Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Widespread social distancing has forced Americans to get creative with how they connect to one another, including romantically.

The big picture: The dating industry was poised to take a hit amid the coronavirus outbreak as potential suitors are generally unable to meet in-person. Platform Match, which also owns Tinder and OkCupid, has seen stocks tumble 25%. But daters are turning to digital courtship through video chats and virtual activities as an alternative.

The dating app Bumble saw increased user engagement as Americans adjusted to social distancing last month.

  • The platform reports a 26% spike in messages sent during the week ending March 27 compared to the week ending March 13. Trump declared COVID-19 a national emergency on March 13.
  • The app is also allowing users to add a badge to their profiles signaling they're open to virtual dating, and to filter out users who are not.

Web-based first dates are becoming the new normal, with platforms seeing a dramatic increase in users turning to calls and video chats.

  • Bumble has seen an 84% increase in users using the app's voice call and video chat tools.
  • OkCupid has experienced a 180% increase in mentions of FaceTime, Skype and Zoom on profiles and the platform has seen an 83% increase in users going on virtual dates in April compared to March.
  • A new dating app called “Quarantine Together” launched last month, with a built-in video chat option and periodic reminders to wash your hands.
  • Coffee meets Bagel has introduced virtual speed dating, with 10- to 15-minute video calls moderated by a company representative.

Between the lines: The dating industry argues that digital-first dates could become the standard beyond the COVID-19 outbreak.

  • The founder of the dating site "The League" told Axios in December: "In-person first dates will definitely be replaced by digital dates, as the stakes are lower and with video chatting you can figure out whether or not you click within the first few minutes."
  • OkCupid surveyed its users on their virtual-date preferences, finding that 31% favor a game or activity, 29% want digital dinner and drinks, 25% want a simple video chat and 15% would opt for remotely watching a TV show or movie together.

The bottom line... Hinge told its users:

"We're lucky to live in a time where we can have video chat dates, phone call dates & connect virtually in an infinite number of ways. Stay home, date from home & we’ll get through this together."

Go deeper

FDA authorizes Abbott's $5 rapid COVID-19 test

Results from the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card test will be available in roughly 15 minutes. Photo: Courtesy of Abbott Laboratories.

Abbott Laboratories said Wednesday it received emergency use authorization (EAU) from the Food and Drug Administration for its COVID-19 test that works without lab equipment.

The big picture: Abbott said it will ramp up production of its "highly portable," $5 tests to 50 million by the beginning of October.

Coronavirus cases fell by 15% this week

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

New coronavirus infections fell by almost 15% over the past week, continuing a steady downward trend.

Why it matters: The standard caveats still apply — progress can always fall apart, the U.S. is climbing down from a very high number of cases, and this is far from over. But this is undeniably good news. Things are getting better.

Aug 26, 2020 - Health

Carson: It would "behoove" us to move forward with COVID-19 vaccine and treatment testing

Screenshot: Axios Events

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson says "this is not necessarily the time to take everything slowly" when it comes to the Trump administration's approach to getting vaccines and treatments to the public.

Why it matters: Carson's comments, made Wednesday during an Axios virtual event, came days after the Food and Drug Administration announced an emergency use authorization (EUA) for treating the coronavirus with convalescent plasma. President Trump accused the agency of slow-walking the development and approval of vaccines and therapeutics to hurt him politically.

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