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Updated April 13, 2021

If your area is lifting stay-at-home orders and opening up public spaces and businesses, it might seem like you don’t need to worry about COVID-19 anymore. Unfortunately, there are very few areas in the U.S. where COVID-19 is contained, and many areas that are opening back up still have a lot of COVID-19 cases, and cases may even be going up. That means anytime you go somewhere where there are other people, there’s a chance that you could get infected. 

By now we all know the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19: Stay home. Limit close contact with people outside your household. When you have to leave your home, wear a face mask and stay 6 feet away from others. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. And get the COVID vaccine when you can — people who are fully vaccinated can safely do some social stuff that unvaccinated people should still avoid. Read more about dating after you get the COVID vaccine

Sometimes taking steps to protect yourself from COVID-19 doesn’t leave a lot of room for your love or sex life. We get it — it can feel impossible to wait to go on a date or have sex, especially when you’ve already been waiting for so long.

Fortunately, there may be ways to lower your risk if you decide to go on a date or have sex with someone who you don’t live with.

If you do decide to go on a date, it’s important to take precautions to lower your risk of getting or transmitting COVID-19. Here’s how:

Get the COVID-19 vaccine when you can. The COVID vaccine is a safe and effective way to help prevent COVID-19 and the serious health problems it can cause. If you’re fully vaccinated, you can hang out indoors and be sexually intimate with other fully vaccinated people, without masks or social distancing. If you’re fully vaccinated, it’s also OK to be indoors and sexually intimate (without masks or social distancing) with an unvaccinated person, as long as they aren’t at higher risk for serious sickness from COVID-19

Get tested for COVID-19. If you can, you and your date should get tested before you meet if one or both of you haven’t been vaccinated. In many places, COVID-19 tests are free. Depending on the type of test, getting your results can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a week. After you take the test, you need to self-isolate until you have the results. Otherwise the results may not be true anymore when you meet up for your date. 

Talk about risk factors before you meet up. Getting a test or vaccine might not be an option for everyone. In that case, here are some questions for you and your date to consider: have either of you had symptoms (like fever, cough, or shortness of breath) in the last 14 days? Have you been in close contact with anyone who has had COVID-19 lately? If the answer is yes, stay home.

Talk about steps you’ve been taking to avoid COVID-19. Have you and your date been avoiding travel, close contact with people outside your home, and risky activities like large indoor gatherings? Do you both wear masks when you go out in public? If your date hasn’t been taking COVID prevention seriously, you might want to consider that when making plans.

Meet outdoors — like at a park, the beach, or a restaurant with outdoor seating. Transmission of COVID-19 is much less likely in well ventilated, outdoor spaces. Wear a face covering, and bring hand sanitizer.

Avoid kissing. This one is truly a bummer. But kissing is one of the riskiest things you can do, because COVID-19 can be passed through saliva, mucus, and breath. So it’s best to keep your lips to yourself unless you and your partner both test negative for COVID-19, or you’ve both been fully vaccinated.

If you have sex, you can wear a mask. Sex with no kissing while wearing a mask might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s an option. So is mutual masturbation and phone sex. It’s also important to wash your hands and any sex toys you use before and after sex with soap and water.

Limit the amount of partners you have. In general, the fewer people you’re in close contact with, the safer you’ll be.

Use condoms and dental dams for oral sex. COVID-19 has been found in both semen and feces (poop). Condoms and dental dams are great at protecting you from STDs, and they could come in handy protecting you from COVID-19, too. Read more about COVID-19 and your sexual health.

Tags: covid, covid-19, dating, sex