enjoy it. You could make spaces — all of the kids get their own blanket — if you’re playing outside.
But there’s no good answer to this. If you can keep your kids away from other kids, you’re reducing your family’s risk of infection. That might not be possible, but it might also be the only way to do it safely.
But will not socializing with other children stunt my kid’s development?
Probably not, although it does make sense to worry.
Social interactions are an important part of development throughout childhood, and spending time with peers is typically part of that process. But try not to fret too much about what kids are missing right now. Children are resilient and adaptable, and they’re not entirely cut off from other people.
There is much to be gained from interactions with parents, siblings and even pets. Time alone is valuable, too. And connection through technology, like hanging out or playing games through video chats, can fill in some of the blanks. Even without peer interaction for a while, kids can still develop socially and emotionally in ways that will prepare them to pursue real-world friendships when those can resume.
Friendship is like riding a bicycle. You don’t really forget how, even if you have some time away.
For children, what is school going to look like?
This semester, regardless of how your school is moving forward, will be a strange one. One thing has become painfully clear: Individual districts have been largely left to chart their own paths, whether it’s a return to the classroom, remote learning or a mix of the two.
Plan for the worst and, frankly, assume the worst. In New York City, for example, At least one coronavirus case had been reported in more than 100 school buildings by the first day of in-person instruction on Monday. Already, the city had suffered two delays and the death of a teacher. But as in-person learning ramped up, at least six buildings were closed temporarily.
Either way, an outbreak at a school could slow operations to a halt for at least two weeks, and would be enormously disruptive. Even if you’re back in classrooms, you might well be dealing with an uncertain academic calendar.
There’s a case at my child’s school. Help?
The coronavirus is unpredictable, but one thing seems certain in this back-to-school season: Outbreaks will appear in many K-12 schools as they reopen.
“It’s not a question of if, but when outbreaks will occur," said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and the former health commissioner of Baltimore.
That inevitability can feel frightening. But a case at your child’s school does not mean you should panic. And a classroom in quarantine, or a school forced to switch to remote learning, does not necessarily mean a district has failed. In fact, if your school is following an established pandemic procedure, it might mean things are working as planned.
“It’s important to distinguish between Covid in your school, which is bad, but not exactly the same thing as Covid being transmitted in your school," said Dr. Benjamin Linas, an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University. “People have lives outside of school. It’s very likely that people will get infected somewhere else."
A few unrelated cases at a school does not necessarily mean there’s an outbreak. If community transmission rates are high, students are most likely getting infected outside of school, where the environment is less controlled. (Most experts agree that students shouldn’t return to school if more than 5 percent of people in their community test positive.) Effective contact tracing is essential to help families and classrooms assess risks and make a plan.
I need help getting my child online. Where can I turn?
Some 15 percent of U.S. households with school-age children do not have a high-speed internet connection, according to a Pew Research Center analysis. Often, several children share one computer, which can be tough with overlapping class times.
Before the pandemic, a student without internet at home could do research at a library or stay after school to use the computers.
“That’s not an option anymore," said Angela Siefer, the executive director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for internet access. “There’s no workaround."
N.D.I.A. maintains a list of local organizations working on digital inclusion, for those looking to donate. Another organization, EveryoneOn, can help families find low-cost programs in their ZIP code.
Or, check in with Comp-U-Dopt, which refurbishes used computers and gives them to children in cities across the country. It costs $215 for the organization to get the computer, overhaul it, deliver it and provide two years of tech support and training, said Megan Steckly, the chief executive.
Is it safe to ride the bus?
School buses are the nation’s largest single form of mass transportation. But during the coronavirus pandemic, the C.D.C. recommends they operate at reduced capacity to allow for social distancing.
One New Jersey district has decreased average capacity to 22 students from 54, but says it won’t need to hire many more buses because more parents are driving their kids to school. The district, like others, made several other modifications:
*X’s mark off seats, so kids know where not to sit.
*Open windows will keep air moving.
*The drivers store cleaning products in the seat behind the wheel.
*Students load the bus back to front, and get off front to back, to maintain social distancing.
*Unless students ride with a sibling, they can’t have a seatmate.
So far, windows-down and seat-spacing have had a good effect. But if you’re worried, and you can, you might get some good quality time with your children if you drive them to school for a few uncertain weeks.
I’m a teacher. Do you have tips for remote learning?
What are teachers facing with remote learning? Check out this viral video from Mackenzie Adams, a kindergarten teacher in Washington state, as she mightily tries to get the attention of her young pupils — and teach them how the mute button works.
“It’s keeping them engaged and looking at me," said Adams, 24. “That’s where those facial expressions come from and those big gestures."
For teachers with younger students, it’s especially challenging to hold their focus — and teach them the life skills that may not be learned easily on video chat. Some are holding up microphone pictures, to remind students to unmute. Others are making sure to give “wiggle breaks" as much as possible. But if you’re frustrated by technological shortcomings, you’re not alone.
“I am like: ‘OK, I know you don’t have the motor skills for this yet, your muscles in your hands don’t do this, but can you drag and drop?’" said Arielle Fodor, 28, a kindergarten teacher in California. "'Can you click a button with a trackpad?'"
What about colleges?
That depends on the college or college system, and is still pretty up in the air. College is, by its nature, not a socially distant period of life. Dorm living is close; shared bathrooms are closer. So much you do for fun in college is predicated on touch.
Still, more than three-quarters of colleges and universities have decided students can return to campus this fall, to attend in-class and remote studies. But many professors are concerned about coming in to teach. Their students are at lower risk of getting seriously ill from the virus, and are probably taking many more risks outside the classroom.
“Until there’s a vaccine, I’m not setting foot on campus," said Dana Ward, 70, an emeritus professor of political studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., who teaches a class in anarchist history and thought.
Administrators are trying for creative solutions. Calendars are changing: Campuses across the country are forgoing fall break to zip through academic work and get students home before Thanksgiving. Or, they’re allowing only some of their students back to campus. In order to achieve social distancing, many colleges are saying they will allow 40 to 60 percent of their students to return to campus and live in the residence halls at any one time, often divided by class year.
Will my child be safe at college?
College is, by its nature, not a socially distant period of life. Dorm living is close; shared bathrooms are closer. So much you do for fun in college is predicated on touch.
As outbreaks bloom from illegal student parties and the virus spreads through the dorms, colleges are the new meatpacking plants, at least in terms of viral spread. But it’s not just Greek row: Zoie Terry, 19, a University of Alabama sophomore, got infected at a small movie night with friends. She was thinking “there was no way I could have had the virus because I was following every guideline — I was doing nothing, I was in my room 24/7," she said. But she still wound up in a quarantine dorm.
Student safety may not be the pressing question, because they’re generally at lower risk. “Until there’s a vaccine, I’m not setting foot on campus," said Dana Ward, 70, an emeritus professor of political studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., who teaches a class in anarchist history and thought.
Administrators are trying for creative solutions. Calendars are changing: Campuses across the country are forgoing fall break to zip through academic work and get students home before Thanksgiving. Or, they’re allowing only some of their students back to campus. In order to achieve social distancing, many colleges are saying they will allow 40 to 60 percent of their students to return to campus and live in the residence halls at any one time, often divided by class year.
How likely is it that my child stays on campus all semester?
Again, that’s almost impossible to know. Davidson College and The Chronicle of Higher Education are tracking the reopening plans of nearly 3,000 institutions. Of those, 10 percent are fully online and 4 percent are fully in person. Everywhere else falls somewhere in between.
Some colleges have rolled up shop after outbreaks on campus, sending thousands of students home. Although that might intuitively make sense -- what’s the point of being in a college town without class? Sending potentially sick students back home, where they may spread the virus, -- it might be contributing to a fall spike in cases.
“It’s the worst thing you could do," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s leading infectious disease expert, said on the “Today" show.
Susan Dynarski, a University of Michigan economist, wrote on Twitter that “unloading students onto home communities" was “deeply unethical."
Why are some schools and universities going remote-only, while others are reopening successfully?
That’s a hard question, and it doesn’t have a universal answer.
Some schools are located in places with high community spread, so kids may well be getting sick outside of school, even if they’re vigilant in classrooms. These districts may be going remote only.
If your school has a “masks recommended" policy, rather than a masks required one, you’re at greater risks. Also, if the ventilation system is old, air might not be circulating well enough to keep the virus from hanging too long in one place.
Although the reasons that schools might be suffering are different, the reasons they’re succeeding are much more streamlined.
If a school is in an area with low community spread, its students will be safer.
But resources and advance planning give schools a better shot of making it through.
Classrooms are open in Cajon Valley, Calif., a low-income district where most students receive free or subsidized lunch. That’s rare: high-poverty schools are significantly more likely to opt for remote-only instruction nationally. They did it because they’ve invested in their school for a long time.
Students already had laptops when school moved online this spring. For the last seven years, the district has provided every child a laptop and access to a curriculum that blends technology into day-to-day teaching. And they knew how to use them: Miyashiro created a TEDxKids@ElCajon conference to showcase children’s talents and teach them presentation skills.
Teachers, since 2014, have received extensive training for high-tech, “blended" classrooms, showcased in YouTube videos. They were also committed to work, in part, because they were compensated for it: The district secured a 6 percent pay raise over last two years.
And parents could get online. According to prior surveys, 100 percent of families already had connectivity. When the lockdown revealed many were traveling to get Wi-Fi, the district quickly stepped in to help them get connected.
Advanced planning, and community trust, make all the difference.
Do you have any strategies for staving off boredom at home?
Our section At Home is your one-stop guide to riding out the pandemic. In it, you’ll find advice and guidance on everything you’ll need to pass the time: what to watch, cook, read, listen to and more, along with tips for dealing with the psychological and emotional effects of quarantine.
What should I do to keep my home safe? Should I still be disinfecting everything?
Always remember the basics, like washing your hands frequently (and reminding members of your household to do the same).
The coronavirus isn’t really transmitted on surfaces. Or, at least, surfaces are a much lower risk than person-to-person transmission. So although disinfecting isn’t a bad idea, you probably don’t need to be quite as vigilant now as we initially thought.
Mostly, keep people who might be infected out of your house. But the safest thing you can do to keep your home safe is to keep yourself safe when you’re outside of your home. That means wearing a mask and socially distancing whenever possible.
I’m working at home and stiff as heck. Tips?
You’ll want to focus on your wrists and forearms, your shoulders, and your chest and back. Read here for three stretches that’ll help, but for now let’s try this one for your wrists:
* Stand with one arm out in front of you and your palm facing the ground.
* With your other hand, gently pull the fingers of the outstretched arm back. You should feel the stretch in the underside of your wrist.
* Hold for a moment or two, then release.
* Next, keeping your arm straight, use your other hand to push your fingers and palm down and toward your body. Hold a few seconds, then release.
* Repeat with your other arm.
Don’t forget to stretch and strengthen your whole body, too. See The Times’s 9-Minute Strength Workout, which includes exercises you can do in a pinch.
I’m trying to exercise again. It’s really hard. Tips?
If you’ve had the coronavirus, expect a long recovery. Even if you were an athlete beforehand, you are not going to be back at your peak capacity for a while. The usual return-to-play criteria for sick athletes do not apply, said Dr. James Hull, a sports pulmonologist at Royal Brompton Hospital in London.
“We have seen people have some mild symptoms to start with and seem to improve," he said, “only to then deteriorate really badly at seven days following their first symptoms."
Even if you haven’t been symptomatic, most everyone took at least a few weeks off of their normal workout routine in the early part of the lockdown. A lot of people are a lot less toned than they used to be.
If that’s you, start slow. Focus on strength, rather than cardio, because inactivity eats away at muscle mass.
Dawdle through any resumption of weight training, said Brad Schoenfeld, an associate professor of exercise science at Lehman College in New York, who researches resistance exercise. “If you have been doing almost no training," he said, “plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of your prior workouts" when you return to the gym.
If you’re running outside, wear a mask, even if it’s uncomfortable. You’re breathing heavily, and you could be spitting out — or sucking in — virus droplets. No one wants that.
What about pets? Can they get the coronavirus? Can they transmit it?
In April, a dog in North Carolina tested positive for the coronavirus, as did two pet cats in New York and eight tigers at the Bronx Zoo. However, there has been no evidence that pets such as dogs or cats can spread the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization and the C.D.C. (The animals showed mostly mild symptoms — though a tiger was “visibly sick" — and have recovered.)
Still, if you are sick with the coronavirus, it is best not to pet your family dog. And avoid petting other people’s dogs as well.
But do take care of your animal’s mental health — this is stressful for them, too. Staying at home for months on end can acclimate your dog to an unrealistic reality, experts said. Start leaving for a bit, even to walk, so they get used to the idea that you won’t always be around.
I want to renovate my home. What should I do?
You’re in luck. Home renovation is the new sourdough bread.
Almost a month after the phase 1 reopening of New York City that allowed contractors and their crews back into residential buildings, “we’re redefining what ‘full steam ahead’ means," said Steve Mark, the chief executive of SMI Construction. “It’s not going to mean what it used to."
It’s a tough balance as contractors and homeowners try to navigate restrictions, but hammers are banging once more.
Other than pandemic-related changes, renovating a home is a pretty standard process. You budget and design, work with a contractor and/or a designer, and watch as mishaps and mayhem happen around you.
I miss looking at art. What do I do?
Some museums are trying to reopen. Science museums designed for kids are opting for no-touch exhibits, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, plans to open in late August. Some museums have been forced to close.
Some galleries and museums are uploading their collections, so you can “visit" virtually. The Arts section ran a series of reviews of virtual shows. It’s, of course, not the real thing. But by zooming in, you can “get up close" to the surface of canvases in a way that you might never have been able to before.
I miss getting dressed up. And I have hot new threads. Should I … wear them?
Extravagant purchases innocently made in February and March, before the extent of the pandemic was known, have become markers of a fast-receding era of freedom. Some purchasers have even saved their sales receipts, as if they were historic documents. Many of these items now languish in closets. Others are put to good use.
If that’s you, wear them. Beautiful clothes are beautiful clothes. You deserve to be stunning and extra, even if you’ve got nowhere to be. Wear a gown and a mask to walk the dog. It’s a pandemic. There are no rules. You’re fierce no matter where you are.
Money and Work
How bad is the economy?
It feels a lot like 2008, doesn’t it? Peter S. Goodman, an economics correspondent for The Times, says there’s a key difference between that economic turmoil and today’s: the utter unpredictability of the outbreak’s spread.
“The disaster feels eerily familiar, with trillions of dollars in wealth annihilated near-daily and deepening fears that businesses will fail," he writes. “Yet the traditional policy prescriptions seem no match for the affliction at hand."
Even the 2008 crisis pales in comparison to the scale of the destruction wrought by the coronavirus. This summer, the United States lost 20 million jobs in a single month, a fall that one expert called literally off the charts." And the very means of controlling the health crisis — keeping workers home, limiting travel and disrupting commerce — risk making the economic crisis worse.
Under 1 million Americans apply for unemployment benefits nearly every week. Although there are fluctuations -- sometimes in the 700,000s, sometimes in the 800,000s, the hiring outlook is dim. latest data suggests that jobless claims have flattened since the big gains in hiring recorded last spring as the economy bounced back, economists said.
“I’m concerned about a plateau," said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics. “It suggests we are entering the second phase of the recovery, one that is slower and more susceptible to downside risk."
And in a sign of how guarded the long-term economic view remains, the Federal Reserve indicated that it would keep interest rates near zero at least through 2023.
“The labor market continues to heal from the viral recession, but unemployment remains extremely elevated and will remain a problem for at least a couple of years," said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
This is an extraordinarily hard time for small businesses in the United States. We hope you’re making it through.
We don’t have amazing news to share with you right now, but here’s how things stand.
Nearly 98,000 businesses have closed permanently since the pandemic took hold, according to an analysis by Yelp. Some small businesses are giving up or adapting to the point of being almost unrecognizable. Some owners have learned from the 2008 recession, but they’re still struggling.
The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. But
lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Worse, there have been several accounts of Paycheck Protection Program fraud. The Justice Department charged 57 people with trying to steal more than $175 million from the program in mid-September.
Even those who have received help are confused: The rules many feel are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
Your best bet might be to lean on your community: locally beloved stores are making it through. If federal money isn’t coming your way, you can also turn to your local district — there might be grants and loans through your city, state or municipality. Those are always worth a shot.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
Employers have to provide a safe workplace with policies that protect everyone equally. And if one of your co-workers tests positive for the coronavirus, the C.D.C. has said that employers should tell their employees — without giving you the sick employee’s name — that they may have been exposed to the virus.
I have questions about my stimulus check.
President Trump signed a bipartisan $2 trillion economic relief plan to offer assistance to tens of millions of American households affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Its components include stimulus payments to individuals, expanded unemployment coverage, student loan changes, different retirement account rules and more. Most adults received $1,200, although some received less, according to income.
Think you received a payment by mistake? Say, for a deceased relative? Don’t spend the money. The Internal Revenue Service will likely ask for it back come tax time in 2021.
If you haven’t received yours yet, don’t panic. Many people have already received their payments, but many others are still waiting or wondering. There are a lot of reasons you could be among them, even if the government has removed some of the hurdles it initially set up.
Try the I.R.S. Get My Payment tool again. It’s supposed to help people figure out when and how their money might be arriving. The I.R.S. is updating the information once each day, usually in the middle of the night.
Make sure you filed the right paperwork. If you haven’t had to file a return because your gross income did not exceed $12,200 ($24,400 for married couples), you still qualify for a payment. But if you’re not a recipient of S.S.I. or V.A. benefits, you should fill out a special form for non-filers.
Also, be careful of scammers.
How does unemployment insurance work?
The stimulus plan includes a significant expansion of unemployment benefits that would extend jobless insurance by 13 weeks. The programs, at both federal and state levels, is aimed to help freelancers, part-time workers, furloughed employees and gig workers, such as Uber drivers, as well as full-time employees who have lost their jobs.
States have set their own rules for eligibility and benefits, which are generally calculated as a percentage of your income over the past year, up to a certain maximum. Some states are more generous than others, but unemployment typically replaces about 45 percent of your lost income.
At the federal level, eligible workers had been getting an extra $600 per week on top of their state benefit, but that expired at the end of July. On Aug. 8, President Trump issued a memorandum making $300 a week available (in lieu of the $600), but there are several caveats: Only people receiving at least $100 in weekly benefits will be eligible for the extra money, and the checks are expected to stop about five weeks after they begin arriving in a particular state. (More than 30 qualify.)
Chances are there will be some kind of extension of this federal relief, but the Senate has yet to pass a bill that it could then attempt to reconcile with the one that the House passed in May. That probably won’t happen this year.
One important note: You might not have to lose your job to qualify. If you’re quarantined or have been furloughed — and you’re not being paid but expect to return to your job eventually — you may be able to get unemployment benefits.
If you’re still encountering difficulty, try contacting your elected state and federal representatives for help. Legal Aid is another good resource for lower-income households.
I need help paying my bills. What should I do?
That depends on the type of help you’re trying to get.
Federal student loans: Many should have automatically received relief without lifting a finger: Most borrowers have been placed in so-called administrative forbearance, which allows you to temporarily stop making payments until Sept. 30. In August, President Trump issued a memorandum extending this relief through the end of December.
No interest will accrue during this period, and borrowers who want to continue making loan payments can do so.
The Education Department says that these skipped payments will still count toward loan forgiveness for borrowers in income-driven repayment and public service loan forgiveness programs, as long as the other usual requirements are fulfilled.
If you have more questions, check out the Education Department’s Q&A here. Some private lenders are offering relief programs, too.
Utility bills: Some utility providers have offered to stop cutting people off for nonpayment. A number of large internet companies have agreed not to terminate residential or small-business customers who can’t pay their bills. Exact policies and requirements vary, though, so if you need help, you should call and ask.
Housing: There’s also a good chance you can delay your mortgage payment if the outbreak has left you short of money.
Millions of homeowners have pressed the pause button on their mortgage payments, a form of relief extended by the CARES Act. Homeowners with mortgages backed by the federal government are permitted to temporarily suspend their payments, a process called forbearance, for up to a year. This covers about 70 percent of mortgage holders and includes loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (known as F.H.A. loans) and those guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Agriculture.
If you rent, the best national resource we’ve found so far is the search-by-state function on Justshelter.org. This offers information on local organizations that can provide advice to renters in distress.
If you don’t feel like you are being treated fairly — or are simply overwhelmed by the process — it might help to find a housing counselor. For more information, check out our short resource guide here.
Loans and credit: Many consumer lenders are offering affected customers help if they can’t make payments. The American Bankers Association has a list of lenders here, although the help they’re offering varies. Some say they will allow borrowers to skip payments; some are offering other accommodations. But ask how any change might affect your credit score and whether you’ll have to make up missed payments in one lump sum right after the zero-payment months.
I don’t have health insurance. Help?
If you lost your job (and with it your health insurance), or even if you never signed up for a policy, you may have options. Some states and employers have loosened the rules around when you can sign up for insurance because of the pandemic.
There’s also the possibility of continuing your job-based coverage under a law known as the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA; applying for Medicaid with your state agency; or getting an individual plan at Healthcare.gov. It depends on your circumstances which route makes sense. For more details on the various coverage options, check out this piece by Margot Sanger-Katz and Reed Abelson.
The government has also made it easier for people to join or change their employer-provided health insurance plans, if your company decides to offer the option.
But navigating the complex web of alternatives and figuring out how to qualify can be a challenge.
People earning very little will most likely be eligible for Medicaid in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Because of the Affordable Care Act, most states now allow all residents to qualify for Medicaid if their household’s monthly income is below a certain threshold — around $1,400 a month for a single person or $2,950 for a family of four.
If your income is too high for Medicaid, you can probably buy coverage through the marketplaces established under the Affordable Care Act — and you may qualify for substantial subsidies. If you lose your job for any reason, you are permitted to sign up during a special enrollment period.
What about my 401(k)?
Watching your balance bounce around can be scary. You may be wondering if you should decrease your contributions — don’t! In fact, if your employer matches any part of your contributions, make sure you’re at least saving as much as you can to get that “free money."
Many components of the stimulus package include changes to rules regarding retirement account withdrawals, borrowing and penalties.
Should I be putting money in a mattress?
That’s not a good idea. Even if you’re retired, having a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds so that your money keeps up with inflation, or even grows, makes sense. But you may want to think about having enough cash to cover basic needs if you’re retired. One financial planner recommended that retirees set aside enough cash for a year’s worth of living expenses and big payments needed over the next five years.
Should I refinance my mortgage?
It could be a good idea, because mortgage rates have never been lower. Refinancing requests have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to get in line.
But defaults are also up, so if you’re thinking about buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
What about sick leave?
Most workers at small and midsize companies, as well as government employees, are eligible. That includes part-time workers.
Eligible employees get two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill or seeking care, as long as they’ve been employed at least 30 days. They can receive their full pay, up to $511 a day.
Some workers can also get 12 weeks of paid leave to care for children whose schools are closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the outbreak, but fewer workers qualify for this type of leave. They can receive two-thirds of their usual pay, up to $200 a day.
Part-time workers will be paid the amount they typically earn in a two-week period, up to the daily limits. People who are self-employed — including gig workers like Uber drivers and Instacart shoppers — can also receive paid leave, but they must calculate their average daily income and claim it as a tax credit.
Paid leave is not for everyone though: Employers with fewer than 50 workers can deny workers the child-care leave (but not the sick leave) if it would be hard on their businesses. Companies with more than 500 employees are excluded from the rules entirely. Many workers at big businesses already have paid sick leave, but their employers’ low-wage workers are the least likely to be covered. The New America Foundation has published a detailed list of large employers (mostly consumer-facing companies like retailers, restaurant chains and hotels) and their policies.
How do I get a new job right now?
First, if you were laid off, recognize that you might be grieving. Even if it wasn’t your fault — and it probably wasn’t your fault right now — that’s a hard thing to swallow. Give yourself some time before jumping right back in.
If you’re just starting out, you’re not alone. People in their early 20s especially are entering a terrible job market, and might do well to manage their expectations, at least for a few months. No matter who you are, or what you were doing before, you’re probably going to have to be willing to be flexible. Lots of industries are laying off people for the foreseeable future, and many careers are on hold. Still, others are hiring in droves.
Taking a lower-wage service job — grocery stores, pizza delivery — might also work.
This is going to be a slog. But the American economy might be changing for the better. Training skilled workers went out of fashion. Now, it may be coming back.
OK, I have a new job. How do I start it?
Congratulations! In ordinary circumstances, starting a job is an act of showcasing both professional expertise and social prowess. Onboarding virtually, especially during a coronavirus pandemic, can feel distant and impersonal.
You can still come prepared, though. Since you’ll be learning about your new role and your team through a computer screen, it’s important to give the technology you’ll be using a test run before your first day. Make sure you’re up-to-date on the company’s preferred communication tools, which may include Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other digital-collaboration products.
Also, ask your boss and co-workers directly how they like to communicate. “You have to ask your boss, ‘How do you want me to communicate with you? Do you want voice, phone, text, email, and how often is good?’" Lisa Jacobson, a career consultant, said.
Embrace the weirdness, if you can. Expect your new colleagues to see your bedroom or home office immediately, or maybe your partner or pet lurking in the background. That’s OK. They’ll be forgiving (we hope). And rely on friendly faces -- Zoom coffees are totally kosher.
If you’re starting a new in-person job, prioritize safety conversations first. It’s good to know where they stand with pandemic stuff, and it’s respectful to ask detailed questions. It’s also easier to establish your boundaries up front, rather than having to wedge them into conversation a few weeks down the line.
I have a work visa. What’s going on with that?
President Trump temporarily suspended new work visas and barred hundreds of thousands of foreigners from seeking employment in the United States, part of a broad effort to limit the entry of immigrants into the country. The order is in place at least until 2021.
Mr. Trump blocked visas for a wide variety of jobs, including those for computer programmers and other skilled workers who enter the country under the H-1B visa, as well as those for seasonal workers in the hospitality industry.
The temporary suspension of work visas is opposed by a lot of businesses — including tech companies in Silicon Valley and manufacturers — whose leaders say it will block their ability to recruit workers for jobs that Americans are not willing or able to perform. Foreign doctors are willing to come help, but most cannot get into the country.
If you can, get in touch with an immigration lawyer and your employer. There may be legal recourse, and some attorneys are working on such cases for free.
Is flying safe?
Many countries around the world, including the United States, have imposed travel restrictions to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Airport closures, the suspension of all incoming and outgoing flights, and nationwide lockdowns are just some of the measures countries are adopting in an effort to help contain the pandemic.
After the pandemic hit, three of the four biggest airlines in the country — American, Delta and Southwest — vowed to block the sale of middle seats to provide more social distancing in the air. United Airlines was the sole holdout. American Airlines has since brought back the middle seat. Southwest has extended its commitment to less density through Oct. 31.
Still, if you’re looking for an uncrowded flight, the odds might be in your favor. Airlines for America, the trade group that represents the major airlines in the United States, says that as of Aug. 9, flights are running about 47 percent full, versus 88 percent a year ago.
Can I travel within the United States?
Many states have travel restrictions, and lots of them are taking active measures to enforce those restrictions, like issuing fines or asking visitors to quarantine for 14 days. Here’s an regularly updated list of statewide restrictions.
In general, travel does increase your chance of getting and spreading the virus, as you are bound to encounter more people than if you remained at your house in your own “pod." “Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from Covid-19," the C.D.C. says.
If you do travel, though, take precautions. If you can, drive. If you have to fly, be careful about picking your airline. But know that airlines are taking real steps to keep planes clean and limit your risk.
I’m American. Where am I allowed to travel to?
That depends on where you want to go.
In recent weeks, many countries around the world, including the United States, have imposed travel restrictions to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Airport closures, the suspension of all incoming and outgoing flights, and nationwide lockdowns are just some of the measures countries are adopting in an effort to help contain the pandemic.
Even as many countries remain off-limits to American visitors because of the high rate of coronavirus within the United States, about two dozen others have started to welcome U.S. citizens. We have an updated list of the international destinations that allow U.S. citizens to enter, though there are some restrictions.
Flights to some tourist destinations are cheap. But is it ethical?
That depends. Questions about the morality of traveling are not new. For years, people have raised concerns about climate change and traveling to countries with oppressive governments. Certain travel activities, like elephant riding, also raise eyebrows.
On the one hand, the economy of many vacation destinations, like the Caribbean, often depend on tourism. And cheap flights are tempting. But many countries have been spared outbreaks, and have much weaker health systems than we do. As with everything these days, assess the risks.
What are other strategies for getting away?
Even domestic travel is hard right now: Some states have imposed travel restrictions on out-of-town folks, and the list changes every day. The day before you go, check restrictions. But it might cause the least stress and hassle just to stay close to home this time around.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. You could buy or rent a van. Or a boat. Both industries are booming. National parks might be crowded, but you could take a road trip to an alternative destination. Nature can be healing for your soul. Go bask.
My trip was canceled. How do I get a refund?
If your flight was canceled, you’re in for an uphill battle. The airline has to give you a refund, but they might drag their feet. And if you booked with an agency, it may be more complicated. Also, don’t let them talk you into a credit. You’re entitled to a refund. Get a refund. Here’s how:
First, try to resolve it on your own — send a few emails to establish a paper trail and put on your best “I’d like to speak to the manager" voice. If you get nowhere, file a complaint with the Department of Transportation. Be as specific as possible. Then, let the company know you filed a complaint.
Sarah Firshein, a travel writer for The Times, has been writing helpful columns on how to get your refund.