Hi, I’m Katie Notopoulos, a tech reporter here at BuzzFeed News, and I have no actual expertise in epidemiology, but I sure do enjoy telling people how to live their lives. Which means I’m the perfect person to tell you How to Plague. This is BuzzFeed News' advice column for these incredibly confusing times. The coronavirus pandemic is changing rapidly, with new information coming out seemingly by the hour. I’ll try to help with your queries about social distancing etiquette and ethical dilemmas large and small, and call up some actual experts to weigh in when needed.
Send me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org, or sign up for our text messaging service to send me questions that way.
Given that according to a Imperial College London report, the quarantine could last up to two years, unless a vaccine is developed and distributed to everybody, are we all supposed to remain celibate FOR TWO YEARS if we aren't already living with a sexual partner?
You say this as if it’s a bad thing. Sex (coitus) is disgusting, ruins lives, and is the main cause of overpopulation. Frankly, it’s a good thing we’ve all stopped — people who live with their significant others included.
Imagine all the things you can get done now that you don’t have to worry about finding another human to have sex with! The sheer hours of free time to devote yourself to your hobbies! You could finally get those six-pack abs you wanted to attract a mate, but instead have the self-satisfaction of knowing you did it for yourself, rather than impressing others. Teach yourself to knit, or bake, or code, or speak Farsi. Think of all the ways the hideous act of mashing your genitals up against another person’s has been holding you back from living your best life. I’m no epidemiologist, but I’m pretty certain this whole coronavirus problem could have been solved if everyone just stopped trying to have sex two years ago.
That said, if things do last for two years, social distancing will likely start and stop a few times until there’s a vaccine. So although sex is terrible and gross and dirty like a muddy piece of cheese you found in the road on your way home from the arboretum in the rain, there may be windows of opportunity that occasionally open up for you to swallow your unclean curds. Plan ahead.
I’ve seen a lot of pieces about couples co-quarantining, but what I haven’t seen is a piece about significant others who don’t live together. My boyfriend and I live about an hour apart and until quarantine hit we were spending our weekends together. Now, he’s nervous about us infecting each other. I don’t know how to handle this, especially because all of my friends with significant others are still seeing them. We each live alone, but for a bunch of reasons, temporarily moving in together isn’t a good option for us.
I don’t know when I will be able to see my boyfriend in-person again, and I’m not doing well with that — it’s tough on me emotionally, although he seems fine, despite saying he misses me. I find myself fixating on tiny cracks and resenting him. Am I being unreasonable in my desire to see him? How can I stop reading into every little thing as a sign that he doesn’t actually care about me?
I have good news and bad news. The good news is that if you’re both self-isolating without roommates or other people, you should be fine to see each other and spend the weekends together, etc. You can consider yourselves to be a two-person household.
The bad news is that despite this kind of obvious fact that you could see each other, he’s choosing not to. This is potentially troubling for the state of your relationship, as you have already seemed to pick up on. (I mean… See question one, above.)
In the interest of democracy, I’d like readers to weigh in.
I'm a nail biter and these are, arguably, the most nail-biting of times. Is my risk of infection higher than non-nail-biters? Are there additional steps that people like me can take to protect ourselves? Don't you dare say "stop biting your nails." We can't help it, we're perfectionists.
—Seth, New York City
As a cuticle-biter (possibly more gross?), I can relate. In short, yes, biting your nails or cuticles means you’re touching your face and mouth more than the average person, which puts you at higher risk. Although the chances of contracting the coronavirus from touching a surface and biting your nails is lower than getting it directly from another person’s respiratory droplets, it’s still possible.
Wash your hands as much as possible after touching stuff outside of your own home — including packages that get delivered to your house or groceries you bring home. When you’re out and about, wear gloves to stop yourself from biting. And follow the CDC’s advice on keeping your nails trimmed.
I got laid off from my job, but I got lucky: my partner, whom I live with, is still working, and his family very generously is helping us with money for the foreseeable future, so I am financially in a very privileged position. Because of this, I don't need to get another job immediately (especially since my industry, travel, doesn't really exist right now). But I'm struggling with how to best use my time, because I feel like I should be helping others. I donate to every fundraiser I come across, big or small, and I've ordered delivery and tipped drivers very well, but what else can I do from inside my house to help? I don't have a car and am horrible at sewing. I would consider doing something like volunteering for a food bank, but I think I need to stay at home since my partner has an autoimmune condition and is vulnerable to the virus.
—S., San Francisco Bay Area
You say you’re horrible at sewing, which I take to mean you don’t think you can contribute by sewing homemade masks to give out. Well, I’ve got great news for you: You don’t need to be good at sewing to make masks. This is a great project for horrible crafters such as yourself.
As a bonus, this is a chance for you to learn how to be less horrible at sewing, which is a great skill and hobby to have. Even if you screw up the first few masks, you’ll be able to get chugging along and make decent ones after a few tries.
Here is BuzzFeed’s roundup of a few good DIY mask tutorials, and here’s a video tutorial our Nifty team made:
Homemade masks are one of those things that people really desperately want and need right now, but many people don’t have the time or resources to do it themselves. Put out an offer on your neighborhood Facebook group or the Nextdoor app (I’ve seen people offering them both places, with huge amounts of comments from people saying they’d love one). If you don’t have fabric, put a call out for extra fabric — there will be plenty of people who have some random old fabric in their homes but lack the time or ability to make masks. Arrange for fabric drop-offs and mask pickups on your doorstep. That way you can help people without putting yourself at risk by being near them.