By Weston Blasi, MarketWatch
MarketWatch photo illustration/iStockphoto
Nick Crawford’s online dating story begins like many other single people’s. Swiping, liking and messaging until you find somebody who wants to go on a date with you.
But this tale has a twist. Crawford’s dating adventure may have led to the contraction of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, by both him and his date. And it didn’t end there. The courtship, which started out promisingly (illness aside), is still going. “I really liked her smile and her eyes,” recalled Crawford, who is a web designer and developer. “She also seemed really active and well-traveled.”
Crawford said their night out took place on March 7, four days before the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of coronavirus a pandemic. While the coronavirus was a big story at that time — it was the lead story on MarketWatch that morning — many people still weren’t that worried. This was before President Trump curbed international travel and before a national emergency was declared. The U.S. was still allowing large sporting events.
‘I guess at one of the bars we went to, both of us ended up contracting what we would later find out is COVID-19.’
In fact, Trump wrote on Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR +1.21% on March 9, two days after Crawford’s date and two days before the travel ban: “Last year 37,000 Americans died” from the flu. “Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on,” he added. But the government’s position and the national mood, Crawford added, shifted dramatically in the days after their date. This week, Trump said, “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before victory is won.”
After exchanging messages for a while on a popular dating app called Hinge, Crawford and his date decided to meet up in person. “At that point, coronavirus wasn’t even a real threat,” Crawford said. “It didn’t feel real yet.”
A spokesperson for Hinge said the company doesn't comment on particular users but directed this reporter to a section on Hinge’s help and safety page about the company’s COVID-19 response , which includes five general health tips from the WHO including maintaining social distance and washing hands frequently. There is no mention of safe dating tips at this time. (One implication being: Don’t go on dates.) “We want everyone to stay safe during this challenging time,” the site states.
“I guess at one of the bars we went to, both of us ended up contracting what we would later find out is COVID-19,” observed Crawford. His date has experienced flulike symptoms and has taken a test for COVID-19, he said. She is still awaiting the results. A friend they spent time with that night later tested positive for the coronavirus, he said.
The evening consisted of bar-hopping among Brooklyn establishments and meeting up with some of his date’s friends. This was more than a week before New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the shutdown of restaurants and bars, allowing only takeout and delivery service.
Crawford, 23, said that after the March 7 date he began to feel flulike symptoms and went to a walk-in immediate-care clinic in New York. He received a test for the influenza, which came back negative, but doctors there, he says, refused to give him a test for the coronavirus. Doctors, he said, told him that they didn’t have enough tests, and that, even if they did, he was not part of a high-risk population.
‘We have spent a lot of time together since then, quarantining together. It’s pretty evident that if she has that I also have it.’
He was told, he said, to quarantine at home because he “probably” had the coronavirus, though it couldn’t be confirmed. “I don’t blame her at all,” he said of his date. “We both had a really fun time together on our first date.”
Crawford doesn’t come across as glum as one might expect. He actually seems upbeat. For one thing, he is not self-isolating alone. “We have spent a lot of time together since then, quarantining together,” he told MarketWatch. “It’s pretty evident that, if she has it, I also have it.”
While most people are social distancing with their immediate families and keeping the recommended 6 feet apart, or arranging virtual dates while they browse dating apps like Hinge, OKCupid and Match.com /zigman2/quotes/207178501/composite MTCH +12.22% or such location-based apps as Tinder and Grindr, Crawford said he and his companion, who declined to be interviewed for this article, feel fortunate. He said they see each other two or three times per week.
Two people contracting the coronavirus on their first date makes for an improbable plot point, he allowed, even if it were in a Hollywood film. Crawford, to employ another movie-making term, does regard the convergence of his medical record and dating record as unusual and hopes that it’s just getting started. When asked nearly a month after the couple’s first date about their prospective future, Crawford expressed hope that things will work out. “I’d probably tell my grandkids the story of how we met,” he texted, adding a smiley-face emoji.
He is philosophical about the circumstances of their first meet-up, and realizes how lucky they are to have, it appears, mild forms of COVID-19, especially when so many Americans, and others around the world, have not been nearly as fortunate. Crawford said he went on this date and socialized with friends even as the virus was gaining a foothold in the U.S., without recognizing the risk. “Things,” he said, “still felt normal.”