And We’ll Have Fun, Fun, Fun….
Yes, we will! Even in a summer plagued by COVID-19.
In the last issue of Letters, we learned how to safely hug. Now, with the help of the New York City Health Department (NYCHD), we’re going to learn how to do a little more. Or even a lot more. And to do it as safely as we can, though that’s certainly not altogether safe: it’s hard to have sex without breathing on your partner.
So, what does the NYCHD have to say? First, they issue a cautionary reminder: we can be infected with COVID-19 by coming in contact with people who have it—whether or not they have symptoms. About 25 percent to 40 percent of infected people are not aware they are infected. The virus is found in the saliva, mucus, and breath of these people; it also has been found in their semen and feces.
Despite the mention of semen and feces, it’s not actually known if COVID-19 can be transmitted through vaginal or anal sex. Other coronaviruses (there are four of them circulating among people) are not easily spread via sex. So, infection via sexual encounter may not be a common method of COVID-19 transmission. Which is not to say it’s not a possible method. Be careful out there.
But if our idea of careful falls somewhat short of abstinent—well, then what? Sex in the time of COVID-19 lends a whole new layer of meaning to “safe sex.” But we’re adaptable. We can do this!
The NYCHD points out that—in these pandemic times—each of us is our own safest sex partner. (That’s likely true in non-pandemic times, too; one so seldom self-impregnates or gives oneself a sexually transmitted infection….) If we stick with autoeroticism, they recommend pre/post handwashing and washing of any sex toys we employ, but that’s it for cautionary measures for the self-sex practitioner.
But maybe that’s wearing thin after all these months? The next-safest option: have sex only with a consenting adult who lives in our household. This is reasonable enough advice, but pretty unhelpful for those of us who live alone or with no other adults.
Which brings us to those outside our households. The NYCHD suggests sticking with the safer (i.e., non-contact) possibilities of video dating, sexting, and attending sexy “Zoom parties.” But those health department folks are realists; they know some of us are not going to stop there.
So, they move on to advice for navigating the intricacies of in-person dating and sex, offering some commonsense advice: have sex with only one (or a very few) partners, and pick partners we trust. Quiz them on their COVID-19 risk factors and any possible symptoms before we meet up, just as we would on PrEP, condoms, or other typical safe sex subjects. If someone isn’t feeling well—skip the sex. Live to love another day.
Also, consider risk: does either of us (or others in our households) have medical conditions that increase our risk of severe disease? Some of those include lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, kidney disease, liver disease, cancer, or an immune system compromised by disease (e.g., HIV) or treatment (e.g., chemotherapy). Is someone at high risk? Skip the sex. Fun, sure, but—worth risking the life of a loved one?
Say we’ve leapt those hurdles—we’re feeling great; ditto our prospective partner. The risk of severe disease is low for us and for those in our households. We’re ready for some reward and are headed for a hook-up….The NYCHD anticipated that, too, and has some explicit guidance:
- Wash our hands! Ditto any sex toys.
- Don’t kiss our sex partner—COVID-19 is easily spread by kissing.
- No rimming—another potential mode of transmission.
- Wear a face covering or mask—yes, even in the midst of passion. Find something fetching and make it part of the allure. Heavy breathing is an all-too-effective way to spread the virus.
- Get creative with sexual positions; the goal is to find something that allows sexual contact but prevents close face-to-face contact.
- Use condoms and dental dams. Those mainstays of safe sex serve well as barriers to coronavirus transmission, too.
- Basking in the post-coital glow? Don’t forget to wash those hands and sex toys again.
And what if one’s idea of summer fun includes—well—a crowd? (In these COVID-19 times, even three qualifies as a crowd.) The NYCHD’s first-line advice: avoid close contact with multiple people.
If we decide to ignore that, here’s their fallback:
- Pick a large, open, well-ventilated space.
- Bring hand sanitizer.
- Keep it (the size of the group, that is) small.
- Go with a consistent sex partner.
- Wear a mask; avoid kissing.
- Don’t touch faces (eyes, nose, mouth) with unwashed hands.
Let’s enjoy that summer romance, tempered with common sense. We all want to see and be seen in September, too.
Marj Shannon is an epidemiologist and wordsmith who has devoted her life to minutiae. She reports that yes, the devils are in the details.
Classes & Events—All Coming to You via Zoom
Free Virtual Chair Yoga
Tuesdays at 9:00 a.m.
Reduce anxiety and stress, improve circulation, protect joints, build strength and balance, and support your overall well-being. Everyone can access these health benefits of yoga in this free virtual chair yoga class with Erin Shivone from Lankai Studio.
Yoga for Recovery (12SR)
Sundays at 5:00 p.m.
12SR is open to anyone dealing with addiction, their own or the behaviors of others. All "As" are welcome. The model addresses addiction as a physical, mental, and spiritual dis-ease; "the issues live in our tissues." We'll start with a 12-step based discussion focused on recovery topics, then we'll take it to the mat.
Breathwork for Daily Stressors
Four week session—Tuesdays, July 21-August 11, at 8:00 a.m.
Learn to consciously control the flow of breath in this four-week class with Erin Shivone. Whether you are looking to increase lung capacity and energy level, calm the nervous system, or find mental clarity this class will benefit you and your well-being. Join us each week as Erin introduces a new breathing technique, discusses its many health benefits, and describes how to integrate the mindful breath into your daily life.
Men’s Discussion Group
2nd and 4th Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m.
The Men's Discussion Group is a safe and nurturing space to start conversations important to our community. We celebrate who we are, we promote respect and understanding, and we accept each other's differences with intention to build a more connected community. This discussion group is a safe space for gay, bisexual, transgender, and masculine of center men to talk issues, values, and matters that make up our life, free from stigma and judgments.
COVID 15—Managing Weight You Put on During Quarantine and Strategies to Shed Those Pounds.
Wednesday, July 29, at 7:00 p.m.
COVID life has been challenging and all of us are dealing with the stress in different ways. During shutdown, the extra pint of ice cream and bag of chips was tempting while we were dealing with the impact of all this stress. As we begin to get on with our lives, we might have packed on a few pounds that we are trying to shed. Join us for an informal workshop led by Greer Raggio, PhD, from the National Center for Weight and Wellness. Dr. Raggio will give us some strategies on what we can do to lose that "COVID 15" and help us prevent putting on another 10.