MANHATTAN — Malachi Nimmons thinks it’s OK to say "hi" to someone from a distance. 

"You can wave and say 'stay back' at the same time. It's kind of like directing traffic," said Nimmons, whose greeting these days is a far cry from before the pandemic when he would shake hands, or greet a close friend or relative with a hug.

What You Need To Know

  • The onset of COVID-19 changed the way people greet each other

  • Handshakes and hugs are no longer accepted forms of greeting due to risk of spreading the virus

  • Other forms of greeting, including elbow bumps and head nods, have taken over as the city fought coronavirus

  • When people are ready to return to shaking hands and hugging will depend on personal comfort and anxiety levels, as well as familiarity with the person they are greeting

It’s not hard to find New Yorkers with similar stories about how the coronavirus has changed their close encounters. 

"I do the elbow unless you are part of my circle, we do the hug," said Edy Castro who stopped to chat after dropping off her kids at school in the East Village.  

"I still just like to wave at people or give them a virtual air kiss," said Lisa A., who was out and about with husband Ben at Astor Place. 

When the handshake and hug makes its return for New Yorkers depends on a number of variables according to Manhattan College assistant professor of geography Robin Lovell. 

"First of all, personal comfort. You know personal anxiety levels in terms of the actual disease, and then also just the social norms of the space that you are talking about," said Lovell, who as a geographer studies spaces.

Lovell told us that depending on what space a person wanders into, they will react differently to it.

"Let's say you are a construction worker, and you have known your crew for five years and during the pandemic everybody instead of high-fiving or shaking hands has been elbow bumping," said Lovell, who added, “It's going to really depend on the peer pressure or the social norms of the situation as to how quickly those high fives and handshakes come back."

Mainly New Yorkers we stopped believe the quicker the population is vaccinated, the closer we are to handshakes and hugs. 

“Maybe by the time everyone is vaccinated, maybe by the summer”, said Lisa A. 

Until then, the elbow bumping, air kisses head nods and waves will prevail.