Choose your own location: COVID Edition
March 23, 2020 11:59 AM   Subscribe

My family and I are lucky to (currently) have choices about where to locate ourselves. But we are going in circles trying to figure out the best option. Relevant factors: I am highly immune compromised with lung involvement. We have two young kids. We are Canadian/American citizens. We have been in full quarantine for three weeks and so are reasonably sure we do not currently have the virus. The question: which location would you pick and why? Are there factors I'm not thinking of? (Fair warning that the descriptions below the cut are loooooong.)

A caveat-- We know we are very lucky in having these options. We are donating. Keeping up payment for all services. Etc.

Our priorities/thoughts are:
1) Minimizing my exposure as much as humanly possible
2) Ensuring that should I get sick or my husband gets sick we have a plan for the kids
3) I have real concerns about civil unrest given the hollowing out that has happened over the last little while (It's cool if you don't agree and I hope you're right but it is a concern for me.)
4) Outdoor space for the kids
5) Proximity to my parents who are also in quarantine
6) Community (even distanced)

Based on the last round of AskMetafilter advice we pulled the kids from school and have been staying at an Airbnb in New Hampshire. It was the right call. Thanks y'all!

Here are the new options:
* Stay here in New Hampshire. The main pro is that we are here and it is remote and we have a ton of groceries. The cons are that we are realizing that if we have an emergency or if someone does get sick we have no support. I'm also worried about states closing borders and us losing optionality. Finally, we've had several odd run-ins with delivery people who I've said 'Hi' to and asked to leave packages at a distance who have responded by saying things like "Hope you didn't bring any virus with you...' etc. (We have MA plates) it's been pretty hostile and it just makes me nervous that if things got tough we would be perceived as outsiders.

* Return to Somerville. We know a million wonderful people some of whom have offered to drop off meds/groceries as needed. It's our home. We feel comfy and safe there. It's near great hospitals. But our apartment is very small and by the time we left for NH our kids were climbing the walls. There is no outdoor space. Presumably density of sickness will be much higher and the risks of leaving our home higher as well. A major pro is that if we needed to we could perhaps arrange with friends to take the kids if it were necessary. However, I really worry what cities will be like if this gets bad. However, I'd rather be in MA than NH if they close borders between states.

* Martha's Vineyard-- this is where I'm from and where my parents still live. My parents have quarantined themselves but I have some doubts about my father's ability to fully sustain this as he is a recently retired doctor. Advantages are community and outdoor space and the help of my parents who my children adore. Negatives are supply issues, tiny hospital and current hostility towards non-year rounders. I think the main concern is my parents' ability to maintain the level of quarantine we need for me to be safe. But also supply chain issues if the boats don't run etc.

* Canada (probably Montreal)-- Lots of friends in Montreal but not necessarily someone who can take the kids if necessary. Safety in case of civil unrest in the US. A city I know and love. I can find an airbnb with backyard space a small distance from the city. I have more faith in the ability of the Canadian government to act responsibly to challenging times. We could also go to Ontario or Nova Scotia. I'll just know fewer people.

* Vermont near Hanover-- we have friends who live locally and we could socially quarantine with them and tap into their community. But one of the couple is also immune compromised so couldn't take the kids if we got sick. We would be closer to a large hospital and closer to the border if we decide to go to Canada. I have more confidence in Vermont's state government that NH in a crisis. I think this isn't a strong option, but it's on our list so I wanted to include it in case I'm missing a major advantage.

* Near New Bedford-- This is another that may be a non-starter but I'm including for thoroughness. My brother and his wife live new New Bedford and are expecting a baby shortly. They have been fully quarantined in their home for two weeks with friends dropping groceries. One possibility is that we could get a big Airbnb nearby big enough for us and my parents and could also support my sibling and his new family and while we would still be near Martha's Vineyard my father would be less tempted to go into the hospital because he'd be on the mainland. Disadvantages are really limited Airbnbs and Vrbos. We don't know anyone except for my brother. We'd need to count on them not breaking quarantine but presumably they'll need to take sweet new baby in for appointments?

So. Those are the options. If you were picking, which would you pick and why? Is there a different option I'm not thinking of? And how long do you think we likely have to make a decision? I have major concerns about travel bans or state border closures, etc. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.
posted by jeszac to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would go to Montreal, if your income is okay enough to rent the Air B&B indefinitely; otherwise to your husband's family (presumably they are still in Canada?) or to your family.

First priority is a working health system if someone gets sick enough to need hospitalization, and you're more likely to have that in Quebec.
posted by tivalasvegas at 12:07 PM on March 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Quick clarification- we’re Canadian through my side of the family but no longer have any family who live there. Just my college friends. My husband’s family is not in the picture.
posted by jeszac at 12:17 PM on March 23, 2020

Best answer: I posted some links to articles with data about hospital readiness and when peaks are expected to hit various areas of the US in this previous AskMe: How's your COVID bunker treating you?, which is similar to your question.
posted by katra at 12:17 PM on March 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Are you sure they'll let you cross the border into Canada? Non-essential travel has been suspended and seeing how you don't live in Canada they might not let you in. Maybe contact your local consulate to make sure you'll be allowed to cross.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:25 PM on March 23, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Could you rent an AirBnB in larger house in Massachusetts, somewhere outside the city but close enough that people could help if needed?
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 12:35 PM on March 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Are you sure they'll let you cross the border into Canada? Non-essential travel has been suspended and seeing how you don't live in Canada they might not let you in

Just to head this off, Canadian citizens can still cross the border to return home to Canada.

From Public Safety Canada (sorry for the Twitter link): "Canadian citizens, permanent residents and status Indians can cross back into Canada."
posted by andrewesque at 12:38 PM on March 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The safest thing is to stay where you are. Turn your car around so they can't see the plates, or put a note on the door that you're a long-term renter and practicing social distancing, so please leave items at the door. Even switching rental properties comes with a risk because you don't know who has been in and out of there and would have to literally sanitize it top to bottom.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:53 PM on March 23, 2020 [17 favorites]

Best answer: Of your options, staying where you are seems much the best, with returning to Somerville a close second. I wouldn't return to the Vineyard, and all the other options put you at a more serious disadvantage w/r/t access to services and/or community relationships you can rely on.

Also just the stress of travel and relocation is not something anyone needs to expose themselves to needlessly jsut now.
posted by Miko at 1:15 PM on March 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: What's your healthcare situation like? Something to think of is whether any care you may need would be covered. You and your family are Canadian citizens but it would take time to re-establish residency for government funded healthcare. I don't know what Quebec's guidelines are, but for OHIP in Ontario someone isn't covered for the first 3 months from the date they re-establish residency in Ontario.

Could you rent a larger space near your apartment with an outdoor space? I'd stick close to your support network, but not necessarily your parents (assuming they are elderly). Or I'd come to Canada knowing that you may have to pay out of pocket for care. If you choose to cross the Canadian Border, you will be required to self-isolate for 14 days so be prepared for that (i.e., have grocery delivery arranged).
posted by snowysoul at 1:18 PM on March 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Having lived on the Vineyard for many years in the past I think you should go there because it's a small supportive community with plenty of open spaces. As an islander you should be able to find a long term rental there where you can properly shelter in place but have family nearby if you need them. Ask your parents to ask around.
posted by mareli at 2:24 PM on March 23, 2020

Best answer: for OHIP in Ontario someone isn't covered for the first 3 months from the date they re-establish residency in Ontario

At least Ontario and BC are temporarily waiving the standard waiting period given the current circumstances. Who knows if other provinces will follow suit, but something to keep an eye on since the situation is moving so quickly.
posted by btfreek at 3:00 PM on March 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I feel like anything other than hunkering down exactly where you are exposes you to the most risk of all, especially right now when we know a lot of us have this thing and are asymptomatic. During your trip, you might need to pump gas or use public bathrooms. Then you'd need to quarantine yourselves for two weeks at your new destination before you could go out in public again. Park your car so the out-of-state plates don't show. Make socially distant friends with delivery people. What you're asking -- it's too late. You can't outrun this thing, and where are you are is good enough. Stay where you are and protect your family.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:15 PM on March 23, 2020 [10 favorites]

fyi: Trying to escape the coronavirus, the well-heeled flee to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard (Boston Globe)
But the influx — by some accounts, several thousand people have arrived on Nantucket alone — has set off resentment among some of the islands’ full-time residents, who worry that virus refugees will deplete groceries and other crucial supplies that must be brought by ferry and, most of all, that someone carrying the infection will touch off a medical crisis.

“I don’t speak for everyone on the island, but I think it’s a pretty common belief," Gordon Healy, an assistant manager at a Martha’s Vineyard animal shelter, said Tuesday. “If you don’t need to be here, if you don’t have a reason to be here, it doesn’t make sense for you to be here.”

On online message boards, some islanders have discouraged these part-time residents from coming. Local officials have voiced similar concerns; Nantucket officials on Tuesday announced they’d asked the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to limit passenger service to the island.

[...] The bigger concern, however, is the stress a potential outbreak could put on local medical resources. On Tuesday, Gary Shaw, president and chief executive of the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, which has 14 licensed beds, said in a statement the hospital is designed for routine surgeries and procedures, with no intensive care unit and few ventilators and respirators. “We are working with limited medical resources and personnel on our small island," he said.
posted by katra at 3:44 PM on March 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Vineyard has 3 ICU beds. Don't go there
posted by (Over) Thinking at 3:45 PM on March 23, 2020 [8 favorites]

The islands just ordered to shelter in place and they’re not looking kindly on mainlanders moving there for the duration, given that they have very limited medical resources off season.

I’d stay in NH because it minimizes the risk of travel or go back to Somerville, personally, though the lack of outdoor space is less than ideal with the kids. Social support is going to help dramatically, we’re going to be in this all together. Short term rental just outside the city is also an option I would consider (we’re in Concord) because proximity to home and great hospitals is important, but so is being able to be outside in isolation.
posted by lydhre at 5:05 PM on March 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, where you are is good, because you know you're all safe there. But coming back to Somerville would get you more contacts to help and a wider choice of medical help - NH doesn't have the beds that Greater Boston does. Given your currently having a bunch of groceries and being safe, I'd stay where you are for now, consider coming home (with no to little stops as possible) as my next best bet.
posted by ldthomps at 5:22 PM on March 23, 2020

Hunker down where you are at. Mefimail me if you want me to check in on your folks.
posted by vrakatar at 7:50 PM on March 23, 2020

Here in New Jersey people have been flocking to the shore to hunker down in their summer homes and they are overwhelming the area, which at this time of year is not ready to receive these visitors. The stores etc are still on winter staffing levels meant to support the year-round folks. It will be a terrible place to hunker as this thing escalates.
posted by Otter_Handler at 4:38 AM on March 24, 2020

Best answer: I would leave the states and head to Montreal. The chance of civil unrest is pretty much non-existent and there are alot of icu beds here compared to rural locations. If you are going to leave I would say leave now & take bathroom breaks on the side of the road and pack lunches, don't stop anywhere public. As you know, we have public healthcare and that's a big deal right now, everyone will be taken care of. Rent a place even in a small town just outside the city. People are taking covid-19 seriously here in montreal and the public trusts the government & public health leadership which is reassuring in such scary times. The city has basically shut down but exceptions are made for the liquor store, take out and groceries. People go for walks and bikerides in the city and smile at each other. It's not too bad at this point. As long as you stay inside for 14 days then you can bike ride and walk around in relative peace up here. Also we've just been ordered all to stay in for 3 weeks and even parks are closed so you'll be doing pretty much what everyone else is doing.
posted by Ladydetective at 9:24 PM on March 24, 2020

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