“The greater the number of weaker ties, the stronger the association with positive feelings and fewer depressed feelings,” Dr. Fiori said in an interview. “It’s clearly not the case that close ties are all that older adults need.”
And not just older adults, all adults. Dr. Fingerman said research has shown that, in general, “people do better when they have a more diverse group of people in their lives.” But as Dr. Fiori observed, “Unfortunately, Covid has severely curtailed our ability to maintain weaker ties. It can take a lot more effort to do this online.”
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated July 27, 2020
Should I refinance my mortgage?
- It could be a good idea, because mortgage rates have never been lower. Refinancing requests have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to get in line. But defaults are also up, so if you’re thinking about buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
Is the coronavirus airborne?
- The coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. It’s unclear how often the virus is spread via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who have outlined the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
- So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
When Covid-19 descended with a fury on New York City, many people I knew who had second homes “escaped” the city in hopes of avoiding the virus. I, on the other hand, chose to stay in my Brooklyn neighborhood where everyday I encountered people I knew casually as well as others in my extended network of friends and acquaintances I’d made at the Y, in local stores and when walking and cycling in Prospect Park.
In my country house, especially during the dark cold days of early spring, I would have been far more isolated. Yes, I could walk my dog and ride my bike without having to wear a mask because I would have met almost no one else on route. But I would also have been deprived of conversations with the many “consequential strangers” I encountered daily during my outdoor excursions in Brooklyn, including the 7 p.m. “shout-out” in support of our essential workers.
To counter the loneliness and maintain her many casual connections, one of my Y buddies started a group email that not only filled in for the daily conversations she was missing but also gave her an ongoing support system when faced with an injury and struggling with doom-and-gloom isolation.
In their book, Ms. Blau and Dr. Fingerman emphasize the importance of creating and being in environments that foster relationships with consequential strangers. Decades ago when The New York Times erected cubicles for its writers and editors, it destroyed an environment that was conducive to sharing information and fostering camaraderie, prompting me to work from home most days and save the time and effort needed to dress for work and commute. I suspect that when Covid limitations are finally lifted, many more office workers will do the same and sacrifice casual work-based relationships.
As the authors wrote, “Where we live, work, shop, and mingle has everything to do with the weak ties we cultivate, and therefore our quality of life.” As they described a central theme of their book, “Casual acquaintances inspire us to venture beyond our comfort zones.” And until we do, we’ll never know what we might gain from relationships with “people who don’t seem to matter.”