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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Waugh

Our season of social distance

Does anyone else feel like the longer this pandemic goes on, the further away the end of it seems? Instead of time leading us to see the light at the end of the tunnel, we're just continuing to realize how long and dark this tunnel could be. I know I'm not alone when I say I originally thought this thing would be over in a few months. When the shut downs started in March, I was hopeful that the coronavirus threat would subside in time for my August wedding. But spring shut downs turned into summer social distancing, which now leads us to a fall, and certainly a winter with COVID-19. And if I've learned anything throughout this process, it's that you have to accept that this threat could be around much longer than you thought and hoped. It leaves us with no choice but to adjust and accept this as our "new normal."

I've started to amass quite the mask collection

I'm more of a realist than an optimist and I don't think the approval of a COVID vaccine will hold the key to quickly returning to "normal" life. First - let's acknowledge that there is no guarantee we will even have an effective and safe vaccine any time soon. If approval does happen in the near future, it will still be months before the vaccine is distributed to enough of the population to make a difference. Some experts are saying it could take even longer for the vaccine to "kick in." And with a significant number of Americans saying they are skeptical to take it, or opposed to vaccines in general, it's possible we may never get enough people vaccinated to eradicate this virus.

Can we really live in isolation until then? I think COVID will be with us for a long, long time. While many of us were willing to live the lock down life at the height of this pandemic, I struggle with the idea that I can't see my family, travel, etc. until this virus goes away. I think we have to find a balance and figure out how to safely resume some aspects of our lives, and I hope that rapid testing and improvements in treatment will help us get there faster.

Living in my new normal has been a constant adjustment. For the last few months, Jeremy and I have been quite strict about who we see and what we do -- mostly staying at home, and socializing only with each other. Over time, we've taken some small steps out, like driving to Key West, staying in a hotel for two nights, and eating at restaurants outside. We're still not comfortable with some things that are allowed, like eating indoors and socializing even in small groups (especially if there's no masks involved). But recently I did take a significant step toward resuming life, by traveling on an airplane and seeing my family.

I put a lot of thought into it and I'm glad I decided to travel to Pittsburgh to attend my sister's bridal shower and bachelorette. I knew the gatherings would be small and everyone would be wearing masks unless we were eating or spaced outside. I did some research about the spread of COVID-19 on planes it seems to be about the same risk level as going to a gym right now -- and I decided to wear a face shield over my mask to give myself some added protection. I kept my mask indoors at all times, even though it felt strange to do so when it was just me, my mom, and my sister, and a family friend hanging out at their AirBnb. I also considered the infection rates in Pennsylvania before making the decision to go there, and felt comfortable with them being relatively low. Overall, I think this trip showed that there are ways to live life a little, while being safe about it. I am by no means suggesting that we throw caution to the wind and re-open nightclubs and hold large gatherings without masks indoors -- but I do think we can use what we've learned about virus transmission and make adjustments to reduce risk.

Generally speaking, my new normal looks like this: for work, I have an "isolation office," a room in an empty part of our office complex that keeps me from interacting with anyone, with the exception of my photographer. We wear masks at work and in the field, and we incorporate more virtual interviews over platforms like Zoom to limit our exposure to others. At home, Jeremy and I have been spending a lot of time inside, watching Netflix, using our new Peloton, doing Zoom calls with family and friends to stay in touch. We stick to low risk activities like golfing, snorkeling, and visiting the beach just the two of us. It's been really difficult to essentially end my social life outside of my small bubble, but we've done our best to do our part, especially when cases were spiking out of control in South Florida.

On my recent flight to Pennsylvania, with added layers of protection

We've also made some big and necessary adjustments to our wedding plans for next year. As most people in our lives know, we made the tough decision to postpone our wedding, which was supposed to August 29, 2020. I was so disappointed and stressed but once we made the decision, felt a huge weight lifted -- and now that we've put together some new plans, I'm getting a little excited again. We have eliminated any indoor aspect of the wedding and found a great waterfront location to have a tented reception. This move forced us to find some new vendors and spend more money but providing a safer option for guests is truly priceless. We may end up having a small guest count than we planned for and may still have some degree of masking involved but I'm getting used to these ideas and like everything else in life that's changed -- I'm adjusting. It still makes me sad to think people could be hesitant to hug one another and be close at an event like a wedding but at this point, I'm going to take what we can get, deal with the circumstances we are dealt, and make the most out of our situation while always keeping safety in mind.

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