Concerned About Lack of Social Distancing

By Annie Lane

May 9, 2020 4 min read

Dear Annie: I live in a small community in New Jersey. My wife and I have three daughters, and the thought of one of them getting sick from the coronavirus and having to stay in the hospital alone frightens us to death. We do our very best, utilizing delivery services and every other option at our disposal to prevent the spread of this virus.

We have many neighbors, but there are four homes in particular within sight of our home that don't practice social distancing at all. Each household has several children and all the children play with each other. Every household also has one or both parents working, leaving the house every day for work. It is extremely frustrating to watch this go on, day in and day out. Our children see their children playing together and, of course, question why they aren't allowed to play as well. Thank God they understand when we explain that those children, those households, aren't following the rules.

We have a hotline we can call to report those not following social distancing measures. Would you feel guilty about reporting them? I'd be happy to hear your input. — Nervous Neighbor

Dear Nervous Neighbor: No, I wouldn't feel guilty calling that hotline. It's not tattling when it could save lives. But I'd also encourage you to take the lead on building a sense of community (and with it, collective responsibility) in your neighborhood. Call your neighbors (or mail letters, if you don't have their phone numbers) to see how things are going. If there's a household in which both parents are essential workers, see if they need help connecting with safe child care resources. (Check with your local government for information on that.)

Dear Annie: With homeschooling my kids now and trying to keep up our love for nature while not leaving our neighborhood, I stumbled upon this idea you may like to share with your readers. The National Wildlife Federation has a program where you can earn your garden or backyard a designation as a Certified Wildlife Habitat.

My kids and I had a blast moving through the National Wildlife Federation's checklist to get our yard in shape to become certified. We learned a lot and the kids were happy to Google different terms we didn't know, and to research how to build a few contraptions. (I did not know that butterflies needed a "puddler"; I didn't even know what that was! But we had fun building a few.) When we had all the tasks completed, we simply applied online and made a donation.

We all learned a lot and had a sense of pride in our community and in creating a space for our furry and crawly friends. — Amanda B.

Dear Amanda B.: I love this idea! Readers can learn more at

Dear Annie: I write this letter with much gratitude and respect. I am presently retired. I am writing to all those who are out there working. Some have their own families at home to worry about but still have to go into work every day. Some have been sick and are now better and have to go back into the thick of things. I don't think they get enough credit for their hard work. Please let them know that people do appreciate what they're doing. — Another Annie

Dear Annie: I'm happy to print your letter. To all the front line health care workers, as well as grocery store cashiers, delivery people, sanitation workers and anyone else working an essential job to keep the rest of us safe and well-supplied: Thank you. We really can't say it enough.

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]

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