DEAR AMY: I live in northwest Washington state. I was out walking and paused to chat with neighbors while they were sitting on their porch.
Columnist Amy Dickinson (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)
They invited me to join them for dinner that evening. These are neighbors who have had many family members drop by for visits and outdoor barbecues during the stay-home order.
I was stunned at the invitation and my first thought was, “Are you crazy?” I struggled with what to say beyond, “No, thanks.” I don’t want to sound judgmental.
I also am grappling with a family milestone birthday and graduation party in June in a nearby state. That state has not had a tremendous number of coronavirus cases. I know through social media that many of my family members have not been taking the virus as seriously as I have.
Everyone expects me to attend. However, I know that I am unwilling to put myself at risk, and that I cannot make the trip.
How do you politely turn down invitations to social gatherings during this time of COVID-19 without being judgmental of their choices and alienating friends?
“No, thank you” doesn’t seem to be a good enough response.
I’m trying to figure out the best way to back out without causing friction.
DEAR STAYING HOME: For an impromptu invitation, you can say, “Thank you for asking, but I won’t be able to make it. So sorry.”
Give your family members advance notice that you won’t be at the event in June. Simply say, “I’m heartsick that I won’t be able to make it to the party. I hope we can FaceTime while you’re all together.”
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DEAR AMY: My fiance has asthma. I have reoccurring bronchitis, due to complications from emergency lung surgery. We are both in our late 20s.
Because of those pre-existing conditions, we have been taking our state’s stay-at-home order seriously. We’re not scared — just cautious. We wear masks when we go out. Otherwise, we are staying in.
We live in a duplex with a shared front yard. Our neighbors are not taking the stay-at-home seriously (they are in their early 20s). They are still going to friends’ houses every weekend, and (early on) they had co-workers over every night.
Today they threw a party on our front lawn, where people were standing shoulder to shoulder. I wanted to call the police to break it up but my fiance didn’t want to snitch.
I have been trying to stay away from them, but we do share a few spaces, including the front entrance and basement laundry.
The few times we talked early on, I talked about how the city we live in was spiking in coronavirus cases, and how the first case was only a few blocks from us, but it fell on deaf ears.
At what point should I ask them to take this seriously — for our health?
Sheltering in Wisconsin
DEAR SHELTERING: The point has long passed for you to ask your neighbors to take this crisis seriously. Generally, it is easier to pre-empt negative behavior before it starts, and harder to roll it back — after the fact.
Now that they are partying under your nose, you’ll have to give it a try, and hope for the best.
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My understanding is that because “stay-at-home” orders are being handled differently in various cities and states, the police might not be interested (or legally able) to bust up a party on your front lawn.
You should take rational and commonsense precautions regarding these very close neighbors. Wipe shared door handles and any other common point of contact (railings, door frames, and the handle of the washer and dryer) with disinfectant before you touch them. Wash your hands frequently.
Communicate with your neighbors: “Hey, we’re your neighbors and have serious health conditions that make us vulnerable to COVID-19. Could you do us a favor and please be more considerate? As you know, the state is discouraging large gatherings. Having people clustered together on the front lawn is too close for our comfort. We hope you understand and can respect this, until we get the all-clear. After that … party on!”
DEAR AMY: “Scared Teen” was upset by their parents’ fighting. Your response was fine, but I wish you had suggested that this teen reach out to the school’s counselor. I assume that even with schools closed, counseling staffs have an online presence.
DEAR CONCERNED: Absolutely. This is a great suggestion. The bickering parents could also use some professional help and mediation.
You can email Amy Dickinson at email@example.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.