Quarantining together
April 23, 2020 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Me and my family have been quarantining for 5+ weeks. My friends family has done the same. How much risk is there for us to spend a few days all together at their house?
posted by pmaxwell to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Quarantining as in zero outside contact, eg getting everything delivered? Or have you been making essential trips for groceries, etc?
posted by rikschell at 9:51 AM on April 23, 2020

By quarantining do you mean no member of either family has left the house in that time? Or are you both still going out for walks? Take out? Weekly shopping? Just how strict each of your ideas of actually quarantining are will play a big part in the answers you get I suspect. If you've been like most people & done quarantine light with outside walks & shopping trips & hey let's help out the local restaurants & order a pick up meal. I'd say that's a pretty high risk. If it's been zero outside contact no member of either family has left their house in five weeks, deliveries are cleaned & treated & no old people or immuno compromised people are involved it would be a lot lower risk though not a nonzero one.
posted by wwax at 9:56 AM on April 23, 2020 [11 favorites]

As the other comments indicate, there isnt really enough information provided to assess your specific risk here. Regardless of your risk level currently, it will go up if you follow this plan. If youre currently at very-low (very infrequent outside contacts/deliveries/comings and goings) it might go up to low-moderate, youre exposing everyone to anyone everyone else has come into contact with.

We have friends with kids who chose to do this - they decided early on that their collective sanity was worth the increased risk because they trusted each other and no one in either household was at a particularly high risk based on medical factors or lifestyle (everyone was fully WFH etc).

The real social risk is that this is a slippery slope discipline-wise and if its okay to see some people and then they think its ok to see some other people . . .
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 10:21 AM on April 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

Well how much risk is there for each of you living however you’ve been living? Add that all together and add in some extra for getting back and forth and that’s more or less your answer. In New York I probably wouldn’t do this.
posted by aubilenon at 10:25 AM on April 23, 2020

How much risk is there for us

This is the wrong question. The risk is for the rest of us who you will meet along the way, and on everyone's next trip out, and the next one after that, and after that, especially those of us who need the medical system to survive.

In Singapore, Korea and here in Hong Kong - all societies with far better contact tracing than many other places - cases have been tracked to single flights, malls, and church services. And of course, the higher the number of people in a shared space, the higher the risk of spread across a community.

For example, if you have two families in one house, how are you planning to feed all those people? If one person goes to the grocery store, they'll be bringing the virus home to a larger cluster of people than before. Two four-person homes sharing a meal over Zoom in which one four-person home eventually becomes carriers while the other does not is far safer for everyone else in society than one eight-person home in which all eight people become carriers, because there is necessarily a lower number of people that four, rather than eight, carriers might meet. The risk is greater if the people who all have been quarantining and feeling fine take fewer precautions with masks, distancing and personal hygiene in the convivial atmosphere you describe.

I don't know you, for example, but I can tell you that I do not imagine you all wearing PPE in the home together, segregating yourselves to separate floors and bathrooms, or eating in stages with heavy disinfection taking place between meal shifts.

You should all be doing whatever you can to reduce transmission of any disease possible in a situation with a lot of people in one house. This trip is too risky to the rest of society at this time.
posted by mdonley at 10:46 AM on April 23, 2020 [26 favorites]

I would not recommend it unless everyone involved has been staying 100% in your house for at least two weeks. But if you do go ahead, you'll have expanded your contacts so you should also plan to do 100% quarantine for at least two weeks after you separate again, for the sake of anyone you might come into contact with if you go out to shop, walk around, etc. Make sure you're taking that into account in your calculations.

Without more information firmly establishing that everyone involved has been intensely quarantining and is prepared to do so for several weeks to come, I'd say don't do it. Everyone wants to make just that one exception for just that one special friend, and I'd love to go see my best friend too, but if we all do that, that's how social distancing breaks down.
posted by Stacey at 10:53 AM on April 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Epidemiologists do not recommend this kind of thing.
posted by pinochiette at 11:12 AM on April 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

None of us here are experts. I'll provide the unpopular opinion:

I think it's fine. The risks to you and others are low enough to be trivial.

(And comparing large households to giant migrant dorms, as one commenter did, is not reasonable or helpful.)
posted by mkuhnell at 11:13 AM on April 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

I am going to agree with those who've said that both families' ideas of quarantine would have to be far far stricter than what most people are using as their functional definition of quarantine for this to be in any way advisable.

I will add that it's also not a great idea simply because of the optics of the event. 'We're all in this together' only works if it's a shared sacrifice. When the neighbors see a carload of people unload and all of the extra activity in the host household they will either be angry that you are not distancing, or be emboldened to not distance themselves, and then the next family and the next until too many people feel that if it's okay for others then it's okay for them. This is why it was so insidiously nasty of Ivanka and fam to travel to a holiday get-together. It re-affirms the idea that rules are for other people.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:40 AM on April 23, 2020 [14 favorites]

None of us here are experts. I'll provide the unpopular opinion:

I think it's fine. The risks to you and others are low enough to be trivial.

And comparing large households to giant migrant dorms, as one commenter did, is not reasonable or helpful.

The fact that the reality of exactly what you are doing is making you have a sad is exactly why your opinion is unpopular.

pmaxwell: you are effectively merging your households. Also, everyone you come into contact in the 14-21 days after this will also effectively be in contact with this other family. If enough people get as loose with the rules as you seem to be comtemplating, we might as well just lift the quarantine all together and accept that 1-2 million Americans just have to die.
posted by sideshow at 11:45 AM on April 23, 2020 [3 favorites]

Another unpopular opinion. Coronavirus is pretty hard to catch if your only trips out are brief shopping trips or walks where you are reasonably cautious. For an average young person (not immunocompromised), you need a decent viral load to get infected in the first place. If someone works outside the house or spends a lot of time outside, then yes, but otherwise I say you are fairly low risk.
posted by moiraine at 11:45 AM on April 23, 2020 [4 favorites]

I would look at it as; you would be throwing away all the "sacrifices" y'all HAVE made in the last five weeks and would be starting again "from scratch"...
posted by runincircles at 11:54 AM on April 23, 2020 [7 favorites]

The answer is no you shouldn't do this, not because this one exception would be so bad, but because all the rest of us also want this one exception, and then we're all fucked. Some people will have to make exceptions, for medical reasons or because of something urgent. But if this is just something you want to do, because you'd like to be with these people, please take your lumps like the rest of us.

We're all in this together, and I'm not seeing my friends or family (except for outside from 20 feet away wearing masks), so please do the same. Some people will have to make exceptions--I have a friend who needs a nanny because she has four kids and still has to earn a living. If you do not need to do this for the physical or economic health of your family, please do not do it.
posted by gideonfrog at 11:55 AM on April 23, 2020 [24 favorites]

How are you going to feel if you do this and someone in your family gets really sick?

How is this other family going to feel about you, if you do this and someone in their family gets really sick?

You can't possibly know how strict this other family has been with their exposure, and they can't possibly know how strict you've been.

Exceptions to stay at home orders are for people who have significant health risk if they do NOT stay at home. By staying home, you are making it safer for those who NEED to leave their homes to do so when they need to.

Exceptions are NOT for people who just don't want to stay at home, or who are a bit lonely, or who are just craving social interaction.

We are all lonely and craving social interaction. Except for essential activity like getting food/necessities, you should stay at home.
posted by invincible summer at 12:12 PM on April 23, 2020 [5 favorites]

I'm a nurse. I don't get to stay home safely, *and* I don't get to see my loved ones.

This upcoming Saturday is the one year anniversary of my father's death. My mother and I were supposed to spend the day scattering his ashes in his favorite places. Instead we'll both cry into the phone.

I'm asking you as nicely as I can, because I am at the very, very end of my frayed rope with regard to questions like these: don't do this. Stay home. Stay home. Stay home.
posted by jesourie at 12:17 PM on April 23, 2020 [91 favorites]

Risk of coronavirus, risk of a fine in your area (in my area this plan is not currently legal), or risk that you will suffer social consequences when people find out and know that you chose not to so that you could hang out with your friends while the majority of the rest of us stayed home?
posted by warriorqueen at 12:45 PM on April 23, 2020

I'm too paranoid to do what you're talking about. I snuck out of the house waaaaay to many times when I was young and a quarantine wouldn't have stopped me.

Or who's having an affair in your group of friends and sneaking off to see their lover?

The larger the group, the higher the probability that one person just broke quarantine that once. Humans are very unreliable.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:57 PM on April 23, 2020 [9 favorites]

This would be against the rules where I live but might be one of the things that becomes allowed sooner when we start lifting restrictions so I would wait. It's not a game of find the loophole.
posted by plonkee at 12:59 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also, there are a lot of judgy people out there, but the harsh truth is that this situation will likely continue for a very long time, so we have to learn to live with it. Here's what an article from the Guardian has to say about this, albeit for the UK:

Any vaccine or cure could be a year away at best and we are almost certainly further than ministers like to admit from a workable mass “test, trace, isolate” strategy.

And that’s where the idea of quarantine buddies comes in - although Prof Stefan Flasche, epidemiologist and mathematical modeller at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, prefers the formal term “contact clustering”.

The experimental concept he is currently plugging into his model is that instead of keeping strictly to socialising within their own households, a couple of families or a group of friends could agree to form an exclusive social pod. Everyone in it would still avoid anything but essential contact with outsiders, but within the circle of trust, they could relax and let their guard down. Children could play together, adults might pool home-schooling duties to give themselves time to work, and lonely single people could find someone to hang out with.
Belgium’s elegantly named “deconfinement” committee has proposed letting groups of up to 10 people meet socially once a week, so long as it’s always the same 10. In Israel, up to three families can share childcare.

posted by moiraine at 1:31 PM on April 23, 2020 [6 favorites]

In Australia, where the corona outbreak has been much smaller than where your profile says your are, this kind of gathering is illegal at the moment in pretty much all states and territories.

Hopefully soon we will be able to expand our bubbles a bit more (to borrow the NZ term) but at the moment we need to stay the course.
posted by freethefeet at 4:18 PM on April 23, 2020

Let's assume the following, because at some point you have to trust the people you live with. If one of the people in either family is sneaking off to crowded raves or crowded Easter services then this wouldn't be true.

1) Nobody is sneaking out and spending times in large groups of people.
2) Everybody has been taking appropriate precautions for 14+ days such as food deliveries, pick up orders from grocery stores where they put your order in your trunk, etc. I'd include minimal grocery store trips in this as well assuming six feet distancing and other appropriate precautions are being followed.
3) Nobody in either family is at higher risk for covid (e.g. if one of the family members is 90 or immune compromised, don't do this).

I say do it, and move in for the long haul. I would argue that is better than living separately. Only one person should go grocery shopping and run any essential errands. By doing this you've reduced the number of trips all of you are taking, from one person per family to one person for two families. That's a win.

I know some people who are living alone. All this isolation can't be good. If I were in that situation I would pick a quarantine buddy I trusted and not worry about contact with that one person or family. It's similar for parents with children, especially if both are trying to work. Four working parents and four kids means each parent can take one day off per week to provide childcare for all, leaving only one day where the adults are constantly interrupted and the kids are constantly ignored or binging netflix.

This is not a pass to pick a different family each week to hang out with. Don't do that. It's realistically acknowledging the small risks and huge benefits of expanding a small social circle to a slightly larger one while not increasing or even decreasing the number of external contacts. The longer this goes on the more important that will be.
posted by unix at 5:05 PM on April 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

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