Covid-19, anxiety, parents
April 1, 2020 7:11 AM   Subscribe

I've been trying to isolate myself as much as possible for more than a week now, with the intention of visiting my parents (both over 65, one with a health condition that creates additional risk). However, I live in a multi-resident building and any time I walk out my front door, I am in a shared space.

I've done my best to be careful about avoiding touching any common surfaces, not touching my face and washing my hands any time I go out. And I'm trying to go out as little as humanly possible. However at times I've briefly been within less than 6 feet of another building resident - this is most likely to happen when waiting for an elevator or when walking into a small space where it's not immediately obvious that someone else is there, or not a lot of room to step away from them when they exit (say when Person A is approaching a room at the end of a hallway and Person B suddenly exits that room, and the only way to remain 6 feet would be for Person A to turn and walk ahead of B until they turn down another hall or another room). I have to leave my apartment for mail, prescriptions, and to do laundry. I try to do these things rarely. At some point I'll have to leave to get groceries and other necessities.

My parents live in their own home about an hour away. I was planning to visit them in a few days and now I'm having trouble deciding if it's safe for me to do so, and also having trouble deciding to what degree I'm being anxious and to what degree I'm being practical.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
No. The answer to all these questions is no. You've been entering poorly ventilated shared spaces where viral particles could be lingering in the air. You could have been exposed and be a carrier, or not develop symptoms until after seeing them. Call them, Facetime them, talk to them from outside their house without going inside, but don't visit them.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:14 AM on April 1, 2020 [42 favorites]

Going is imprudent. You dont even offer a reason for your visit to your folks? like, just to see them/say hi? you've been limiting contact but not isolated, im afraid.

We live in NYC and were offered a place in a relatives home a couple hours away, and have decided not to do that at the moment even though in that scenario we were planning on full isolation (within their home) to a separate bedroom/bathroom for two weeks.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 7:20 AM on April 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

You should proceed under the assumption that you could, at this moment, be harboring asymptomatic coronavirus; you've been out and about in the world touching things and sharing space with people, and haven't been quarantined in a meaningful sense that would protect your parents. Proceed with that in mind when making your plans. Social distancing is harm reduction but it's not 100% protection.

Which is to say, don't go visit them. I guess if you can drive straight there without stopping or touching anything but your car on the way, stand on their front lawn and talk to them from six feet away while also staying six feet from anyone who might pass by on the sidewalk, and then turn and go home with all the same restrictions, then sure. But unless there's something you need to bring them (that can be safely disinfected) it's probably not worth the trip when you could call or videoconference with them from home instead and have more and more comfortable quality time with them and no chance of unexpected issues like a car breakdown making you come into contact with people.
posted by Stacey at 7:40 AM on April 1, 2020 [7 favorites]

I also don't think you should go, not just because you live in a shared building, but because visiting relatives socially is simply not what social distancing is. Even if you lived in a cabin in the woods and hadn't been within a mile of anyone in a year, they could get you sick, and then you could take up resources needed by others, etc.
posted by bright flowers at 7:44 AM on April 1, 2020 [28 favorites]

Your situation totally sucks but social distancing means staying away from people, including your parents. Like the medical health professionals say, they are going to work for us so we need to stay home for them. I am sorry but you need to take one for the team and, also, for the health of your parents and everyone else. Stay home, please. It is the right thing to do.
posted by Bella Donna at 8:04 AM on April 1, 2020 [11 favorites]

If one or both of your parents come down with this thing, will that have been worth the visit? No. No it will not have been worth the visit. Everyone is stressed and anxious and scared. Stay home.
posted by Glinn at 8:17 AM on April 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

The State of Oregon has launched a public awareness campaign with a video that makes a stark point about the need to stay home. "You decide how many people live or die. Stay Home. Save Lives."

Also, just because you are anxious, it doesn't mean that you are impractical. These are not mutually exclusive concepts, especially during a public health emergency, because it is frightening, and the risks are real. There are many previous AskMes, as well as information from public health authorities and FPPs, collected on the MeFi Wiki Disaster Planning & Recovery page, Medical/Pandemic section, if you want to review more data and discussion on why it so important to stay home.
posted by katra at 8:43 AM on April 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

It helped me the other day to read that as much as we like to wish it were, social distancing is not a magic talisman. It's never been a way to guarantee that you're safe if you stand X feet away. It's a tool to hopefully reduce the number of infections, not eliminate them.
You have made it less likely that you're infected, but no one knows how much less likely, and it's not a guarantee - not even if you'd been 6 feet apart constantly. It's not worth the risk.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:57 AM on April 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

What DoubleLune said. The researchers are saying that droplets from a cough or sneeze can linger in the air for more than 20 minutes. An apartment-building vestibule would be the ideal place for that to happen. So you'd have no idea, when going in or out of the building, whether you were breathing stuff from a sneeze that happened 10 minutes before.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:29 AM on April 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

It isn't safe. Don't go. Of course, there's always a chance that you could *get away with it*, but if enough people do it, a certain percentage (what percentage, we don't know, of course, and may never know) will carry the virus to their parents--and a certain percentage of those parents will die. Getting away with it isn't the same as being safe. You aren't special, and it could be you. Don't go.
posted by pullayup at 10:46 AM on April 1, 2020 [4 favorites]

According to sources, such as How Long Will Coronavirus Live on Surfaces or in the Air Around You? (NYT / NEJM study)
When the virus becomes suspended in droplets smaller than five micrometers — known as aerosols — it can stay suspended for about a half-hour, researchers said, before drifting down and settling on surfaces where it can linger for hours.
More recently, an MIT researcher says droplets carrying coronavirus can travel up to 27 feet (USA Today)

In addition, you can be Infected but Feeling Fine: The Unwitting Coronavirus Spreaders (NYT / reprint) and a ‘negative’ coronavirus test result doesn’t always mean you aren’t infected (WaPo / MSN).
posted by katra at 10:57 AM on April 1, 2020 [3 favorites]

If you can't bear not to see them, one friend has been going on the nicest days and sitting on her mom's porch to chat on the phone while her mom is inside the storm door on her phone. They sometimes have a drink they each brought or knitting show and tell, etc. It's a long drive for that, but it would be safer than being exposed to each other.
posted by ldthomps at 12:03 PM on April 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

It is not safe for you to visit them. Don't go. There's no decision to be made here, just a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do. They're at significant risk, and so are you. The right thing to do is to stay home and protect everybody.
posted by invincible summer at 12:14 PM on April 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

In addition to all the virus-related reasons not to go, even the small chance that you might get into an accident en route and end up taking up medical capacity, is a reason not to go. Yes, the odds of you as an individual getting in an accident on this one journey are small, but the more people decide their odds are small and they'll do 'just this one trip', the more accidents there will be overall and the higher the unnecessary burden on the health care system.

Stay at home. It's a simple instruction and we all need to follow it, not assume that we're all unique exceptions that can probably just break the rule this once. That's not how it works. Stay. At. Home.
posted by penguin pie at 3:34 PM on April 1, 2020 [5 favorites]

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