COVID-19 risk analysis
May 16, 2020 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Risk analysis please. My partner is 69. We have had only 24 cases in our county, which is almost entirely opened back up. His son is visiting him and thinks it's fine to be out and about, and his daughter is planning to visit with her family in a few weeks, traveling from the next state over. I realize the risk is low but I feel like the potential consequences are so dire, especially for him but also for me, that I'm just not comfortable with it. I am worried about him but I think the analysis is super low risk of him getting it vs. the 100% certainty of causing family friction if I try to interfere with anyone else's actions. My inclination is to say hey, I totally understand everyone's point of view and do not want to cause a problem, have a great time with your kids and I'll see you a few weeks from now. We don't live together so this wouldn't cause a problem for anyone other than we would miss each other. But maybe I'm being unnecessarily cautious?
posted by Bluesocking to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Regardless of the level of risk, I think this is completely within your rights to do. A good partner would respect your concerns about your own health here, even as they must make their own decisions about their own health. His choosing to have guests where domestic travel is not restricted (right?) is not crazy unreasonable--but I wouldn't want my own mom, older than him, doing it right now.

We are now in a delightful situation where official guidance in U.S. localities may not be scientifically-based (or based on active denial of science!), and yet the risk and the best risk mitigation measures are quite imperfectly understood even by science. I think this calls for at least a certain margin of mutual tolerance on differing risk assessments and mitigations.
posted by praemunire at 2:25 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]

Totally your call. Coronavirus is 10 times as deadly to a 69 year old as to a 40 year old, and 20 times as deadly as to a 35 year old. This thing isn't over! Is his daughter planning on staying with him? I'd strongly discourage that. Y'all can see one another, with masks and 6-foot physical distance. Yes, you'll catch a lot of grief for being too cautious, but come September, you'll be the wise one.
posted by at at 2:33 PM on May 16 [13 favorites]

Don't encourage or discourage anyone else's actions or choices. Just make your own choices. Isolating from your partner for two weeks after his family leaves is a perfectly reasonable choice.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:51 PM on May 16 [32 favorites]

I'm 43 and I don't think you're being unnecessarily cautious. I'm not comfortable being around anyone right now who doesn't live in my house, and I think it's fine and normal that you don't want to participate in this family reunion.
posted by something something at 3:25 PM on May 16 [11 favorites]

As states reopen, there are public health experts who believe that "just because you now can go out in public doesn’t mean you should" and "this is not the time to plan family gatherings," and that we need to be prepared for the virus to surge. Public opinion also appears to be on the side of caution, with recent polling by Gallup indicating that "73% of U.S. adults say the better advice for healthy people is to stay-at-home as much as possible, rather than leading their normal lives as much as possible (27%).

There are also serious concerns from public health experts that there is not enough contact tracing or testing available to "safely reopen society," and according to Fauci, “The major message that I wish to convey … is the danger of trying to open the country prematurely.” As noted in STAT News, when "diagnostic testing remains so limited [...] a second surge of cases could silently build." Given all of the reporting about the current state of testing, the low numbers reported in your county may not be an effective way to assess the risk you are asking about in your question.

The current lack of adequate testing and contact tracing may be a key point, because according to public health experts, e.g. "Experts warned that, without enough testing, the state may not be able to keep up with new infections. “If you have a hurricane that’s coming, you want to make sure you have our weather satellites up in the air and ready to go to track your hurricane,” said health policy researcher Thomas Tsai. “You don’t wait for the hurricane to come to launch your satellites.” (Dallas Morning News, via Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health coronavirus news updates).

However, NBC News recently obtained an unreleased White House report that shows coronavirus rates spiking in heartland communities, and notes, "the spiking infection rates suggest that the pandemic is spreading quickly outside major coastal population centers that were early hot spots," and previously, a public health expert described the arrival of COVID-19 to rural areas as “it’s like our worst nightmare coming true.” So your feeling about the potential consequences being dire seems well-supported by public health expertise, but I'm less sure about your assessment of a "super low risk of him getting it" under the circumstances you describe in your question, including because of how much we currently don't seem to know about the prevalence and how quickly the coronavirus may spread.
posted by katra at 4:56 PM on May 16 [10 favorites]

I totally support your decision, and anyone who truly cares about you would do the same. This is a no-brainer.
posted by raisingsand at 6:15 PM on May 16

To answer your question, no, you are not being overly cautious. This thing wrecks people and it is highly contagious and we still don't even understand it that well. I agree with you staying away while his daughter visits and then for at least two weeks afterward. It's your life you have to choose to protect if you can't protect his.
posted by tzikeh at 7:23 PM on May 16 [4 favorites]

You are not being unnecessarily cautious. Also, you get to decide what you are comfortable with and base your behavior on that. It literally should not matter if 100 Internet strangers were telling you that you did not need to be that cautious if hanging out with all those people made you feel uncomfortable. This particular Internet stranger would absolutely choose to stay away while the family was visiting and then stay home an additional two weeks after all the family had left to make sure that my partner was not sick before seeing him again. You do you; it’s OK to have boundaries. In this case, it’s not just OK-it’s also smart.
posted by Bella Donna at 9:28 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]

In terms of persuading him to not take risks, it's almost more difficult than if you were living together, in a way. It's harder for a reasonable person to argue with someone saying "I will not allow you to put me at risk, and that means you can't expose yourself." But in terms of protecting yourself, that makes it really simple. Absolutely just don't see him until the quarantine period is over.

I think you're right to be worried; I don't actually think the risk is low, I wish I could say otherwise. I wouldn't dream of doing what he's doing, and I'm in my 30s and not officially high risk. This isn't safe for anyone.
But if you can't convince him to protect himself, yes, you should protect yourself. What you're proposing is eminently reasonable.

And who knows, there's always the possibility that if you show him just how serious you are about the danger of this by refusing to see him until the quarantine period is over, he'll rethink. (That shouldn't be your plan because he very well might not, but it's a possibility).
posted by BlueNorther at 8:09 AM on May 18

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