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Hugging in a Pandemic

Virginia Tech

In a time of social distancing, a lot of what makes us social creatures is off limits.  Take hugging, an act of affection and affirmation of a person special to you.  

But as scientists learn more about how coronavirus behaves in the environment, there are ways to make emotional and physical contact safely. 

"For hugging nowadays. I think we need to plan it in advance a little bit," says Virginia Tech Engineering professor Linsey Marr.  Marr is one of the world’s top scientists on aerosols, that is how viruses spread the air.

She says, there are things we can do to reduce the risk of transmission during hugging.“And of course, we should ask consent nowadays with the other person, but you should definitely wear a mask."
The major move is to keep you and your hugee’s faces pointing away from each other. Avoid touching each other’s’ faces or the other person's clothing with your face.  And here’s the tough part:  “You should avoid talking while you're hugging, just embrace and enjoy that contact.”

Maybe that’s the time for a silent meditation. Think about how you feel about the person you’re hugging.  “Just stay away from each other, more than six feet, then move quickly into the hug, enjoy your hug, and then back away."
Marr says you should back away quickly so you’re not standing too close, lingering and talking, as we human beings so often want to do. That may be the time to fire up your smart phone and have your conversation from afar.

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.
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