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The pandemic shrank our social circles. It’s time to expand them.

Photo: Markus Spiske via Unsplash

“I’ll tell you one thing, I’m sick of this damn Covid thing.” Carl and I had never met before, but on this we immediately found common ground.

Carl came out to our family’s cabin in New Hampshire to make some long-overdue repairs. We chatted about the weather and the astronomical price of lumber before talking about the pandemic.

In many ways, Carl and I were completely different: I lived in an apartment in New York City; he lived in the countryside on 10 acres with his dog. I spent most of the pandemic in the hospital treating patients; he spent…

😷 Today’s tip: Devote a hook to each mask-wearer in the household.

We’ve gotten good at making sure our masks fit properly and that we wear them when necessary, but what happens once we’re back home again?

Elemental executive editor Anna Maltby shared her family’s brilliant hack for keeping masks organized and sanitary: For their three-mask-wearers, she attached five hooks to the wall near their door. One hook holds their supply of currently clean masks. One hook has her mask for the day, the next has her husband’s, the next has her son’s. And the last hook corrals all the…

😷 Today’s tip: Use rubber bands to make your mask fit securely.

Whether you’re a glasses wearer fighting foggy lenses, or simply a person who doesn’t love the sensation of a mask riding up into your eye sockets, you know how annoying it is to wear a mask that doesn’t fit well. And Robert Roy Britt writes in Elemental, “No matter how good the material, a mask must fit tight to be effective, leaving no gaps for air to enter or exit unfiltered.” ‘

The good news is, all you need for a perfect fit is a rubber band. Okay…

Blame our faulty brains. Luckily, there are ways to get out of the most common mental traps.

Group of friends hugging in person, no face masks.
Group of friends hugging in person, no face masks.
Photo: Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

Until there’s a safe and widespread vaccine rollout, the greatest weapons we have against the pandemic are the decisions we make every day. The bad news about this is that humans are notoriously lousy decision-makers.

Why, though? Blame our faulty brains: All of us possess cognitive biases that make it difficult to think rationally when faced with questions involving risk. Should we dine at a restaurant? Is it a good idea to send our kids back to school? Can we safely visit our folks to celebrate Thanksgiving?

While our instincts may be to go with the less-than-optimal choice, we’re not…

Woman waving hi during a video call.
Woman waving hi during a video call.
Photo: pixelfit/Getty Images

As predicted, the return of cooler weather has pushed many of us Northern Hemisphere-dwellers back indoors amid a rising second wave of the pandemic. In places like Washington state and Toronto, Canada, snowballing Covid-19 rates have prompted local health officials to discourage residents from socializing with anyone who isn’t a member of their household — including outdoors. And across the U.S., governors and other officials are urging residents to keep their Thanksgiving gatherings small and avoid traveling for the holiday.

For those of us living in regions where similar recommendations haven’t been made (at least, not yet), the question of…

But we can still support each other

Photo: Kanawa_Studio/Getty Images

The night of Election Day, 2016, my upstairs neighbor came over to drink wine and listen to the results — we’d celebrate together, we figured. Late into the night, the numbers started to tell a story we hadn’t expected. We hugged before she went back to her apartment, both of us bewildered.

The next day, too, was all about hugs. I went to work early and there was only one other person in the office — a co-worker I barely knew — and without so much as saying a thing to each other, we hugged. Later that day I picked…


All is not lost, my friends

A PIZZA BOX TOP, discarded on East 63rd Street, New York City. Photo by the author

There was a cardboard pizza-box top on the sidewalk last night, just sitting there, missing its lower half. I wasn’t the first to trample on it. I probably wasn’t the first to take a picture of it.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg died Friday — a champion of gender equality, a legal icon, a cultural force. She was notorious. She was 87. Mitch McConnell went to work quickly, announcing that there would be a vote on a new justice sooner than later. The press is already reporting on a potential conservative replacement; she has three names, too. The fighting has begun. We’re…

The more normal things get, the weirder life feels

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/ Getty Images

The year’s been rife with so many grim firsts that we’ve managed to exhaust the concept of “unprecedented.” Even still, one of my recent “firsts” stands out: the feel of a plump, furry undercarriage against the skin of my sandaled foot.

I didn’t need to look down to confirm what I already knew it was: a rat. In some distant past — say, that first week of March — I would have responded by screaming. To this midsummer foot rat, I could only shrug.

Whether or not you’ve had a foot rat of your very own, I’ll bet my story…

Even on the other side, we will not have transcended the mess of who we are

Photo: Branislav Novak/EyeEm/Getty Images

For months, I’ve been playing school with Stella, my four-year-old daughter. Usually, this involves difficult homework that must be checked, a class pet that must be fed, and the teacher eventually adopting the student because her parents have disappeared. (The teacher was looking for a kid to live with her anyway, so it all works out.)

As such, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that on Monday, the first morning that we took Stella back to her little home-based preschool in real life, she was psyched. As we drove, however, I noticed Stella becoming quieter and quieter. …

Photo: Oliver Rossi / Getty

We were supposed to feel better by now, right? Yes, the beginning of the pandemic was scary, and the start of stay-at-home orders was stressful, and yet many of us weathered those early stages — assuming we weren’t dealing with health crises — with a guardedly cheerful dive into baking bread and scheduling fun Zooms. (Remember “fun Zooms”?)

But surely I’m not the only one finding that the adrenaline that animated those early months has evaporated, leaving me feeling, weirdly, worse. We’re exhausted. We’re stressed. We’re not depressed, exactly, but we’re not quite ourselves either.

Turns out, it’s not just…


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