I need some cool headed perspective on the risks of COVID-19
June 19, 2020 2:52 PM   Subscribe

My daughter, my son, and my daughter's fiance want to visit us for three days in our home. They are in a state that is not shut down much at all. They are not social distancing all that much. I'm anxious about their visit and I'm considering telling them they can't come. But I don't want to do that! Perspective needed.

This is difficult because it's all part of my daughter getting married. She wants to come here two weeks before her marriage so she can see a bunch of old high school friends and some extended family who will not be able to get to her out-of-state wedding. So me saying No is a big deal.

I am 53. I have mild asthma. Otherwise I'm pretty healthy. But I don't want the virus. I actually personally know a 53 year old with no preexisting conditions who died of it about a month ago. If these three young people have it and they stay at our house for three days I'm sure I'll get it. But I don't know how likely it is that they have it. The county they live in has about 2000 cases, about 1200 recovered, and 17 deaths.

But they are all young. A nurse practitioner I know in that same county says that young people probably have it, but they just don't get sick enough to call a doctor. So, personally I think those numbers that I just listed are essentially meaningless (except the death number, which is real, I'm sure).

Anyway - I'm anxious about it. I wish it wasn't happening. But I don't want to tell them they can't come since it's so important to my daughter. I need a cool head to help me process. How big of a risk is it for us to have them over for three days?
posted by crapples to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I am a healthy 35 year old and I would say no. Not like “no, if I were in your shoes” but “no, if they were asking to visit me,” too.

It sounds like they plan on visiting other people in person while there, so they would not just be exposing you to whatever they were exposed to, but also potentially anything they catch from the other people they see while there.

I just got married on Wednesday. My wife and I (who have been sheltering together since this started in our area in March) stood on our patio with a few cameras on tripods and a set of speakers, and talked to the county officiant via Zoom, while our parents and close friends observed via Zoom as well. It’s not what either of us wanted but we wanted to be safe and keep our families safe more than we wanted a big party.
posted by Alterscape at 2:58 PM on June 19 [49 favorites]

The fact that they want to visit, despite your age and asthma, is bad enough. But the fact that they want to use your house as a home base so they can socialize with nearby friends? That is pretty galling in my opinion.

The question to ask isn't just, "How likely is it that 1-3 of these visitors have the virus?" but also "How likely is it that they will come into social contact with someone who does?"

In your shoes, I would ask them to stay away. (And in your daughter's shoes, I would never dream of suggesting such a thing.)
posted by shb at 3:00 PM on June 19 [70 favorites]

I think you should discuss with your doctor and get their advice. Another option is to have them come to your town but stay in an AirBnB. Then you can have outdoor visits and see each other but not be in each other’s spaces. I realize that adds expense but it sound like it may be worth it.
posted by amanda at 3:00 PM on June 19 [35 favorites]

It's risky anyway, but on top of that, she wants to see a bunch of other people while she's visiting? That would be a big, hard no from me. Not only does it introduce much more risk for you, it suggests they're not taking the risk seriously so who knows what they've done to expose themselves already/will do en route to you/how little they'll do to mitigate risk while visiting others.

Are hotels open in your area? If so, and they can stay elsewhere, then the risk's on them only.
posted by penguin pie at 3:02 PM on June 19 [17 favorites]

Uh, yeah, tell them no, or ask them to stay in a hotel. They should not even ask this of you imo.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 3:06 PM on June 19 [20 favorites]

I agree with the others that an airbnb or hotel would be the better solution. I know you said it would be a big deal to say no, but unfortunately you don't have the choice of whether a pandemic is going on or not to make the choice that you would want in another time. Even people who are younger, have no pre-existing conditions, and who recover sometimes have significant ongoing health concerns afterwards, so it is not unreasonable for you to not welcome that risk right now. That their area is trying to pretend that we are not in a pandemic does not mean you should have to endanger yourself by pretending as well.
posted by past unusual at 3:07 PM on June 19 [5 favorites]

hard no.
posted by Time To Sharpen Our Knives at 3:12 PM on June 19 [7 favorites]

Thank you all so far. To clarify, yes they want to see people while they are here but only outside. She wants to plan an outdoor get together, enforcing social distance. So I'm less worried about what they might catch while here than I am about what they might bring here.
posted by crapples at 3:13 PM on June 19

If they were just coming to visit you only I'd say ask them to get tested before they come and then things ought to be OK but if they are meeting multiple people while visiting you no way. What they are doing is extremely irresponsible and is putting a lot of people at risk - you in particular.

An "outdoor get together, enforcing social distance" won't have appropriate social distancing and she's fooling herself if she thinks it will. She can call or video conference with the people and then do something in person once this has all blown over.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:17 PM on June 19 [13 favorites]

Oh god no. The hell?

David Lat has mild asthma and contracted covid, you can read his story on his twitter: https://twitter.com/DavidLat and here's an article.

He was on a ventilator for 6 days, very lucky to have survived. He's 44.

Your kids have some serious denial about living in a pandemic, don't let that denial kill you.
posted by Dynex at 3:28 PM on June 19 [30 favorites]

Hi, you're a mother and want to give your children every happiness and it's hard to be the seeming party pooper in this situation.

But. Just because no one likes the idea of a pandemic doesn't mean we get to act like it doesn't exist. Health protocols exist to save lives and reduce illness, not because they are fun. Especially when we see that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting lower income folks and people of color.

It is nothing but irresponsible to actively go against health advisories from health experts, says a younger (but not young) person. Also, if your children are not already practicing social distancing, what are the odds they will truly respect social distancing protocols when seeing old friends for the first time in a long time and before a big occasion?
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 3:37 PM on June 19 [20 favorites]

The conditions would have to be that they stay elsewhere, they never enter your house, and you remain ten feet apart at all times.

I posted this in another thread the other day: This virus is not messing around.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:40 PM on June 19 [8 favorites]

They can come visit if they stay in a hotel, fully quarantined and visiting no one, for two weeks after they arrive.

If they feel that isn’t practical, well, then it isn’t practical for them to get you ill right before your daughter’s wedding, either. (We postponed our March wedding because the last thing we want to do is become a superspreader event and end up sickening the people we love.)
posted by nat at 3:41 PM on June 19 [7 favorites]


No matter the details of the myriad versions of this question that we get on Ask (almost daily at this point) the answer is still NO.

posted by tzikeh at 3:49 PM on June 19 [13 favorites]

I empathize with not wanting to tell them that they can't have a close-contact, indoor visit in your home after not social distancing all that much in a state that has not shut down that much at all, including because I closely follow coronavirus news in the US with a deep sadness about what is happening. You may be told that you are 'too cautious' or be subject to other gaslighting tactics that try to make you doubt what public health experts unfortunately make clear, which is that these types of behaviors create risks that seem impossible to precisely quantify, especially with so little data available, so I encourage to keep focused on what the experts say, including your own doctor. It is a big deal for you to say No, and to affirm that your health matters, that public health matters, and that people disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus matter.
posted by katra at 3:50 PM on June 19 [14 favorites]

I wouldn't allow visitors to smoke in my home. Why would I allow them if they aren't prepared to take steps to protect your health. So, no.
posted by SPrintF at 3:54 PM on June 19 [5 favorites]

I’m in a semi-related situation, having to decline to travel to attend an outdoor socially distanced wedding celebration solely because I don’t want to be a vector. It really sucks— in normal conditions I’d move heaven and earth to attend— but there’s just no way I can hash it without tremendous cognitive dissonance. It’s ok (and recommended) to say no. I’m sorry.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:57 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

Tell them to stay in a hotel and they can come to your house for an outdoor social distance visit (just the 3 of them) with everyone wearing masks.
posted by ananci at 4:07 PM on June 19 [5 favorites]

Everyone's live and long-term health is also much more important than a wedding. Even if you get it, and survive, you can be in for lifelong severe illness and disability. Not just related to lung issues.

posted by Crystalinne at 4:16 PM on June 19 [5 favorites]

NO, anything less is not clear headed.
posted by shjun at 4:32 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

I don't think you should host them in your home. It's pretty crummy of them to ask, but let's be charitable and assume they just weren't thinking about the risk.

I think they should stay elsewhere - a hotel, a rental home, whatever - and you can take walks in the park with them. Maybe eat outside on a nice breezy day. I believe the threat is from extended indoor contact. She can do what she wants to do with other people, but she can't be inside your house with you, or in a car with you. If she can't afford a hotel and that's why she's asking to stay with you, maybe you can help her pay - not because you owe it, but just to make it easier, if it's a hardship.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:55 PM on June 19 [9 favorites]

Is there any chance you could talk them into how terrible it would be for them to get sick right before the wedding? I would probably ask them to stay at a hotel rather than with you for your own health, especially having known someone who just passed away from covid. Hotels are sanitized by pros and not simultaneously in the same space breathing each other's air. They could still come socialize on your porch / outdoors and distanced.
posted by Lady Li at 5:04 PM on June 19 [3 favorites]

This is bonkers. I'm really sorry they are asking. I mean, the family members can't go to her wedding because of the virus, right? So she's... having two parties? That doesn't make a lot of sense. This is a recipe for two super spreader events. And, honestly, let's say you did get Covid. The guilt they would feel, even if your case was pretty mild, would be pretty profound. So you'd be saving them from that, too.

Would you attend an outdoor party right now? If so, then see if they'll rent a house with a big yard and have an event there, and you can attend. But otherwise, I think you just need to say no.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:25 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]

Are you going to her wedding? In two weeks? I mean... they can choose if they're going to expand their possible vectors a ton right before the wedding (?!?!?) but why would you run the risk of contracting it now, when two weeks is pretty much the perfect interval for getting sick and being unable to go?
posted by nakedmolerats at 5:40 PM on June 19 [3 favorites]

I am sitting here alone and lonely on my deck reading MeFi while my high-risk partner receives his non-isolating adult children from a spiking county for a two-day visit in his home, so I am familiar with the dynamics at play here. His desire to meet his grandchild and his temperamental disinclination to say no to his children have led to a situation which will probably be fine but if not will very likely leave him dead and all of us bereaved. Your situation is simpler—if you say no, they’ll just be put out, but it won’t mean they can’t achieve the goal of the visit. They can stay at a hotel or with one of the friends and do everything they had planned to do, without risking your life. I don’t see a single reason not to say no.
posted by HotToddy at 5:54 PM on June 19 [12 favorites]

Absolutely not. Nope. No way. And quite frankly if it were me, I would be pissed that they even asked me.
posted by lyssabee at 6:01 PM on June 19 [14 favorites]

Outside is the least unsafe. Testing can tell if somebody had Covid when the test was taken. Health care systems around the country vary greatly in how overloaded or not they are. Availability of hospital beds has a lot to do with mortality. But, No, this is not a good idea. Very risky for you and still risky for them.

It's well worth listening to Terri Gross/ Fresh Air for Wednesday, June 17, 2020 'Amid Confusion About Reopening, An Expert Explains How To Assess COVID Risk' with epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, founder and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and maybe recommending it to your family members.
posted by theora55 at 7:39 PM on June 19 [4 favorites]

Nope, no way no how. I know younger people who have died without preexisting conditions. This would be so risky. Let's say you don't die if you get covid but get really really sick for a few weeks, possibly damaging your lungs (though maybe not, who knows), would your daughter think it's all worth it then?
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 9:28 PM on June 19 [2 favorites]

If you were in New Zealand, maybe. But you're in the USA. At this point in the pandemic, in the USA, I think you are wise to say they can't come and stay with you- the risk is too great.

As a parent, you sometimes have to enforce a hard thing to prevent a harder thing- she wants you to be in her life beyond her wedding, right? Be around for the future? Then they shouldn't come and visit you.
posted by freethefeet at 9:37 PM on June 19 [1 favorite]

I really sympathize with you and your desire not to tell her No around such a big event, and even with her desire to pretend it isn't happening so that she can see her friends. (I don't sympathize with her putting you at risk, but I can see how tempting it would be to go along with the chorus of denial.)

I can also imagine it would be hard to think through, "how likely am I to get it from them REALLY? After all, so many people are out and about. Maybe these social distancing measures are enough."

But, here's my recent experience -- a COVID-19 fire drill. It sucked, even without getting sick. And my first thought was "why didn't we make the plumbers wear masks????" -- any preventative measure seemed so easy in retrospect compared to what we were currently facing.

Nobody knows whether you'll get it. But, letting them stay is guaranteed to make you feel very worried. VERY. worried. Even if you don't get it, you will inevitably have that for about 30 days (did I hear that right? 2 weeks of a visit? plus two more weeks afterwards). That's a real impact on you, even if nothing worse happens. I spent an evening wondering if we should be writing our will. You'll be figuring out how to self-isolate within the home from your partner (assuming one lives with you) if only one of you got sick, and taking stock of your disinfectant and the meals you could eat if you were too weak to cook. You'll have to try not to read all sorts of personal accounts. And the symptom checking! "Am I losing my sense of smell? I think things smell kind of different today." "Am I feeling short of breath? I'm not sure I'm breathing right." "Is this the early stages of fatigue? I am feeling kind of heavy and tired." It's maddening. I could go on, but you get the picture.

I think you really should say no, not because you have a crystal ball or foolproof epidemiology model, but because you have heard too many accounts of people truly getting sick and even dying, and that will make it impossible for you to not worry. You certainly wouldn't want to miss her wedding due to being sick. And you don't want the days leading up to her wedding being spoiled by anxious misery. The cost of an AirBnB or having her stay with a friend is minor compared to all of that.

I'm not going to follow the crowd and critique her. Our own parents' vulnerability takes awhile to dawn on us. She's not there yet, which in one way is too bad, but in another way means that she still sees you as her invulnerable mom or dad, which, well, as a parent myself, I want that to go on for as long as possible. Not to say I don't wish she was being more careful, but I don't think you need to take it as a sign of personal disregard (not that you were), just of some amount of general recklessness, which is all too common. Congratulations on her upcoming wedding!
posted by Spokane at 4:39 AM on June 20 [6 favorites]

I would also just say on the plans for "an outdoor get together, enforcing social distance" - that will not happen (the social distancing). I've just been to the beach with a friend, I'm really cautious, I've been good about keeping 2m apart from people, but spending a couple of hours with someone, you just forget. We're so hardwired to behave in a certain way and stay at a certain distance (less than 2m) that it takes hard, constant effort to sustain it over a long period of time. Get immersed in a conversation, approach someone while your mind's elsewhere, whatever, and suddenly you're within 2m.

Then you realise you're a bit too close but - what the hell, you're there now, damage done, might as well stay there (or it seems too rude to suddenly back away). Add alcohol into the mix and it's true a hundred-fold. Inhibitions, ability to stick to social rules or accurately assess consequences, all melt away once booze is in the picture.

Unless she's planning to literally draw circles on the ground and insist everyone stays within them, there will not be proper social distancing at a social gathering.

Also: I'm 45 and very fit and healthy and pretty sure I had covid in March and I'm still having troubling post-viral symptoms involving my breathing and heart rate, and hoping they're just prolonged rather than permanent. Don't take it lightly.
posted by penguin pie at 6:46 AM on June 20 [10 favorites]

penguin pie, this is exactly why I am refusing to see anybody. I KNOW I'd get too close, because it feels WRONG to stand feet away and yell (which isn't great either) to communicate. I believe Julie Nolke did a video on this accidental moving closer thing, too.

Anyway, back to OP: the answer to all your coronavirus questions is still no. If they want to go around visiting, stay in a hotel and call you via Zoom. This is not how you want to die.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:00 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]

I'm younger than you and also have a risk factor.

If I could afford it, I would put them up in a hotel or airbnb and would briefly attend their outdoor gathering where I would give them a loving nod of the head from a distance before sitting in a lawn chair, upwind of others.

If I couldn't afford that, I'd just say no.
posted by whisk(e)y neat at 10:03 AM on June 20

Absolutely not. The clear headed answer is - just because the country is opening up doesn't mean the risk has passed. It means that it is more urgent and present than ever. Consider not just that they are coming from a hotspot, but that they must travel to you. Whether that is by car or plane it exposes them to all kinds of risk factors for catching it. They shouldn't be undertaking any nonessential travel right now, and this is purely nonessential.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:03 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]

Not only should they not stay with you, they shouldn't stay in a hotel or anywhere else either. All you would be doing then is outsourcing the infection risk to low-paid workers. They need to stay at home, wear a mask, and grow the fuck up. The friends will still love them when this is all over. But it isn't, and doing this sort of things will mean it takes much longer until it is. Have a Zoom get-together, and don't mark the beginning of a marriage by possibly killing people: traditionally that's bad luck.
posted by DangerIsMyMiddleName at 4:58 PM on June 20 [14 favorites]

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