Dear Annie: My husband is in the high-risk category for catching COVID-19, and we have lost family and friends due to the disease. The issue is that we love seeing our grandchildren, but some people in our families view the pandemic as a "hoax" and are lax about following safety precautions. This makes it dangerous for us to spend time with our grandchildren, as these family members also spend time with them. One relative even refuses to wear a mask in public. This attitude baffles me and hurts my husband.
After talking to my friends, I have realized that this issue affects and divides many families — and the oldest members of the families are understandably more cautious. But what do we do? Do we stop all contact with the rest of our families? — Tough Questions
Dear Tough: First, I am so sorry for your loss. It's terrible that you had to watch this disease take your loved ones. To hear people dismiss it as a hoax must add another layer of pain.
Please note that I am not a licensed medical professional and am not qualified to give medical advice, so what follows are my personal opinions. Please talk to your doctor for proper guidance.
You indeed raise some tough questions, ones that many families throughout the country and the world are wrestling with right now. Even when all parties agree to take COVID-19 seriously, they can differ on what exactly "seriously" means. What seems reasonable to one person can seem paranoid to another — and to the next person, not careful enough. (I'm reminded of that old George Carlin joke: "Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?")
While abstaining from socializing with anyone outside your household remains the safest option, risk is not binary: There are steps you can take to minimize the chance of spreading infection — but only if your family is willing to take these steps, too. See if these relatives can agree to some basic ground rules such as only gathering outside, standing six feet (or more) apart and wearing masks. Explain (again) that your husband is at high risk for getting seriously ill and dying from this virus, and that you'd like to continue seeing them and your grandchildren if at all possible.
If they still won't get on board, then yes, avoid seeing them in person for a while. I know it will be hard not to see the grandkids, but there are other ways to connect such as telephone, FaceTime or Skype. And it's better to forgo a few months with them now to help ensure you'll be around to make memories with them for years to come.
Dear Annie: Is there a more protective mask or face-guard system available to the public? My understanding is that most masks protect those around you but are not guaranteed for your own safety unless everyone wears them. Any advice you might have is deeply appreciated. — Staying Safe
Dear Staying Safe: Masks help prevent us from spreading COVID-19 to others, and some recent data indicate that masks may also help reduce the risk of contracting a severe case. As for gaiters and face shields, the Centers for Disease Control state that evaluation is ongoing but their effectiveness is unknown at this time. They instead recommend masks with two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric, worn over the nose and mouth and secured under the chin. Masks should not be worn by children younger than 2 and people who have trouble breathing or cannot remove a mask without assistance. As mentioned above, I am not a licensed medical professional and not qualified to give medical advice, so please talk to your doctor for proper guidance.
"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 http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]