Stick out a pandemic move?
October 25, 2021 7:23 PM   Subscribe

We made a pandemic move within California to become homeowners with elbow room. Turns out our new community is not vaccinated.

Maybe you can help me think through this major dilemma.

Last year we were renting in the Bay area and like many others had the opportunity to work remote indefinitely. I was pregnant, we couldn't afford to buy a home in the Bay, and the pandemic was raging. We got out. We ended up in Northern California in a small mountain town. There are a lot of pluses to living up here: little to no crime! an affordable mortgage! acreage with wildlife! no traffic! peaceful living in the forest!

As a stay at home mom to a 1 year old I have worked very hard to meet other parents in the area and try to get integrated in the community. We had no family or friends up here when we moved. A year later I now coming to terms with the fact that almost no one is vaccinated. Out of 17 adults that came to my son's (outdoor) birthday party, 6 were vaccinated. I could live with that during the summer since playgroups were outdoors, but now that a snowy winter is approaching I am not ok with spending time indoors with unvaccinated folks. If it wasn't for Covid this situation would be idillic but I don't see a way out of this any time soon.

Now what? Spend the winter with limited friends? It sounds like a very lonely time while my husband works and I make small talk with my 1 year old all day. Rethink this place and move? We could turn this house into an airbnb if we really wanted to although it would be a stretch financially at first.

Without changing my risk profile when it comes to Covid, how might I think about this?
posted by gillianr to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My sister made a move to get away from a situation like yours, and it has helped her mental health so so so much.

If I were you, and could afford it, I would leave.
posted by Temeraria at 7:36 PM on October 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Now what? Spend the winter with limited friends? It sounds like a very lonely time

This is something millions of people are doing due to various health issues and risk factors, so you're not alone in feeling alone. In the end, it all depends on how much you love the new home and its location, and how confident you feel in your future there.
posted by mochapickle at 8:01 PM on October 25, 2021 [7 favorites]

You could also get way rustic for a couple years, then bnb seasonally. It's a descent time to be introspective.
posted by firstdaffodils at 8:28 PM on October 25, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think it's worth considering moving, not just because of this winter, but because I think you will find you are out of step with this community in other ways down the road. I lived in a rural, mountainous area for several years, so I understand the appeal of what you have. I now live in Portland, which, while nothing like the Bay Area in terms of the cost of housing, is still much more expensive. I thought a lot about where I want to raise my kids. My current home isn't perfect, but I generally find that my values are in sync with my community, and that's important to me. I didn't want my kids to grow up someplace that wasn't supportive of my values or my approach to life. That's been worth the expense to me.

(I know you aren't thinking about this now, but there's something else that's going to come up the longer you stay: how incredibly car-dependent you are in your town if you're living on acreage with wildlife, like I used to. I know it's not a huge deal now, but down the road, when your kid has after school activities and you want to get groceries, and you both are working, etc, needing to drive miles and miles to do anything is going to get really old.)

In the short term, lots of people are dealing with isolation right now. In the longer, I don't think this is the only way you will find you aren't aligned with your neighbors.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:28 PM on October 25, 2021 [19 favorites]

Best answer: A grad school professor of mine did much of his research about vaccine exemptions (religious and medical exemptions and how policies surrounding each affect overall vaccine coverage). All of his work is from pre 2020. I can’t even imagine how much he’s published since March 2020.

COVID 19 is not the only vaccine preventable disease that people don’t get vaccinated for. Honestly if I had a small child I would be even more concerned about what to do when (not if, when) a measles outbreak happens. Someone with measles can spend an hour in a room, leave, and someone coming in 3 hours later could catch it.

Plan for either a life that generally includes mitigation factors for various diseases or plan to move somewhere else.
posted by raccoon409 at 8:30 PM on October 25, 2021 [7 favorites]

If Covid is a concern, setting up an AirBnB and having strangers come into your home from all over is probably a bad idea.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:02 PM on October 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

Because you consider the affordability and safety of the area so unique, perhaps you should think twice before you pick up and go. In a perfect world everyone would understand the value of the vaccine. Even though your neighbors do not, you can take precautions as you prefer. I assume you are vaccinated, you can wear a mask indoors, you can devote more of your time to vaccinated friends. I understand that precautions are more important with a newborn, so ultimately your comfort level is what matters.
posted by halfnhalfling at 10:26 PM on October 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

Addendum: sorta inspired by the above: even if people are unvaccinated (I am very pro vaccine and had a slight argument with a relative tonight), "safety," and "affordability" are unique to that area.

You just moved to a remote, beautiful, isolated (in a good way) unique part of the country, and a strangely affordable area in CA that still retains it's positive qualities. Setting up in a rustic spot in CA, with time to intentionally schedule social circumstances or whathaveyou, sounds slightly dreamy if arranged well.

Even if you move to a city, where many are vaccinated, you run a similar risk solely due to potentially very large increase in population, circumstances controlled or non. (it's why the suggestion to bnb part time or later on, came to mind- you may have more going for your situation than you think!)
posted by firstdaffodils at 10:42 PM on October 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

In your shoes I’d seriously consider moving again in the long run, given that you’re learning the community has a significantly different approach to community responsibility than you do. But I don’t know that I’d rush to be gone before this winter, at this point.

If you think you can manage it, it might be worth sticking it out through one isolated winter to give you time to make sure your next move is one you can be happy with long term. It sounds like you have some vaccinated friends you’d be comfortable indoors with, and maybe outdoor friends if you want to arrange some outdoor winter hangouts. That sounds like it might well be enough to get by on for a few months! And having that experience might help you decide for sure whether this is untenable for you in the longer term.
posted by Stacey at 3:34 AM on October 26, 2021 [8 favorites]

Count me as another person wondering what the local vaccination rates are for everything else (measles, etc.)
posted by trig at 5:23 AM on October 26, 2021

Best answer: I'm also relatively new to my Australian regional town which has a strong alternative culture and am trying to make friends in the primary context of mothering a toddler too. We chose this area for similar reasons pre-pandemic but moved last year so these issues around vaccines are more apparent to us now.

I can very much understand your situation having had COVID vaccine related near-confrontations with some mothers at my daughter's playgroup. I also had an overwhelming feeling of "get me out of here have we made a terrible mistake" but don't have the flexibility to leave this otherwise lovely place. What has helped has been emphasising my connection with the vaccinated parents and their kids and also looking for friends for me who are pro-vaccines but not in the Venn overlap of Vaccinated x (People Who Get Me and Have Playdate Suitable Kids).

Those vaccinated parents are probably also concerned about the upcoming winter too and would probably welcome at least an informal playgroup bubble over the winter months.

My advice would be to stick it out this winter, make any needed airbnb friendly updates to your home that also make it more pleasant for you to live there and see where you're at come spring.

Are those non-vaccinated people good for your social connections in the longer term? Work out lower risk ways of interacting and be honest with them about why you won't hang out indoors together . Moving to a new place and finding a niche within the community is hard at the best of times and now you are doing that as a new parent and in a pandemic.
posted by pipstar at 6:24 AM on October 26, 2021 [3 favorites]

The risk to your kid from being around other kids and adults who aren’t vaccinated for a range of childhood illnesses is high. Measles, RSV, Pertussis, Chicken Pox … what you are looking at is either taking on the risk of all the childhood diseases we’ve successfully mostly beaten back or totally isolating your kid. This isn’t *just* about covid, and I absolutely wouldn’t expose any child to any of these children or adults. Yes, you probably have a long winter ahead but you also have the fortunate situation of getting to spend a lot of time outdoors. Get the kiddo and you some winter appropriate clothes and plan on exploring that acreage together without other adults and kids.
posted by Bottlecap at 7:56 AM on October 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

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