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Public Health

Navigating Romance In The Time Of COVID-19

Hand sanitizer, face mask, condom, cell phone and keys on desktop.
Catherine Schofield

Before we begin, a note of warning: the topics we are about to explore may not be suitable for our young listeners.

The pandemic has limited in-person social interactions for college students. Classes have gone online and many typical school activities have been canceled. For some, in-person dating also presents a new set of challenges. Student contributors Alina Croft and Catherine Schofield explore how some are navigating romance these days.

Graph showing earnings for Match Group.
Credit Catherine Schofield
Match Group earnings report. Match Group is the owner of dating apps Tinder, Hinge and OK Cupid.

The number of virtual matches has surged these past few months. Match Group, the company that owns several dating apps like Tinder, Hinge and OK Cupid, reported significant increases in both downloads and earnings since March, and people are meeting up for dates in person and virtually. But with potential health risks during a pandemic, some college students and recent graduates are figuring out how to date in a safe way. That means re-evaluating their boundaries. 

“I don’t want to risk getting it and exposing other people who may be in a more vulnerable position than I am,” said Kyla Kwan.

Kwan is a senior at the University of Nevada, Reno who has been using dating apps in self-isolation. Even while Kwan is swiping away, there are new standards she is taking into consideration for a potential partner. For now, she’s most comfortable with having a completely virtual relationship.

“I would have to build another level of trust with that individual, knowing that they’re taking it seriously, and if they’re not, that’s a dealbreaker,” said Kwan.

Since she’s concerned about catching COVID-19, Kwan says she’s taking relationships a lot slower by getting to know someone virtually. That’s why she hasn’t taken the step to meet up without anyone in person yet.

Unlike Kwan, recent UNR graduate Megan Chappell has continued to date throughout the pandemic with the restrictions in place. 

“I went on a date once and it was at a restaurant. It went really well, it was really cool, but it was very strange meeting somebody with your mask on,” she said.

Chappell has also had a few “hook-ups” through Tinder during the pandemic period.

“I was more worried about him being a serial killer than I was about him having COVID,” she explained.

Chappell spoke about being safe around other people by taking precautions when out, such as wearing a mask and constantly washing her hands, as well as getting tested for COVID-19 regularly. Health officials have some guidelines for dating safely during the pandemic. 

Planned Parenthood is a national organization providing reproductive health care and sex education. During the pandemic, they recommend alternative ways of connecting with a partner. Masturbation and virtual dates are just a few activities they suggest.

“But as far as safe sex, it’s changed because now we are talking about wearing masks and making sure we’re staying within our bubbles,” said Roza Fray.

Roza Fray is with Planned Parenthood Mar-Monte, which serves the area of mid-California and Northern Nevada. Fray says that even during a pandemic, many health precautions remain the same.

“I wouldn’t say that anything of safe sex basics has changed much, it’s just layering on social distancing and quarantine and all the social changes,” said Fray.

And as COVID-19 cases continue to surge nationwide, Washoe health officials are still recommending people refrain from social gatherings with people outside of their household. For now, that means meeting up with a new date in person continues to pose challenges.

Alina Croft and Catherine Schofield are students at the University of Nevada, Reno's Reynolds School of Journalism and this story was produced in partnership with the Reynolds Media Lab

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