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Romance blossoms virtually amid pandemic

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Taylor Moore
LV Life Editor

For couples and singles alike, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed a challenge to their love lives. 

Many couples have been forced to spend time apart in relative isolation, while singles have had to rethink their dating strategies due to the mandatory lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions, which began in March of last year.

Peter Trinh, a sophomore business major, started dating his girlfriend, Jessica Pegg, in December 2019, just before the emergence of COVID-19 in the United States. 

When pandemic stay-at-home orders came down in March 2020, forcing schools and businesses to close temporarily, the couple’s developing romance was put to the test when they determined they could no longer see each other in person –  at least not for awhile. 

For two months, Trinh and Pegg’s contact was limited to Facetime and texting. They would spend hours on the phone talking to each other to try to recreate the feeling of being around each other. 

Trinh said that after a while, the pair got tired of not being able to see each other, so they made the decision to get together in person – cautiously. 

According to an online survey from Statista titled “U.S. Online Dating Platform Usage Amid COVID-19 Pandemic 2020” generated by social media responses, 31 percent of respondents reported using online dating apps or services, such as social media, more amid the pandemic than they did prior to the pandemic.

Online dating apps encourage users to stop  meeting in person and focus more on engaging virtually, and they operate as public health advocates urging people to stay home, wash their hands, practice social distance and consult a doctor if they start to feel any COVID symptoms. 

The COVID policies of Match and Tinder, specifically, advise users to adhere to expert guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when they do date in person, such as wearing masks, being deliberate about selecting a safe date spot and not rushing physical contact. Tinder also recently gave away hundreds of free mail-in COVID test kits to its users to further encourage safe dating behavior. 

Trinh and Pegg met somewhere outdoors in May 2020 and made sure to wear facial coverings.

“At first, it was difficult, but then after we just kind of grew into the idea of seeing each other with masks on,” Trinh said. 

Their dates were always outdoors, and their physical contact was limited for the sake of keeping their families safe. 

After a few months spending time together this way, they made another decision. 

“After we started seeing each other a lot more, we stopped wearing masks,” Trinh said. “We felt safer since we had become part of each other’s bubble at that point.” 

Francheska Juarez, senior kinesiology major, met her boyfriend, Anthony Tavina, during lockdown. Tavina messaged Juarez on Instagram and they continued messaging each other. 

“Normally, I prefer meeting people in person, but because of COVID, I didn’t want to,” Juarez said. “I felt an instant connection over text, which never happens to me, so I thought, ‘Let me give this a shot.’” 

Juarez and Tavina met in person at Vons, her place of employment at the time, during her 15-minute break. They both wore masks and kept a distance from each other, but the spark was instant. So, they arranged an actual date. 

Their first date was at the beach, since it was open and they would not be surrounded by a lot of people. Several dates followed after that, but always outdoors in public from July 2020 to December 2020, never in enclosed areas. Sometimes they would just sit outside their houses for a picnic. 

As the virus got more serious, the couple had to decide how to proceed while making sure to keep their families safe, since both had family members that were at high risk. 

Psychologists advise people to strike a balance between physical safety and mental health issues, which may be exacerbated by isolation. 

The American Psychological Association advises people not to avoid dating and socializing, but to do so safely. COVID-safe dating, the APA says, involves taking advantage of the outdoors, meeting up with masks and going on long walks or hikes. It is important to plan the date in advance, to take into account the amount of social distance each person is comfortable with, which presents an opportunity for both parties to explore issues that involve boundaries, safety and mutual respect, the APA suggests. 

“We made the decision to keep seeing each other,” Jaurez said. “When we weren’t seeing each other, we made sure to take extra precautions, such as always wearing masks and washing our hands. We limited our social interactions with other people.” 

With the pair being so cautious, the families felt comfortable enough to eventually welcome them into their homes, which allowed Jaurez and Tavina to see each other almost every day. 

Amari Waddell, sophomore business management major, said he tried to talk to people online during quarantine but found that forming a romance online was more difficult.

“It was hard because we couldn’t go out and meet people,” Waddell said. “We could Facetime, but we couldn’t see each other.” 

The release of the COVID vaccines earlier this year offered a new hope for Trinh and Pegg. 

“Once we both got vaccinated, we felt more safe and like we could actually start going on real dates again,” Trinh said. 

Things are not so easy for Jaurez and Tavina. 

Jaurez said she and her family are fully vaccinated, but that Tavina and his family want to wait a little longer until there is more data on the vaccines. Tavina and his family would feel more comfortable getting vaccinated in the future when more of the side effects are known. 

“It does get hard because my mom always asks about Anthony getting vaccinated, but it’s his choice,” Jaurez said. “I don’t have a problem if he doesn’t want to get vaccinated right now, but I hope he does in the future for the sake of our families.” 

In the meantime, Tavina is limiting his social circle to protect Jaurez and both of their families, while still ensuring that they can continue to be together. 

Waddell said he is not vaccinated and has not tried to go on a date, but is not opposed to the idea. 

“I would plan a date that’s local and still wear my mask because I don’t know who might be sick, who might be vaccinated or who might not be,” Waddell said. “For my own safety, I want to take precautions.” 

He said he knows that because he is not vaccinated, it can pose a problem, but that he remains optimistic about meeting new people.

Taylor Moore can be reached at taylor.moore@laverne.edu.

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