Sat. Jun 15th, 2024

January 7, 2021

Written by Olivia Kohn ’23

Are you having trouble finding fun but safe things to do this year? Struggling with COVID-friendly gatherings, in-person and virtual? We’ll go through lots of ways to have fun during the pandemic while staying safe, ranging from socially distanced small gatherings to virtual movie nights. 

The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone’s lives in different ways. From March of this year, school has been operating either online or through a hybrid model, sports have been restricted, and our normal community-gathering events have been cancelled. All these things have significantly affected  students’ mental health during this time, and the CDC reports that “Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.” One of the larger contributors to this increase caused by the pandemic is the lack of socialization. Many people rely on social interaction to relieve stress or bring them joy, especially adolescents. However, health and safety regulations – currently imposed upon communities throughout the state, country, and world – prohibit large group gatherings. The Durham Academy community has been a large proponent of following COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines, and students have held many different types of more COVID friendly events. 

A school favorite is watching a movie together while video chatting. This can be done over FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, even Microsoft Teams if you don’t have a non-school video chatting device. Zoom and Skype are both free and great options to call people all over the world. This method can also be done through simple instant messaging, whether it be iMessage, GroupMe, What’s App, or even Snapchat. There is also an especially nifty website called Teleparty, formerly known as Netflix Party, that is used to watch Netflix and video chat friends at the same time, on the same screen. However, this only works if you subscribe to Netflix. If you’re excited by this idea but don’t know what to watch, I would recommend a Netflix original movie like Princess Switch 2 or a Disney movie.

Continuing on the path of virtual connectivity, another way to utilize the various video chatting servers is to call a relative and plan fun activities to do together, like making a meal or taking a walk. This was especially useful for people on Thanksgiving, as traveling and seeing non-immediate family members could put everyone involved at a higher risk of contracting COVID. This idea is perfect for seeing grandparents and other older relatives, as well for those who live far and do not want to take the risk traveling. I FaceTimed my oldest sister who lives in New York on Thanksgiving, so she could be there for one of my family’s favorite holiday traditions. Making fond memories during this time is important, especially when many people feel like they’ve lost time in their lives, so virtual connection is a great and COVID friendly idea.

Now, if video chatting isn’t your cup of tea, there are ways to have COVID friendly gatherings. The CDC ranks different types of gatherings based on their risk factor, and, of course, the gatherings with the lowest risk factor are online or virtual gatherings. However, if you are willing to be a little more risky, the CDC says that “smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear masks, do not share objects, and come from the same local area” puts people at low to medium risk for exposure. Bonfires or small socially-distanced gatherings around a fire pit have been popular among students, as well as outdoor socially-distanced picnics, though these are more riskier as people are maskless. Another option would be to just sit outside with friends and talk, hopefully with the appropriate clothing as it grows colder. A popular option, as shown by social media, is to arrange cars in a circle, seat your friends in their own car trunks and converse with each other. 

Now, if you’re looking for a more intimate gathering, that’s very tricky to do right now, unless someone is in your COVID bubble. This is typically family and, for some people, it includes a few close friends. If you’re interested in seeing someone in your COVID bubble but still want to be safe, drive-in movies are a great idea, as well as a home-made or takeout outdoor meal.

The coronavirus has affected everyone in different ways, and has put a large damper on socialization. However, there are still fun and safe ways to see friends, and I hope you decide to try out some of the ones listed above. 

Czeisler MÉ , Lane RI, Petrosky E, et al. Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, June 24–30, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1049–1057. DOI:

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