Working Together During Social Distancing

Working Together During Social Distancing


Amy Shack Egan, the owner of Modern Rebel, a wedding planning business in Dumbo, Brooklyn, is not exactly a sports fan. But in mid-April she watched the Michael Jordan documentary “The Last Dance” with her husband. What was shaping up to be the darkest Brooklyn wedding season in memory suddenly looked brighter.

“Somebody said to Michael Jordan when his team was down in the third quarter, ‘We’ll get ’em next game,’” she said. “And Michael Jordan said, ‘Next game? What about the fourth quarter?’” For Ms. Shack Egan, “a light bulb went off. I told my husband, ‘I feel like the game’s not over. I’ve just got to be more creative.’”

Ms. Shack Egan had already shown initiative in rallying her colleagues in the face of coronavirus-induced ruin. Two weeks earlier, she organized a Zoom call with 75 Brooklyn wedding vendors, including photographers, D.J.’s and florists, to discuss how to navigate the collapse of wedding season. The documentary energized her to recruit them into a collective.

“We did a pivot to virtual and contact-free weddings,” she said. “So many of our colleagues were willing to pivot with us. And now things are starting to change.”

Since the end of April, Modern Rebel has been coordinating weddings for couples who are choosing to marry virtually or in scaled-down gatherings. Clients — more than a dozen so far — are sent a menu of virtual add-ons to the base price of $399 that includes invitations, a Zoom rehearsal and a day-of timeline, and a silent stage manager in the chat box to cue readings by virtual guests. These add-ons range from two-hour virtual dance parties hosted by popular Brooklyn wedding D.J.’s to custom poems by Ars Poetica emailed to guests as favors, or catered post-vows dinners for two from partners like the Pixie and the Scout, a Brooklyn-based caterer, delivered contact free.

Vendors in other cities are joining forces to salvage a wedding-season fourth quarter that may have seemed beyond saving, too.

In Philadelphia, for example, “we’re relying on each other much more for business advice, like what should we be telling our clients or how should we be updating our policies,” said Caitlin Maloney Kuchemba, the owner of the Clover Event Company, a boutique wedding planning business in Norristown, Pa.

This camaraderie has been especially helpful for handling clients looking to celebrate twice — once on their original wedding date, and again in a bigger way in 2021, when many expect social-distancing regulations are expected to be lifted. “People want to know,” Ms. Kuchemba said, “Do we consider a smaller celebration part of the original event? Or is it a whole new event that requires new contracts?”

A network of about 20 Philadelphia-area vendors has arrived at pricing for what she called “mini ceremonies” in a back yard or living room, on a couple’s intended wedding day. For the flowers, photography and coordination, pricing starts at around $3,000.

“In the next six months, we think the wedding industry is going to start opening up but on a much smaller scale,” Ms. Hockley Harrison said. “So right now, we’re providing resources to clients who come to us saying, ‘OK, we’re ready to put on a wedding for 25 guests or fewer.’” A small at-home wedding package with her collective, including a dress rental, flowers and table arrangements, will cost about $3,500. If restrictions loosen, the group will work together to scale up. “The goal is to help make the process less daunting for couples,” she said. “Because right now everything is so confusing.”

Some wedding-vendor alliances are being formed just to clear away this confusion. In Atlanta, Laetitia Towson, the owner of the event planning company House of BASH, is on the phone daily with a loose collective of nearby D.J./s, venue representatives and other wedding professionals. “We’re just trying to get a feel for what we can and cannot do,” she said. Though Georgia nightclubs have been allowed to reopen, rules for weddings, she said, have not been addressed by the governor or mayor. But keeping up with social distancing and crowd size mandates is not the only reason the wedding community needs to stay in touch.

  • Updated June 22, 2020

    • Is it harder to exercise while wearing a mask?

      A commentary published this month on the website of the British Journal of Sports Medicine points out that covering your face during exercise “comes with issues of potential breathing restriction and discomfort” and requires “balancing benefits versus possible adverse events.” Masks do alter exercise, says Cedric X. Bryant, the president and chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise, a nonprofit organization that funds exercise research and certifies fitness professionals. “In my personal experience,” he says, “heart rates are higher at the same relative intensity when you wear a mask.” Some people also could experience lightheadedness during familiar workouts while masked, says Len Kravitz, a professor of exercise science at the University of New Mexico.

    • I’ve heard about a treatment called dexamethasone. Does it work?

      The steroid, dexamethasone, is the first treatment shown to reduce mortality in severely ill patients, according to scientists in Britain. The drug appears to reduce inflammation caused by the immune system, protecting the tissues. In the study, dexamethasone reduced deaths of patients on ventilators by one-third, and deaths of patients on oxygen by one-fifth.

    • What is pandemic paid leave?

      The coronavirus emergency relief package gives many American workers paid leave if they need to take time off because of the virus. It gives qualified workers two weeks of paid sick leave if they are ill, quarantined or seeking diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus, or if they are caring for sick family members. It gives 12 weeks of paid leave to people caring for children whose schools are closed or whose child care provider is unavailable because of the coronavirus. It is the first time the United States has had widespread federally mandated paid leave, and includes people who don’t typically get such benefits, like part-time and gig economy workers. But the measure excludes at least half of private-sector workers, including those at the country’s largest employers, and gives small employers significant leeway to deny leave.

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


“We’re hearing of catering companies going under, smaller shops going under, people selling their businesses,” Ms. Towson said. “It’s scary for couples, not knowing what services are going to be available to them if they postpone to 2021.”

It’s scarier still for small businesses struggling to survive and unsure when social-distancing rules might be eased. The Massachusetts Coalition of Wedding Vendors, already 900 members strong, was formed to get to the bottom of what rules are currently governing Massachusetts weddings and for how long.

“In general, we need some kind of guidance,” said Nelly Saraiva, a wedding and boudoir photographer in Acushnet, Mass., who started the collective in April. When Governor Charlie Baker recently released new guidelines, she said, “it showed that some outdoor weddings can begin to take place in limited numbers when we get to Phase 3 of reopening, but it doesn’t say what those numbers are. It’s impossible for us to make decisions and to help our couples make decisions.”

The group has written letters to state representatives asking for answers, not just about wedding rules but also about financial help for ailing colleagues.

“Typically we wouldn’t talk about our individual policies for people demanding deposits back and that sort of thing, but now we’re working together,” Ms. Saraiva said.

The shared concern will be especially helpful when Massachusetts gatherings are opened to more than 10 people.

“We’ll need to know things like, what if I’m hired to take pictures for a wedding and I’m stuck in a tiny hotel room with eight or 10 girls getting ready and there’s no social distancing,” she said, expressing concerns about who might be liable should clients fail to follow social-distancing guidelines or someone becomes ill. “Liability is a huge thing for vendors.”

As eager as she and her colleagues are to get back to work, Ms. Saraiva admits that if she were a bride, she would postpone her wedding until the pandemic fully passes. “I wouldn’t want to worry about whether the girls in the wedding party are going to be willing to have their hair and makeup done and then put a mask on, how many people can sit at a table six feet apart, who’s in charge of policing,” she said. “Right now, I don’t see how we can get to a new normal. But at least we’re all working closer together now. That’s been a good thing.”



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Posted by Krin Rodriquez

Passionate for technology and social media, ex Silicon Valley insider.