COVID Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts 

To greet or not to greet? That is the question. Post-era COVID is leaving a trail of unanswered questions as the world staggers to recover from the pandemic. Businesses, schools and other gathering spaces are beginning to open and people are re-emerging.  Social skills and cues have been tested over the past year. Reduced to fist or elbow bumps and other creative ways, what is the proper way to meet and greet with fast-changing guidelines and recommendations? 


During the pandemic, the world became used to COVID etiquette and its new socially acceptable interactions. As vaccinations slowly ramp up across the nation, a sense of normalcy is taking form. Despite the CDC’s latest mask mandates being lifted and the containment of the virus, there still exists pockets of the population who wish to continue with social distancing, limited contact and avoiding large spaces.  


Hugs and handshakes have become distant things of the past. With the introduction of COVID, limiting personal contact was at an all-time high. Used as one of the most widespread greetings, handshakes have been revamped and are including some creative takes on a classic. Fist pounds, foot taps and elbow bumps are becoming increasingly popular as replacements for the handshake. Some are even bringing back a vintage foot dance from 1980s hip hop duo, Kid ‘n Play. Others are sticking to the basics of communication post-COVID.  


“I feel the most acceptable way to greet is verbal acknowledgement and or waving,” says Jada Clayton, a director in the mortgage industry.  


Masks have covered faces for over a year. Unable to take social cues from facial expressions, communication is continuing to shift post-pandemic and it seems virtually impossible to keep up.  


“I am looking forward to getting as close to normal as possible. However, it’s important to respect personal boundaries and space. I will still be masked up and would prefer others to keep some distance,” says Clayton.  


Across the world, different cultures and religions have different ways of greeting and showing honor without direct contact. For one etiquette coach, the pandemic has created a way to adapt to new styles  


“My Japanese clients were way ahead of the curve with their ritualistic bow paired with greetings, which expresses respect, kindness and warmth, but maintains ample distance from your counterpart,” says Danielle Kovachevich, founder and lead coach of Detroit Academy of Etiquette. “My point being, we can do this. We can conduct business, we can show kindness and make others feel important without close interaction. Let’s not give up on connecting with humans. Let’s just get creative.” 


The CDC now suggests fully vaccinated people no longer have to mask up or socially distance and are now able to gather together in enclosed spaces. However, it is impossible to determine vaccination status by just appearance alone. According to data collected by the State of Michigan, more than 56 percent of residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 39 percent of the state is fully vaccinated.  


Sparking conversation around the choice to vaccinate is taboo. Laced with concerns about HIPAA violations, individuals are adding to their greetings and warm welcomes with questions on status and vaccine brand preference.  


“The proper way to ask if someone is vaccinated, is NOT to ask. This is a very personal and emotionally charged topic for a lot of people. Many people feel judged for their answer and therefore don’t want to engage,” says Kovachevich. 


Vaccines are becoming increasingly widespread and gatherings are beginning to grow. Weddings, graduations, proms and other summer staples are taking place in many towns. While guests may welcome the in-person social interactions, concerns of COVID will continue to loom in the background. The pandemic continues to affect communities and guests may have questions about vaccination statuses or social distancing measures.  


“If you are hosting a gathering, understand that people may be inquiring about the status of your guests or your vaccinations. If you are willing to engage in these conversations and still can have a good time hosting, go for it. If this topic is too emotionally driven for you, maybe hold off on hosting or attending gatherings at this time,” says Kovachevich.  


Just as news surrounding the pandemic continues to evolve, so does the proper way to address its effects. COVID will continue to shift norms and force changes to which the masses must adapt. As a standing piece of advice, maintaining social distancing is a personal choice and one that requires no explanation.  


“If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, where someone is getting too close, you absolutely can politely and kindly let them know you aren’t quite ready for close contact just yet but are hopeful that you will soon. Do not feel you need a long, drawn-out explanation as well.,” says Kovachevich. 


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