Is it time to go home to Massachusetts? Covid 19 edition
April 26, 2020 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Hi, ask mefi. My husband, baby and I traveled to Va on March 9th. Extended house work planned to take 2 weeks. We’re staying at my in-laws. Pandemic! It’s been 7 weeks. I am scared to make the 12 hour trip with a 5 month old to Massachusetts, the third biggest outbreak site in the country. We are welcome to stay here and have all been getting along fairly well. But, it’s been weeks since we’ve been home! Should we stay or should we go now?

I have been religiously viewing The NY Times, los alamos and ihme models to try and get a sense of when it would be safe.
Please help me decide Internet. What other models should I consider? Am I endangering my son if we make the trip? Is it possible to restock our house in MA (north shore of Boston).
Would it be reasonable to try to use our nanny after a 14 day quarantine? (If she agrees, of course)
Our in-laws currently help out about 5 hours a day with our son while we both work.
Please be kind with my crazy question. I am struggling!
posted by natasha_k to Science & Nature (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It would certainly be possible to do those things safely, but is it really worth the stress and (small, with proper planning) risk if you're in a decent situation already? I wouldn't, absent some particular need to return home.
posted by wierdo at 8:47 AM on April 26, 2020

Best answer: My coworkers with young kids have been struggling. I would stay in Virginia if your in-laws are taking care of the kids. There is no childcare in Massachusetts for the most part (unless you are an essential worker) and it would be irresponsible to use a nanny unless she lives with you.

I live on the north shore and the grocery store is fine - there are certain things you can't get week to week (this past week it was canned soup and bread flour), but the shelves aren't stripped bare anymore. Market Basket is more on top of stocking than Stop and Shop.

A lot of public restrooms are closed, so the drive might be hard. Twelve hours with no breaks could be really uncomfortable.
posted by marfa, texas at 8:50 AM on April 26, 2020 [9 favorites]

Don't estimate the value of on-hand childcare. Maybe talk with or email your nanny about her willingness and the additional pay you would need to give her. That is what will determine if this is even possible.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:51 AM on April 26, 2020

Best answer: As a parent of two kids quarantined in NYC, my inclination, were I in your shoes, would be to stay put... but it very much depends on the fine details of your circumstances.

The trip itself wouldn't scare me -- presuming you're driving, I think the exposure risk could be minimal if handled properly. It might be unpleasant, but it's doable. And once you're safely ensconced at home, you can control your infection risk to a large extent.

Stocking up might be difficult; I don't know what the situation is in MA. But I'd find it rather daunting if I were just arriving in NY.

For me, the help of the in-laws would be the key. If you need to replace that with a nanny in MA, that might be a dealbreaker. Even if you were able to get a nanny who agreed to come daily, you'd have to keep in mind that she's a potential vector of infection... once she leaves your house each evening, she's living her life, rendering a quarantine period pretty much moot. If you need the childcare to function in your job, I think I'd stick with the present situation -- presuming it's tolerable for all parties -- rather than risk entering into something much more difficult.
posted by cgs06 at 8:59 AM on April 26, 2020 [6 favorites]

We have two small children (nearly 5 months and 2.5 years) in Northern California and I would love to have the ability for my inlaws or parents to help out. It's difficult for me to work while my wife is doing fulltime childcare; it will be even more difficult when she returns to work and we're both 50%. I'd stay put, absent any hard requirements to go home.
posted by kdar at 9:01 AM on April 26, 2020

Best answer: If it is practical to stay put, you should. Massachusetts is literally at the peak of its pandemic curve right now, and the Baker's briefings suggest the state doesn't expect the rate of new cases to begin dropping for at least another week. The criteria for the state to consider a phased relaxation of the stay-at-home advisory requires two straight weeks of declining cases. In the absolute best case scenario, that would be mid-May.

Do not go home yet.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:20 AM on April 26, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Is your nanny a live-in and willing to follow stay-at-home? If no, stay where you are.
Would you have easy access to delivery or pick-up services at home? If no, stay where you are.
Do you have a yard at home so you can get some fresh air without leaving home? If no, stay where you are.

Things that might adjust this, or what needs done, for you or anyone else...
Are there pets at home that someone else is caring for?
Do you have the contact info (and visa versa) of a friend or neighbor who is or can very lightly keep on eye on things?
Did you have your mail held or forwarded, or is it piling up at home?

Some of these things wouldn't indicate go home, but might indicate one of you taking a quick trip up there. If it were me needing to make a quick trip home in these circumstances, it would involve taking food, beverages, blanket, pillow, and toilet paper with me for the drive... and the ONLY stops would be as few as absolutely required for gas. I'd sleep in the car if I got too tired to drive it all in one day.

Honestly, if I had a 5-month old, was working from home, and had (good) family that was willing to help and everyone was getting along... I'd totally count my blessings and stay put. A quick trip to check on things and retrieve any items that might make life more comfortable, made by ONE person (or, I suppose both, for an even faster trip with shared driving, if everyone was ok with baby staying a couple days with just grandparents), that would totally be within the tools I'd use to make it more mentally comfortable for myself.
posted by stormyteal at 9:28 AM on April 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Do not travel during a pandemic.

It's called "Shelter in Place" for a reason. If you move about you are a potential vector for the disease. If anything happens during a 12 hour trip you are an even greater potential vector for the disease.

Stay where you are if you can. Don't look to make excuses for yourself to potentially be a bad actor. If people are allowed excuses then everyone will have an excuse and this shitshow will be even worse for even longer.
posted by srboisvert at 9:44 AM on April 26, 2020 [5 favorites]

If you don't already, read Universal Hub to keep up with conditions in MA.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:56 AM on April 26, 2020

Best answer: I have been religiously viewing The NY Times, los alamos and ihme models to try and get a sense of when it would be safe.

This April 8, 2020 WaPo article offers what I think are helpful perspectives on models and particularly the IHME model: America’s most influential coronavirus model just revised its estimates downward. But not every model agrees. (ADN reprint), including "“When you plan, you want to plan for the worst-case, not for the average or best-case,” said Natalie Dean, an assistant professor of biostatistics at University of Florida. “Because the risk is not proportional.”" and "By drawing on the multiple models, experts are often able to better triangulate their predictions and assumptions. This is why weather experts often draw on several models rather than one in forecasting storms, using an “ensemble” or “suite” of models. Such ensembles are also what generate the cone of uncertainty for hurricanes."

Based on everything I am hearing from people that I know with young children right now, it does sound like you are very fortunate to have capable in-laws to provide regular in-home childcare, as well as anything else they are doing to help maintain the home, like cooking, cleaning and laundry. You may have a right to unemployment insurance due to the increased child care responsibilities that could follow from losing that option, and you may be able to avoid going to grocery stores by ordering basic supplies online, but Massachusetts currently advises, "Even if you do not have symptoms, stay home as much as you can" and their additional guidance says "Staying home means: Only leave home for essential errands such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy." Similarly, The Virginia Department of Health is also urging everyone to stay home. "These changes will likely be challenging and disrupting. If everyone practices social distancing, it can have a real and important impact to slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the community."
posted by katra at 10:34 AM on April 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the perspectives. I marked several as best. I was hoping to hear “it’s fine! You’re overreacting!”, but y’all are right. We’re lucky and will stay put for now are re-evaluate in a few weeks.
Stay safe and thanks
posted by natasha_k at 1:08 PM on April 26, 2020 [6 favorites]

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