Dear Amy: I live in a high COVID-infected area; we are on the verge of a second shutdown. I do my best to stay home and limit the people I see.
Our apartment building has signs up requesting everyone wear their masks, and for one person/party to ride the elevator at a time.
I wear my mask from the minute I leave my door to the minute I come back in.
The biggest problem I am facing is with the elevator: people wearing no masks who push their way onto the elevator with me (as in: the door is closing and they stick their hand in to open it).
If I see them waiting, I try to step back and say, "I'll catch the next one," but sometimes they push their way on, and I feel trapped in this situation.
Do you have any advice on how to politely handle this?
I have been trying to take the stairs, but I run into mask-less people there, as well!
We are already so far into the pandemic that I can't imagine anyone with any sense still not wearing a mask, but I don't want a confrontation or to escalate any situation. I just want to stay safe.
Amy says: Research I've seen about the risk of the COVID-19 virus spreading on an elevator includes many variables: the size of the interior of the elevator, how often the door opens, how long the door stays open, how long you stay on the elevator, the ventilation system used in the elevator, etc.
The overall conclusion seems to be that because your time in an elevator is brief, you are unlikely to face any significant viral risk, especially if you are masked. Transmission happens through more prolonged exposure than most elevator rides afford, and your mask does help to protect you (and others).
Unless the person riding with you is ill with COVID and coughs or sneezes while inside the compartment with you, your risk is likely minimal. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly when you re-enter your apartment.
I could imagine that climbing the stairs along with people who are not masked could also carry a risk, because they (and you) are presumably huffing and puffing your way up the staircase.
Confronting people who don't wear masks is not a good idea, mainly because they have access to the same health and safety information as you. It is hard to imagine that anything you might say or do would inspire them to behave differently.
If a mask-less person shoves onto the elevator at the last minute, you might want to quickly press the button for the very next floor and exit there.
(The temptation might be to also press all of the other buttons on the elevator on your way out, but I would never suggest such a thing!)
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