Utahns describe what it’s like to date during COVID-19

Video chats through an app are safe; socially distanced walks are another option — but dating during a worldwide coronavirus pandemic remains tricky, Utahns say.

Traditional date spots, such as restaurants and bars, have the potential to further spread the virus, as Utah topped 10,000 active coronavirus cases last week and set a new record this week for daily diagnosed cases, at 722.

The Salt Lake Tribune spoke with residents about what it’s like to try to go on a date right now, or how they’ve seen their relationships change in the past few months. Here are their experiences.

Lacey Johnson

Lacey Johnson, 29, lives in Davis County.

Johnson jokes that the universe doesn’t want her to date.

She put off dating to go to graduate school. After graduating, she didn’t see the point if she was just going to move for her career. But when job offers were in limbo, she decided in January to make dating one of her goals for 2020. Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit. And just when she decided to take dating off her goals list, things started reopening in Utah.

“I don’t know if this is a sign I should not be dating right now,” Johnson laughed. But she has given it a try.

Over the past few months, Johnson talked with a person over FaceTime. She met up for ice cream and has gone on hikes with people she’s met through dating apps.

“A lot of people say if you want to date someone, you’ve got to expand your networks and go out and meet people. But that is much more difficult now because we can’t go in large groups and things are closed,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she’s talked with her friends about how figuring out where to go and what to do requires a lot more planning. For now, being outside seems like one of the safest options.

(Photo courtesy of Lacey Johnson) Lacey Johnson has gone on FaceTime and hiking dates during the coronavirus pandemic, but she said it's hard to meet new people while staying home.

Simon Greenhalgh and Kati Simon

Simon Greenhalgh and Kati Simon, both 23, live in Salt Lake City.

If it wasn’t for quarantine, Greenhalgh doesn’t think he’d be living with Simon, his girlfriend, right now.

Greenhalgh and Simon had only been dating for a couple of months when Utah’s COVID-19 cases began to increase in March.

“Everything was going great. … We don’t want to put it on pause,” Greenhalgh said. So, they decided to quarantine together.

When both of their leases were up in May, they decided to make their living arrangement permanent. They both have busy jobs — Greenhalgh works for a software company and Simon is a professional dancer — but this way, they could see each other more often. They’ve enjoyed getting to spend so much time together.

Greenhalgh describes it like when you’re playing the video game Mario Kart “and you just got that boost, and now I’m in first.”

“It matured our relationship and fast-tracked how we spent time together,” he said, “and totally matured the way we did things, because we were forced to do that together.”

(Photo courtesy of Simon Greenhalgh) Simon Greenhalgh, right, and Kati Simon decided to move in together after quarantining with each other during the coronavirus pandemic.

Preston Earl

Preston Earl, 33, lives in Morgan.

Before the pandemic, Earl had kind of given up on dating. And while he’d like to try meeting new people and going out now, he’s hesitant. COVID-19 cases continue to spike in Utah, and he worries about going to restaurants.

“I don’t know if I want to be around a bunch of people if I don’t have to be,” he said.

Earl is a single father to two young children, who are 10 and 5. He’s sheltered at home with them for the past few months, only leaving to go to the grocery store and work. And as the state has started to reopen, Earl’s evenings are now filled with dance classes and other activities for his kids.

Earl worries about catching the virus on a date and potentially spreading it to his parents, who are in their 60s. “I’m around them a lot,” he said.

While Earl would like to date again sometime in the future, he said it’s not as much of a priority right now until things get a little closer to normal.

(Photo courtesy of Preston Earl) Preston Earl said it's been difficult to date during COVID-19 because he's worried about being in crowds and making sure he follows health guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic.

Lauren and Nathan Elkins

Lauren Elkins, 39, and Nathan, 37, live in Bountiful.

Lauren Elkins was already used to working from home when the state started social distancing. She has an office set up in her family’s Bountiful house.

As businesses closed and in-person school classes were dismissed in March, she was joined by her husband, Nathan Elkins, an elementary school principal. He not only had to help his students switch over to virtual learning, but the couple also had to home-school their own two children, who were in first grade and preschool.

Date nights were not a priority.

“You kind of forget about the relationship with your spouse when you’re dealing with that,” Lauren Elkins said.

After Utah’s earthquake in March, Lauren Elkins said, she struggled with anxiety for a while. Nathan Elkins provided support and they relied on their partnership to get things done around the house.

“He really took the lead at that point,” she said, setting their kids’ schedules and making dinners.

As they’ve settled into their new routine, the couple, who’ve been married for nine years, developed “an alternative form of dating” since they can’t call a babysitter and go out. They watch movies together after their children go to bed. And one night, they sat by the fire pit in their backyard and just talked.

(Photo courtesy of Lauren Elkins) Lauren Elkins, right, and her husband, Nathan Elkins, found new ways to support each other while working from home and watching their children during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jackie and Alex Chamberlain

Jackie Chamberlain, 43, and Alex, 46, live in Syracuse.

Before COVID-19, Jackie Chamberlain used to not see her wife as much. She worked 50 hours per week as the public information officer for Utah’s Division of Juvenile Justice Services, while Alex Chamberlain is in the Air National Guard.

In mid-March, though, the couple started working from home. They shared an office for the first few months. A couple of weeks ago, though, they decided to have separate spaces “because we both have conference calls all day long,” and it’s hard to talk on Zoom when you’re in the same room, Jackie Chamberlain said.

Even with that change, they still get to be with each other a lot, eating breakfast and lunch together and going on walks around the block.

“I don’t think we’ve ever gotten along so well because we’re spending so much time together,” Jackie Chamberlain said.

(Photo courtesy of Jackie Chamberlain) Jackie Chamberlain, right, and her wife, Alex Chamberlain, said their relationship has strengthened while working from home together during the coronavirus pandemic.