Coronavirus Etiquette: Conflicts About What's Safe Are Straining Relationships : Coronavirus Updates The coronavirus pandemic requires people to weigh risks and make choices about their activities. But there can be problems when a choice conflicts with what the people around us decide to do.

Coronavirus Etiquette: Conflicts About What's Safe Are Straining Relationships

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Where do you draw the line on risk in the pandemic? We all know the basic safety advice by now, but as people try to mesh their lives with that advice, they make decisions which friends and family may question. NPR's Jeff Brady has three examples.

JEFF BRADY, BYLINE: At the start of the pandemic, Donna Joe's adult daughters had all kinds of advice to keep her safe. They signed her up for online grocery delivery, shipped sanitizer to her home in Marietta, Ga., and checked in regularly to make sure she was following the latest protocols. But Joe missed her grandchildren. When her son invited her over, she waited until after the visit to tell her daughters.

DONNA JOE: The two of them sort of went ballistic on us about not being cautious, and we - you know, we're really taking a risk.

BRADY: Joe thinks her daughters overreacted. Since then, she says things have calmed down, and they're figuring out new ways to plan visits and help everyone feel safe. Here's her advice for handling a situation like this.

JOE: I think maybe being a little bit more honest on the front end, as far as your feelings go.

BRADY: Joe says she resented being told what to do, but she didn't tell her daughters that. She says better communication would have made it easier to work out their differences. In Reston, Va., Christin Dougherty also says good communication is important. She's a mental health therapist and has three children.

CHRISTIN DOUGHERTY: My kids are really active, and we live in a townhouse community with a lot of other kids their age who they're used to playing with all the time.

BRADY: She let her kids continue to play outside. She didn't want them in front of a screen all day. But a few other parents kept their kids indoors. Dougherty says one mother criticized her decision on social media.

DOUGHERTY: She posted a, you know, very ranting post saying that the parents who were allowing their kids in our neighborhood to play outside were, you know, awful parents and were contributing to other people dying.

BRADY: Dougherty says she responded harshly to the post, and it's been awkward with that neighbor since. Another neighbor had a similar complaint but contacted Dougherty directly. She says the two disagreed but still talked openly, resolved their dispute and remain friends. Dougherty says, even now, she second-guesses whether letting her kids outside is still the right thing to do.

DOUGHERTY: I would get kind of a little bit of a panic. I mean, I still let them play outside and play with their friends outside that were also allowed. But it - no decision seems to feel great.

BRADY: In southern New Jersey, Danielle Zonis has taken a very cautious approach for her family during the pandemic.

DANIELLE ZONIS: I can count seven times that I have been out of my house.

BRADY: She visits only with a tight circle of relatives and friends. For her family, wearing masks and maintaining distance are important. Zonis says she even declined wedding and baby shower invitations.

ZONIS: There was no taking into consideration how the food would be prepared, where everybody would sit. You know, I want to know what those preparations are. I want to know how we're going to stay apart from each other but still try to be together.

BRADY: Zonis says she was surprised to see complaints on Facebook over things like having to wear a mask in stores.

ZONIS: I wasn't sure if other people were feeling like me or if I was crazy. As a couple of my friends on Facebook would post things, I'd be like, you feel this way? You know, are you really nervous about this? And when the answer was yes, a couple of us were like, we - I think we really need to start a group.

BRADY: A few weeks back, she did that, joining the many other coronavirus-focused groups on Facebook. Zonis' group already has several hundred people from across the country, many of them navigating coronavirus conflicts, asking each other questions and sharing tips about the best ways to stay safe.

Jeff Brady, NPR News.


Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.