Coping with COVID-19: We Made a Mistake When We Invited the Grandparents Over for Dinner.

Living room with empty table

The situation with COVID-19 is rapidly changing. People in different parts of the world, and different parts of the county, are in different situations.

The situation for me is that I’m in New York City, which is in a State of Emergency, and my family is hunkered down. And yet.

My daughter, a junior, arrived home on Saturday from college. She’s still in shock about school ending, and she’s very sad, but of course we were happy to see her. Because she’d just arrived, we invited her grandparents over for a welcome-home-Eliza dinner.

And that was a mistake.

Because they should stay home, and we should all minimize contact.

Which I knew perfectly well!

It was irrational to invite them over, and as I inspect my irrationality, I’m smacking my head.

First, it felt “safe” because they live so nearby. My mother- and father-in-law live right around the corner from us—and I mean right around the corner. You don’t cross a street or pass two doors to get from our building to their building. We see them all the time. But why does that matter?

Well, they could just walk to our apartment. True. But even if it’s less exposure than it might otherwise have been, it’s still exposure to more people.

And we’re “family.” But why does that matter? It’s still exposure to more people.

The point of social distancing is to minimize exposure, especially for people in high-risk groups. Older people are more at risk from COVID-19, that’s very clear. And while my in-laws are in terrific health, with lots of energy, packed schedules, and healthy habits, the data is very clear. They should minimize exposure.

I realized this fact later that night. My sister Elizabeth texted me, “My nieces said the last thing they were told at school was don’t see your grandparents.”

I told my husband Jamie; Jamie asked a doctor; the doctor  told him, “If it’s a purely social visit, no, don’t do it.”

I thought I’d completely embraced social distancing. I’m working remotely; I’m staying home or when I am outside, I’m six feet away from other people; I’m washing my hands; I’ve stocked up on cans of tuna and bags of frozen green beans.

But even as I was asking my in-laws, “Are you staying home? You’re taking this seriously, right?” I didn’t for one second reflect on that dinner invitation.

And that was a mistake.

When we look at the experiences of other countries, ones that have been dealing with COVID-19 longer, it’s clear that we all must very, very committed to social distancing—and the more rigorously we observe it, the better we and our communities will fare.

The COVID-19 pandemic is overturning our lives—from our healthcare system to our economy to our work, habits, relationships, schools, and everything else.

Hang in there.

How about you? How are you coping with social distancing? Have you caught yourself making any mistakes from which we can all learn?

Let’s keep our hands clean and our minds clear.



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