"I went on a date last week where we actually talked about whether or not we should kiss because of the coronavirus," Sam, 25*, tells me. "I playfully said, 'Yeah, am I allowed to make out with the cute guy from Hinge?' And then he said something like, 'We could risk it.' And we did."
According to the French government, Sam's makeout sesh was a major no-no. Last week the country urged people to stop kissing each other in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
France wasn't targeting couples specifically. It's a particularly kiss-happy place, where greeting even not-so-close friends with a smooch on the cheek is common. But since the virus can be passed through respiratory droplets, all that close contact isn't advisable. The news made me wonder: Should my single friends be putting a pause on their dating activities until the COVID-19 crisis is over?
That's not necessary, says Erika Schwartz, MD, founder of the medical group Evolved Science in New York City. But you should take some additional precautions.
There's the stuff you should be doing anyway, including washing your hands regularly and avoiding touching your face. But when it comes to dating, it's also smart to ask your potential partner if they're feeling sick before meeting up. If they say yes — or if you're at all under the weather — take a rain check.
When you're planning a meet-up, consider steering clear of large gatherings. Rather than hitting up that new bar that's always packed or a concert, head for a quieter bistro where you'll have some breathing room — literally.
And when you first meet up with a date, you may want to exchange your usual hug hello with a friendly wave. Also smart: ordering your own appetizers instead of sharing to avoid swapping germs.
If the person you're seeing shows up looking unwell, it's particularly important to be cautious. "If your partner has a fever and a cough don't kiss, hug, or hold hands," says Dr. Schwartz. "Make sure you wash your hands a lot and do not share food, drinks, or toothbrushes." Or you could, you know, go home.
If you really want to take your caution to the next level, consider steering clear of alcoholic drinks and anything sweet. Alcohol and sugar suppress the immune system cells that attack bacteria, according to WebMD, which could make you more vulnerable to a stray bug.
Date went well? Unfortunately, Dr. Schwartz takes a hard line against making out, cuddling, and, of course, having sex. That's especially true if one of you is sick. But even if your soon-to-be sexual partner shows no symptoms, they could be a carrier of coronavirus — so it's not a time to take any chances.
That doesn't mean you can't get close to a new person you're excited about. There are a ton of other ways you can be intimate with someone that doesn't involve swapping spit, says Jess O'Reilly, PhD, Astroglide’s resident sexologist.
"Intimacy isn’t just about sex and physical affection," she says. Use this time to get to know someone on an emotional level. "Ask one another questions about your hopes, dreams, philosophies and passions." She suggests, 'What is your fondest memory'?, 'If you could change one thing about your teenage years, what would it be?', and 'What did you daydream about as a child?' Bonus: These are all questions you can ask via text or FaceTime, if one or both of you ends up quarantined.
Something else to consider: "Stress is most likely the worst insulting agent to your immune system," says Dr. Schwartz. So if you're dating someone who's curving you, or stashing you, or paperclipping you, it's a good time to kick them to the curb. In the age of coronavirus especially, none of us need the extra anxiety.