The New York City Health Department is encouraging people to “be creative” in its updated guidelines to help people have safer sex during the Covid-19 pandemic.
While the department still urges people to stay home as much as possible and minimize contact with others, the guidance says that during the pandemic people “will and should have sex.”
The guidelines were created to reduce the risk of spreading Covid-19. They’ve been updated periodically to reflect the changing understanding of the disease.
The transmissibility of Covid-19 through sex hasn’t been studied closely.
Scientists have found the coronavirus in feces and in men’s semen, even after the men have begun to recover from Covid-19. That means there’s a possibility the virus could be sexually transmitted, but not enough is known, and some scientists think it is unlikely.
Some researchers have suggested that while abstinence carries the lowest risk of infection, it’s not a realistic option for many and the idea that sex would be “dangerous” could have “insidious psychological effects at a time when people are especially susceptible to mental health difficulties,” according to a study published in May.
Other coronaviruses do not easily spread through sex, according to the New York City Health Department.
Scientists do know it is a highly contagious respiratory illness though.
Since Covid-19 can spread through saliva and breathing, the agency suggests people may want to wear a face covering or mask while having sex.
“Make it a little kinky,” the guidelines say. “Be creative with sexual positions and physical barriers, like walls, that allow sexual contact while preventing close face to face contact.” Or people can masturbate together and keep physically distant, the guidelines suggest.
The department reminds people that “you are your safest sex partner.” The next safest option is a consenting adult in the same household. If, however, there is an interest in sex with someone outside the household, the guidelines advise picking a partner one trusts to talk about their Covid-19 risk factors just like they would discuss condoms and other safer sex topics.
Keep sex to two people since “large gatherings of any type are not safe during Covid-19.” If one desires to “find a crowd” for sex, pick larger, more open, and well-ventilated spaces, wear a face covering, and bring hand sanitizer.
For people seeking sex online, the department advises people to take a break from in-person dates and stick to “sexy ‘Zoom parties’” or other video dates.
For those who want to “hook up” or have sex outside their close circle of contacts, the guidelines advise watching for symptoms, and getting tested for Covid-19 on monthly basis or within five to seven days after the hookup. Also, take precautions interacting with people at risk for getting a severe form of the disease. People older than age 65 or people with serious medical conditions need to be even more careful.
The agency also reminds people that having antibodies against the virus or a prior positive diagnosis does not mean that they will be immune to the disease for good. It says people should be cautious in using the test to make a decision about who to have sex with and what kind of sex to have since an antibody test is not definite proof that the person is immune.
New York isn’t the only local health department encouraging people to take precautions during the pandemic.
The guidelines from Washington, DC, place a strong emphasis on having sex only if you both are feeling well and have good hand and sex toy hygiene. Oregon uses cute graphics to get the point across. San Francisco advises people to limit sex to “your main partner(s) or regulars that you live with and/or have sex with.”
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And if you do have to “stay physically distant from your honey,” as Austin’s guidelines put it, those guidelines give creative suggestions for date night during the pandemic.