Pandemic Etiquette

Pandemic Etiquette
October 9, 2020 Katherine Matina

To say that life has changed dramatically since COVID-19 arrived is an understatement. During shelter-in-place periods, people stayed at home, worked remotely, and maintained a social distance while doing essential tasks. We adjusted to a new normal.

As restrictions relaxed and people ventured into public, not everyone was comfortable with the same level of interaction, and some were wondering what was polite and what wasn’t, during a pandemic. As The Emily Post Institute explained, the coronavirus:1

“…has changed our social behavior and it will continue to change our social behavior as communities find ways to interact safely. These new social measures can feel incredibly awkward and at times impolite, but you are not alone in feeling that way about them. Everyone is learning and figuring this out as we go.”

The fundamental principles underlying etiquette and polite behavior are consideration, respect, and honesty. That remains true during the pandemic. However, the baseline has changed. Safety comes first. Here are two key issues the Institute addressed:


  1. Maintaining physical distance. The goal is to remain a reasonable distance (typically, six feet) from people who do not share our home. It’s not always easy. Stores have narrow aisles. Elevators have limited capacities. All of us have to use our judgment to decide whether or not physical distance can be adequately maintained. You may decide to wait for the next elevator or take the stairs instead. You may pause until the aisle becomes less crowded or go back to the aisle later.1

Another factor that affects these decisions is mask wearing. You may feel comfortable sharing an elevator with others who are wearing masks and uncomfortable sharing if they are not. Only you can decide what is right for you. It may be helpful to remember we cannot control anyone else’s behavior. We can only control our own.1


  1. Wearing masks. Mask wearing has become a divisive issue in some places. While there are drawbacks to face masks, such as muffled sounds, covered facial expressions, and skin irritation, the Centers for Disease Control have reported wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of the virus.2, 3

If you prefer masks and become uncomfortable when someone is not wearing one, resist the urge to glare or make a negative comment. In your home or business, you can ask they put on a mask. If you are in a public space, you can keep yourself physically distanced or avoid interacting with them if they aren’t wearing a mask.1

If we engage others with consideration, honesty, and mutual respect, we can help make civility a hallmark of the pandemic.


Make Your Own Disinfecting Wipes

Before COVID-19, shortages were a relative rarity in the United States. Since the coronavirus arrived on our shores, however, one item that often seems to be out of stock is disinfecting wipes. When they are available, prices tend to be high. Fortunately, wipes are relatively inexpensive to make. Here is a recipe for making your own, courtesy of

Do-It-Yourself Disinfecting Wipes

1 cup of cold water

3½ cups of 70 percent rubbing alcohol

1 tablespoon of dish soap

1 container (preferably airtight)

1 roll of strong paper towels

Add the water, rubbing alcohol, and dish soap to a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Let sit.

Measure your container and your paper towel roll. Cut your paper towel roll so that it is one inch shorter than the height of the container and fits in the container comfortably. (A serrated knife may be most effective for cutting through the roll.) Put the paper towels in the container. Pour the solution over the paper towels, distributing it as evenly as possible. Let sit for a few minutes.

Remove the cardboard tube from the center of the paper towel roll in the container. Pull the first paper towel up from the center of the roll. Close the container. Voila! Disinfecting wipes.


What Do You Know About the History of Pandemics and Disease?

Throughout history, disease outbreaks have taken a toll on populations. Some diseases have changed the way we live, others have changed the course of history. See what you know about disease and pandemics by taking this brief quiz.

1. The first smallpox vaccine was inspired by:5

a. Farmers

b. Cows

c. Milkmaids

d. Herding dogs


2. In the United States, during the 1800s, who/what did Americans blame for cholera and polio outbreaks?6

a. Mutating microbes

b. Immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and China

c. Bats and lizards

d. Doctors and healthcare workers


3. Which of the following measures were implemented to slow the spread of Black Death (a.k.a. the plague) in Europe?7

a. Sailors arriving in the port of Ragusa had to stay on ships for 30 days

b. Anyone with an infected family member had to carry a white pole when in public

c. Sick Londoners were sealed in their homes

d. All of the above


4. The open-air school movement began in the United States in 1908 when tuberculosis (a.k.a. consumption) was killing about 450 Americans a day. How did students manage during the winter?8

a. By wearing blankets called ‘sitting bags’

b. By placing hot soap stones near their feet

c. By having a fire burning in the open-air classroom

d. All of the above


What Should I Do About My Wedding Plans?

One of the most challenging issues for engaged couples and their families is how to manage weddings planned for 2020 and early 2021. Every year, there are about 2.5 million weddings in the United States and the coronavirus, which began gathering momentum in March, has disrupted many of these plans.9, 10

Instead of writing vows, choosing flowers, learning to waltz, and ordering tuxedos, couples are having to make difficult decisions about whether and how to proceed with their plans. interviewed experts across the industry to provide some insight. Here is what they had to say:10

  • Establish your priorities. When it comes to your wedding, what is most important to you? For example, are you willing to scale back your plans? Will social distancing (not being able to hug your guests or dance close) affect your pleasure in the event? Is it important for parents and grandparents to attend? Are you willing to postpone?
  • Talk with your team. Once you know what you would like to do, get everyone on the same page. This may include your parents, future in-laws, wedding planner, venue provider, caterer, musicians, video and photography team, and anyone else who is helping make your wedding happen. Discuss your options, confirm your understanding of cancellation/modification policies, and act as quickly as you can.
  • Communicate with your guests. Is your wedding local? Are your guests local? Are they traveling from a great distance? Are you asking them to travel a great distance? If you go ahead with current plans, be prepared to have a smaller guest count. If you decide to postpone, let guests know as soon as possible. Make sure you keep guests in the loop by updating your wedding website and through direct communications.

No matter how you decide to proceed, remember the goal of a wedding is to celebrate love for one another. One contributor to wrote, “The truth is, I could never control any of it to begin with and the only thing I’m ‘supposed’ to do on my wedding day, the only thing I can truly control, is that I show up and smile and marry the love of my life, and that, I cannot wait to do.”11

Quiz Answers:

  • C – Milkmaids.
  • B – Immigrants from Ireland, Italy, and China.
  • D – All of the above.
  • D – All of the above.


Best regards,



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