Should I stay in a vacation house during a time of covid uncertainty?
June 18, 2020 7:09 AM   Subscribe

My family has had a vacation booked for the July 4th weekend in Florida since the beginning of the year. I'm starting to get nervous about staying in a house with a bunch of other people given the current circumstances. What should I do?

I live in NC but have family all over the country, mainly here and Florida. Back in February before Corona started happening we booked a huge vacation house in FL. Specifically in Orlando. My extended family is coming from all over and I'm starting to wonder if this is a bad idea. There will probably be 50 people there.

I've been feeling nervous about this for the past month and now I'm seeing that FL is one of the states seeing record surges, plus I'm going to be in a house with a large group of other people who have traveled from out of state, like myself. I seem to be the only person seriously thinking of canceling and its making me feel like a crazy person. Plus I'm being guilt-tripped about potentially not coming. Am I overreacting? Askmefi has always been a bastion of reason compared to the rest of the wild wild internet so thats why I'm asking here.

I'm not soliciting medical advice or asking about epidemiology. I'm a relatively young, fit person so I'm not worried about dying I just dont want to get this or spread it to anyone else. I guess what I'm asking the green is this - if you were in my position would you still go? Thank you.
posted by ajax287 to Human Relations (56 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would absolutely not go. Too many people with unknown exposure in a small space surrounded by a larger space with high levels of infection? No thank you.
posted by SeedStitch at 7:11 AM on June 18, 2020 [47 favorites]

oh my god no.
posted by Mary Ellen Carter at 7:12 AM on June 18, 2020 [31 favorites]

Oof. I don't think you're overreacting at all.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:14 AM on June 18, 2020 [10 favorites]

Not a chance.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:14 AM on June 18, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Not overreacting. I would absolutely 100% not even consider doing this. In Florida!!!! Nooo.

If you *do* go, you'll need to do a hard quarantine for at least two weeks after -- like, a don't go for walks, don't get groceries, don't set foot outside your house quarantine. To me that would not be worth it. (And that's not even counting the risk of maybe you get coronavirus.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:15 AM on June 18, 2020 [15 favorites]

Best answer: What are you even going to do in Florida? Are all 50 of you going to stay inside the whole time and get groceries delivered? If not that’s 50 vectors coming in and out of the house and you have no idea how careful they’ll be. If so... holy shit, do you want to stay cooped up in a house with 50 of your family for a week or however long?

Do not go. Tell your family you love them but this isn’t safe and you care about the at-risk people in your community and don’t want to be a vector.
posted by brook horse at 7:19 AM on June 18, 2020 [33 favorites]

Best answer: I... would need a very good reason to go, and I don't see one in your question. I'd very much like to tell you to go and have fun, but that seems irresponsible without at least more information. If any of your family are flying, especially, I would avoid it. Airplanes are one thing, but the thing people don't seem to think about regarding flying is that you're not just in the plane. You're spending at least an hour, probably more, in a poorly-ventilated airport with thousands of people who are coming and going from just about anywhere. Even if no one's flying, the sheer number of people worries me. 50 people is a large group, but 50 individuals and their social circles is a REALLY large group. This is a potential superspreader event.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:19 AM on June 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

That seems like a Real Bad idea.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:19 AM on June 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

Please do not come here.
posted by saladin at 7:21 AM on June 18, 2020 [8 favorites]

Best answer: You are not overreacting. For perspective, the only way I would be willing to do something like this is if I knew for certain:
- People coming were not carriers, meaning I have reasonable certainty they shared the same level of care as I have in terms of avoiding exposure, e.g. contact with only household members - socially distanced with masks with any other interactions.
- We have clarity on how we're all getting to the vacation home that minimizes exposure risk.
- We have ground rules for what we're doing when we're at the vacation house (e.g. groceries, beach, no going out to bars/restaurants, etc.)

We have two vacations planned and that required a careful discussion on all participants as to how we're behaving at home, our outside interactions, and game plan for our behavior and interactions the vacation home (e.g. we're bringing our food with us, or we're having it delivered). We are also all committed to getting tested at least a week or two before entering the the vacation home to ensure negative results (while being extra careful from time of test).

In both vacations, it's less than 8 people living in the same house - but it's much easier to get agreement with less people. With 50 plus people I don't know how you would do it. Ask questions - If people start telling you you're overreacting or teasing you that's a hill I wouldn't want to climb.
posted by Karaage at 7:21 AM on June 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Just to add to the list: I also would not go.
posted by past unusual at 7:27 AM on June 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Hell no.
posted by Automocar at 7:28 AM on June 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

At first I thought, well, maybe if everyone has been hard quarantining for 2 weeks... then I see you are talking about around 50 people. Nope. That is insane. Please don't go and please encourage your family to cancel this master-planned super-spreader event.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:35 AM on June 18, 2020 [11 favorites]

Things are not going so well in Florida -- I would not do this.
posted by Comrade_robot at 7:36 AM on June 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Not only would I not go, I would do my best to convince the family to cancel, full stop. Florida is a mess right now, and 50 family members _flying_ in from all over the country is an absolute epidemiological nightmare. This is the sort of super-spreader event that could have enormous ripple effects.

Don't do this, and please talk your family out of it.
posted by griffey at 7:39 AM on June 18, 2020 [34 favorites]

This is the exact recipe for a super spreader event: a large number of people coming from different locations all staying together in close contact inside, presumably talking a lot together sitting on couches and around tables.

Pretty much the only way this could be worse would be if you were all coming together to sing choral music.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 7:42 AM on June 18, 2020 [50 favorites]

Florida is a shithole right now. Anything that you'd be coming to Orlando for is either closed or severely limited. What is everyone going to do? Locally , use of masks and social distancing is terrible.

If you were driving to a beach with your nuclear family, well maybe it'd be an acceptable risk. But not Orlando, not with 50 people. You're adopting the risk of the least compliant person. No way.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 7:42 AM on June 18, 2020 [8 favorites]

No, do not go. Your relatives are being irresponsible and rude to you to question your reluctance to take this risk. What would you all do in Orlando? Are the parks open? If so, that adds even more to the risk. This is NOT the time to do this. Family should put this off until next summer at least. My husband just talked to his aunt in her 90s in Orlando who was tested for Covid. So far so good, but she does not go out.
posted by mermayd at 7:43 AM on June 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

This would be a hard no for me as well. With that many people, surely some of them are at high risk. There’s a real potential for disaster here, not just for your family, but for all the people they come in contact with. I’m sorry your family is guilt-tripping you, but please don’t do this.
posted by FencingGal at 7:47 AM on June 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Holy Jesus no. This is the kind of vector that gets written up in case studies. I would absolutely not go. I'm sorry, I know the guilt-tripping is hard. I'm so sorry. But you're not overreacting, you're taking care of yourself and everyone you get within a couple feet of. It's so much safer for you to stay home. (I mean, and for the other 50 family members to do the same, but it sounds like you won't really get much purchase encouraging that.)
posted by kalimac at 7:52 AM on June 18, 2020 [25 favorites]

My husband and I cancelled our Florida vacation about a month ago -- we were supposed to be there right now, and are SO GLAD we cancelled it. I was nervous just about the two of us hanging out at a hotel and pool, I would never take a risk like you're considering.
posted by jabes at 7:52 AM on June 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Florida? Hard no.
posted by rodlymight at 7:55 AM on June 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Not only is Florida not looking great right now, neither is North Carolina.

No, definitely do not do this.
posted by damayanti at 7:58 AM on June 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

Okay, so in general I think Ask Mefi is overly cautious when it comes to covid risk questions...

...but everyone is right on the mark in this case.

I honestly cannot think of a single way this trip could be worse in terms of virus risk.
posted by mekily at 8:01 AM on June 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I'm a relatively young, fit person so I'm not worried about dying I just dont want to get this or spread it to anyone else.

Others have talked about the super-spreader aspect of this plan, and it's good that you're concerned about infecting others. I'd also like to push back on the idea that being young and healthy will protect you from the worst. The virus can be deadly to people in your demographic, and doctors don't have enough information yet to know why. As a datapoint, one of my friends recently died from COVID-19, and he was young and healthy. It happened fast. Please don't go.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 8:03 AM on June 18, 2020 [26 favorites]

If you had said 6 people, maybe.

50 people???? Not no but hell no.

I'm guessing there is a herd mentality thing at play here. I bet that once one person drops out the rest of the herd will flee as well. Be that observant buffalo that starts the stampede.

"I'm not coming. Let me know if I owe a share of the deposit if you cancel. I love you and I'll see you all next year."
posted by muddgirl at 8:07 AM on June 18, 2020 [15 favorites]

Hell no, not with that many people coming from areas with different COVID prevalence, flying, and going in and out of the house and interacting in very close quarters for a week.

For reference, I am currently planning to go camping at the Outer Banks with my partner, my sister and her fiance, over July 4. We are in the same city and are going to bubble together, are going to be outside virtually the whole time, and will be very much minimizing in-person contact with anyone while in NC. And that's the very max of my current comfort level

Please try and convince your family to cancel. As others have said, it is absolutely a textbook super-spreader event.
posted by foodmapper at 8:11 AM on June 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm another person who thinks AMefi leans way overly cautious but THIS, hahaha, noooooo. No.

The problem is the prolonged indoor exposure to not yet identified vectors, right? As in, sitting for a while near people who would have been recently exposed and not yet showing symptoms, and breathing in their exhalations.

People sitting in airports are exposed to God-knows-what, thus putting themselves in the "potential incubation" phase for several days upon arrival at destination. And then all these unidentified vectors go sit in a vacation house next to each other for hours on couches, at meal tables etc? In an air conditioned house ie windows presumably closed? Emerging, presumably, to enjoy meals out in restaurants... in Florida? And then hop on planes back around the country?

This scenario sounds so reckless that I really think you need to try to talk some sense into the organizers, beyond just not going yourself. This is a terrible, terrible idea.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:15 AM on June 18, 2020 [18 favorites]

Response by poster: Ok I guess the consensus is in!

to clarify a bit:

It may not be 50 people, I don't know all of the people coming because most of them are from my extended family, but I would say minimum 30??

Its this big party house thing where each room is like a different theme - game room, escape room, etc. So I'm assuming we would be spending a lot of time in the house.

....I don't think any of them are thinking of wearing masks except for maybe a few of the elderly. My relative who is the organizer talked about having a forehead thermometer.

Thanks for your honest opinions.
posted by ajax287 at 8:35 AM on June 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: i am an epidemiologist but i am not your epidemiologist. and: oh my god, no. we had a situation in chicago where one person spread COVID to 16 people (including 3 deaths) by attending a funeral and a birthday party -- not even living in the same house.

a same-house 30-50 person vacation in florida? i would not go and i would tell everyone i loved not to go.
posted by quadrilaterals at 8:37 AM on June 18, 2020 [52 favorites]

and i would also tell everyone i didn't love not to go!
posted by quadrilaterals at 8:37 AM on June 18, 2020 [16 favorites]

None of any of your clarifications made that any less worse. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T GO. CANCEL THE ENTIRE THING.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:41 AM on June 18, 2020 [10 favorites]

I wouldn't want my family name showing up in a Newsweek infographic showing how many hundreds of people this party wound up infecting.

We had to cancel a family reunion this year. It was really sad. I get it. But do not do this. If you're a person who is nervous enough about this to post here about it, imagine what a wreck you'll be when all the cousins you're in a house with insist on going to a bar without masks on.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:51 AM on June 18, 2020 [11 favorites]

nthing nope, nope, nope. I have a much smaller family reunion planned for October with a large house booked, for about a dozen people. In Vermont, where Covid danger is quite minimal. We are considering canceling but are holding on a bit to see how things are looking. Your shindig is barely two weeks from now. I'm surprised the organizers didn't cancel weeks ago. And they think having a forehead thermometer around is sufficient precaution? Having everybody in PPE suits 24/7 would not be sufficient precaution.
posted by beagle at 9:22 AM on June 18, 2020 [4 favorites]

Let's do the math. There are appx 1.5MM confirmed cases (minus recovered cases) in the USA right now. If that's only 50% of actual cases, that means there are about 3.0MM cases. Of the 328.1 Million people in the USA, that means that there is about a 1% chance that anyone, including yourself, has the virus.

All together, that is a 40% chance that at least one person has the virus and just doesn't show it yet.

It really, really doesn't sound worth it.
posted by bbqturtle at 9:29 AM on June 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I bailed on a similar vacation, except on a beach with family units in separate houses, in south carolina for Mid August.

This one is nope for me.
posted by thenormshow at 9:30 AM on June 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think you've probably heard enough Oh God Nos now, but...reading your description of this literally made the hair on my neck stand up. You are absolutely right to be concerned. This is the opening chapter of a pandemic horror novel. Please don't!
posted by BlueNorther at 9:33 AM on June 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: You are so not a crazy person.

Doesn't seem you need more advice, but as a benchmark I'm far from the most cautious person on MetaFilter and I declined a vacation I usually take that was five people in a rural area we could all drive to (no plane) that had far, far fewer cases than Florida.

You aren't just dealing with a lot of people in an infected area--you are dealing with a lot of people who aren't worried about Covid. Some people in your house are statistically guaranteed to be exposed over the course of your stay there. The could have good luck so it's not outside the realm of chance nothing tragic happens but lord don't roll those dice.
posted by mark k at 9:34 AM on June 18, 2020 [14 favorites]

Best answer: A Florida health care worker, stuck inside for months, celebrates the lifting of quarantine by going out with friends.

Basically you can assume that if it’s in that house everyone is going to get it. I don’t think you want to be a part of that.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:35 AM on June 18, 2020 [9 favorites]

 I don't think any of them are thinking of wearing masks except for maybe a few of the elderly

Wait, there are at-risk folks going? I wouldn't go, if only to avoid a “That time we all went to Orlando and accidentally killed Great Aunt Maria” family memory.

I'm in Ontario, and it looks like state of emergency conditions will be in place until mid-July. I'd give this the hardest pass possible.
posted by scruss at 9:48 AM on June 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

My friend's father died of the virus in March. He was 80, had health issues. His wife, his caregiver, his other daughter who lives nearby and helped out and her daughter who also helped out all got the virus. The last person in that list, the man's granddaughter, is in her early twenties, was totally healthy and fit. She got the worst case of those who survived. She's ok now, but may have some permanent damage. Just being young and healthy is no guarantee of anything with this virus.

Don't go, please.
posted by mareli at 9:52 AM on June 18, 2020 [7 favorites]

And if you're stressing over how to deal with the push-back/guilt-trip aspect of bailing, Captain Awkward recently addressed this (very well, as always).
posted by lovableiago at 9:57 AM on June 18, 2020 [10 favorites]

I'm a New Zealander, and the entire country is freaking out now because *two people* broke quarantine to travel from Auckland to Wellington and *may* have stopped for a pie or gas along the way, and now they've tested positive.

If your extended family are pushing back on you expressing reservations, they will likely not be observing sensible precautions either, before they come or while traveling. All it takes is one person on an airplane. Hard no, both for you and *everyone* they'll all come into contact with both in Florida and on their way there.
posted by media_itoku at 10:02 AM on June 18, 2020 [5 favorites]

Count me as another person who thinks that MetaFilter in general is over-cautious about covid stuff, and who would still take a hard pass on this event. Like, an escape room? People are going to intentionally be locked in a single room together for however long it takes them to get out?
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:11 AM on June 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Chiming in with another hard no.

My script I've been using for declining social activities is "I'm being conservative about social distancing, so I am going to opt out. I hope you all have a fun time, stay safe!" And have never had any pushback.
posted by Sparky Buttons at 10:23 AM on June 18, 2020 [7 favorites]

With your update about playing games, I remembered this video I saw recently that shows how quickly a virus can spread when people are doing things like sharing utensils (playing a game where everyone is touching the same game pieces/cards would probably be even worse).
posted by jabes at 10:26 AM on June 18, 2020

Best answer: Another "oh hell no" vote.

Personally, if anyone tried to guilt-trip me about not attending an event right now, I'd guilt-trip them right back. "You know Auntie Nancy has heart problems, and Uncle Matt is recovering from chemo - they're both high-risk. Did you hear the story about the person in Chicago who killed three people by attending a funeral and a birthday party? It's so sad. And that 20-year-old who almost died and needed a double lung transplant. I just don't want to see anything like that happen to anyone in the [FAMILY NAME] family. We can meet next year."

Or if you don't want the hassle, just invent another non-COVID reason why you can't go, if your relatives are those sorts of people. Maybe they'll fight you on canceling over COVID but be OK if it's just that work is too busy right now.
posted by pie ninja at 11:33 AM on June 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Yikes. I am 100% on Team WTAF, Hell No!

I'm so sorry about the pressure you're under. It makes me frustrated, furious and sad every time I see this kind of dynamic play out. You are not crazy; you are not overreacting; all these people are severely underreacting and engaging in dangerous magical thinking.

Something to consider is that there's a non-zero chance that some other people invited to this gathering also feel uncomfortable, and would also prefer not to go, but they're also being gaslit and/or guilt-tripped and feel like they're the ones who are alone in wanting to be cautious. If you're the one to put your foot down and categorically state that you are not going to go, there's a sliver of a chance that other people will follow suit (as muddgirl suggested upthread).

And that will probably make other people mad at you (for "ruining" the event or forcing them to cancel or whatever), but it will also mean that your intervention kept someone safe. Ten years from now, when you think back to this moment, what are you going to regret more? Making some relatives mad at you for trying to keep yourself and others safe, or keeping those relatives happy by putting yourself and others in danger?
posted by confluency at 11:58 AM on June 18, 2020 [6 favorites]

(Even if nobody else joins you in abstaining, just your absence, your not travelling, your lack of contact with an unknown number of people, will definitely keep you and other people safer, and that's a good enough reason.)
posted by confluency at 12:00 PM on June 18, 2020 [3 favorites]

Don't go, for your own sake.

June 16: "Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital marks the first successful double lung transplant of a COVID-19 patient in the U.S." The patient, a woman in her 20s, was in good health before contracting the virus. She'd recently moved to Illinois from North Carolina. The patient was on a ventilator and heart-lung machine for almost two months prior to the operation last Friday; "She remains on a ventilator while her body heals but is well enough to visit with family via phone video and doctors say her chances for a normal life are good." There's a terrifying picture of the remains of one of her original lungs at the link.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:11 PM on June 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'm a relatively young, fit person so I'm not worried about dying I just dont want to get this or spread it to anyone else

Well, oughtn’t you be? About a week ago, a young woman in her 20s underwent a double-lung transplant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago because of COVID-19. She had been hospitalised for two months and her organs were beginning to fail. Youth and state of health isn’t an exemption from catching a virus.
posted by lemon_icing at 12:11 PM on June 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Since someone asked I'll provide an update. I told them I'm not going to go and that this was a bad idea with the coronavirus going around. I got a slightly patronizing answer in response but whatever. I'm not going to ask for my deposit or anything.

Some of my relatives are in the travel/hotel business and this year has been hard on them. I think its been harder to prioritize safety for them because they want to believe deep down this is going to blow over so they can get back to normal. Its influencing their decision making.

And not to drag politics into this but almost everyone around me is more conservative than me, including at my job. I dont even consider myself a super lefty but sometimes when stuff like this happens I feel like I look like Mr. Crazy Liberal and its hard to get perspective.

Thanks for the replies it was helpful.
posted by ajax287 at 12:11 PM on June 18, 2020 [46 favorites]

I'm so glad to hear that. I hope these responses have helped you feel less alone in the way you assessed this risk to yourself and others.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:30 PM on June 18, 2020 [11 favorites]

When I saw the headline, I was thinking you were asking about traveling with your own household to a different place for a break. Sure, fine, I was going to say. But your question: omg no.

I'm going to double down on what others are saying and add that I wouldn't do this even if it was in a state with no Covid. There's such a high chance that your incautious relatives would be the carriers, regardless of the presence of the virus in Orlando.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:50 PM on June 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I find it disturbing and incredulous that the group of 30+ still feels it is reasonable to go.

Perhaps they can send some vacation photos to The New England Journal of Medicine?
posted by Ahmad Khani at 4:16 PM on June 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

I saw this article today and it made me think of your question: North Texas family shaken after 18 relatives test positive for COVID-19 following family gathering

Perhaps it would help convince some of your relatives to reconsider.
posted by athenasbanquet at 2:24 PM on June 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

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