Seeking reality check about our family's covid precautions.
December 18, 2021 5:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to figure out where my wife and I stand in terms of our covid preparations and precautions compared to "the norm". (Or at least compared to people who answer questions on AskMetafilter.) Are we reckless, normal, or cautious?

We are both fully vaccinated, for whatever that's worth now (i.e. with waning efficacy, breakthrough infection, etc).

Our typical habits for the past ~10 months have been:
  • Shopping and restaurants: typically 2-3 times a week. I don't use a mask when shopping but my wife usually does. In restaurants we don't use a mask - perhaps that's obvious, since we are eating and drinking. We still get groceries delivered fairly frequently (a habit that carried over from the early days of lockdowns).
  • Parties and gatherings: groups of 10-20 non-family members are pretty typical 1-2 times a week. Mostly good friends and some casual acquaintances.
  • Church: 200-300 people in a room, no masks, singing, etc. This feels like it would be the highest risk activity because of the singing and the close social contact with significant numbers of people outside our family and close friends (face-to-face conversation, etc).
  • Travel: Several full flights of 2-3 hours duration (once every couple of months). Masked on the flight except for meal service (those flight attendants don't give you much choice). Some ground travel (personal car), having contact with people in highway rest stops, hotels, professional activities, etc.
When I read a lot of mainstream news articles, the tone suggests that our lifestyle may be on the higher risk side. (I'm talking here about the ultra-cautionary "Are we allowed to do Thanksgiving dinner this year?" style of articles.)

But when we look around there are obviously lots of other people in the airport or the supermarket or the restaurant, so we don't seem to be the only crazy people out there.

So ... are we normal? Is "Omicron" changing everything? How risky is this?
posted by theorique to Health & Fitness (113 answers total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: This post seems to be about something other than the stated purpose ("trying to figure out where my wife and I stand in terms of our covid preparations and precautions compared to "the norm" ... Or at least compared to people who answer questions on AskMetafilter") if you are choosing as a best answer the one(s) that are in the significant minority of answers offered. -- taz

Your going to get a range of answers but if your family was in my social circle I would absolutely not interact with you in person.

I can’t quite comprehend why you wouldn’t wear a mask in a store, but I realize local norms can really influence this (even in NC I see way higher mask wearing in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area than I do in. Hat little though mask wearing is much lower anywhere else in the state.

I have only attended events as large as ~100 people since COVID began for a handful of weddings which included getting tested before and after. Other than that I don’t think I’ve been anywhere with more than 20 people in the last 2 years. Those events are always at least a week apart, ideally 2 so that you don’t get sick at one event and the pass it along at the next one.

I worked in contact tracing for a year. I will be very blunt that you should emotionally prepare for what omicron may do to your church community if you are 300 people meeting every week maskless
posted by raccoon409 at 5:36 PM on December 18, 2021 [61 favorites]

You're living life on the edge, man! It's amazing you're still with us.

If it helps - we do shopping once every 3 weeks, pickup only. Restaurants - mostly pickup, we've been to 5 restaurants since March'20. Parties... ugh - three times (~20 people) since March'20. Church - nope. Travel - one return flight for one person in the last 1.5 years. We think our behavior is on the risky side frankly, and I'm thinking of dialing down for omicron. We wear masks at all these, unless we're eating.
posted by Dotty at 5:37 PM on December 18, 2021 [9 favorites]

This is an absolutely astonishing amount of activity to be doing at all, and without masks! This is extremely wild to me. Look this virus is invisible and you won't know that you got it until it's making your life miserable or someone you love. Why risk it to this extent.
posted by bleep at 5:41 PM on December 18, 2021 [39 favorites]

Reckless. Very reckless. Holy fuck.
posted by heatherlogan at 5:42 PM on December 18, 2021 [51 favorites]

They sounds to me like no precautions, other than vaccines? Which I would say is more risky than most people I interact with, other than covid deniers.
posted by jojobobo at 5:43 PM on December 18, 2021 [22 favorites]

The variable that you're missing here is where in the world are you, and what kind of case numbers are you facing? If you're in borders are still closed Western Australia or in Florida- very different situations!

A really good metaphor I read on the blue is that potential covid exposures is like rolling a dice. You can do things to help like wearing a mask, being in ventilated spaces and being as vaccinated as possible (looks like it's at least a 3 dose vaccine and maybe omicron needs its own vaccine.)

Personally we try and avoid going grocery shopping and retail shopping. When we do, we wear a mask. (If we weren't in rural VIC, Australia, I'd probably be investigating n95s.)

Rarely restaurants- always because it's a group thing. We haven't been on a date to a restaurant in forever.

We cut down on travel. We try and avoid taking our child in to rest stops when we drive. We haven't flown since before the pandemic.

Gatherings have been hard- my husband still goes but we have stopped hosting because some are unvaccinated. (And obviously our under 2 isn't vaxxed.) We have the odd friends over for dinner but are aware of their Vax status.)

We are going to do some gatherings for Christmas.

We do church- unmasked, and recently unvaccinated people allowed back in. It's hard to navigate this one.
posted by freethefeet at 5:43 PM on December 18, 2021

I don’t do these things. I don’t know if I’m normal. I shop masked whenever I need to shop. I don’t eat indoors. I might consider eating indoors in places that require vaccinations and have good distancing. I don’t gather indoors with more than two people. I would not feel safe hanging out with you unmasked.

I’m vaxxed and boosted, 40s, medium risk factors.
posted by OrangeVelour at 5:44 PM on December 18, 2021 [7 favorites]

I think your behavior is pretty risky, but maybe understandably risky pre-omicron. Now, I think it's really reckless. Are you boosted? If not, I think you can assume you're going to get COVID, given what we know about omicron. (Hopefully you won't get too sick, but do you want to be responsible for spreading it to someone who is higher risk than you? And there's also the risk of long COVID, which has seriously screwed over a couple of people I know.) Even if you are boosted, I think you need to change your behavior, at least for the moment. If church is really important to you, can you wear a mask (better yet an N95 mask?) Can you cut back on the stuff that isn't super important to you?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:45 PM on December 18, 2021 [12 favorites]

OP's profile says they're in New York.
posted by heatherlogan at 5:46 PM on December 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'll be interested to see what others say, but my take on your situation is that you are, as you say, on the higher risk side. Definitely.

For some perspective: Mr. DrGail and I are in our mid-60s to mid-70s with well-controlled conditions that are considered comorbidities. We are in a state with a mask mandate and also always wear a mask when we are indoors in a neighboring state. We grocery shop once a week, taking care to get in and out as quickly as possible even though we go very early in the morning; we get takeout from restaurants and never dine in unless we can sit outside in reasonable weather; socialize with a small number (fewer than 10) friends in groups of four but no more than six at any time; attend no large gatherings; and only one of us has flown in the past two years, and in first class at that to minimize contact. I rejoined the gym recently, but am inside no more than 20 minutes and go at the quietest time I can find while staying far away from anyone who is improperly masked.

And all this was before omicron. We are even more cautious now.
posted by DrGail at 5:46 PM on December 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

The virus is airborn and Omicron ~5 times more contagious than Delta (note this alarming story of the virus likely travelling across a hotel hallway). I'd say with that level of exposure you're likely to catch it soon. The good news is with two doses you're less likely to get severely ill, but you certainly could easily pass it on. If you're not boosted get on that ASAP.

I've recently been witness to watching my small community become a superspreader site after one community event where people were masked but frequently removing them for drinking. A remote community that has never had more than a handful of cases at any time suddenly has 400+ and growing daily. Omicron is wild.
posted by stray at 5:46 PM on December 18, 2021 [8 favorites]

This would be too much risk for me. For what it's worth, I almost always shop masked, I rarely eat in restaurants (maybe once a month unless I'm traveling), I've been to maybe four social gatherings since March 2020. I have flown a few times.

And I've known people much more careful than me who got COVID.

It's hard for humans to conceptualize risk. I know it feels like everyone's acting like there's not a pandemic on. (I'm often the only masked person I see when I go shopping.) That has nothing to do with how risky it actually is.
posted by Jeanne at 5:48 PM on December 18, 2021 [5 favorites]

Wow, I’m surprised by some of the responses so far! The precautions you’re taking seem 100% normal to me; I’m doing approximately the same.
posted by buntastic at 5:48 PM on December 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

CDC guidance, for months, has been that we all should be wearing masks in indoor public places, even if we are vaccinated. Just because such a large percentage of people are ignoring that guidance is not a reason to think it's not relevant.
posted by metasarah at 5:49 PM on December 18, 2021 [43 favorites]

And for what it's worth, other people are taking a lot more risks than you, or are taking the same risks as you but aren't vaccinated. But other people are dying. A friend of a friend lost her husband to COVID a couple of weeks ago, leaving their six-year-old son without a father. You're more responsible than him, because he wasn't vaccinated, but still. "Other people are doing this" doesn't seem to me to be a terribly great way to measure safety right now.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:51 PM on December 18, 2021 [10 favorites]

Well, if you come to the city you have to mask indoors. So you’re certainly outside the norm in my circles and probably in this online circle, and also out of step with the law in NYC.
posted by kapers at 5:54 PM on December 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: The variable that you're missing here is where in the world are you, and what kind of case numbers are you facing? If you're in borders are still closed Western Australia or in Florida- very different situations!

Good question and highly pertinent information that I forgot. We're located in the midwest USA (checking current numbers reveal ~40-60 positive tests per day per 100K population). Our road and air travel has primarily been to major east coast US cities, FL, NJ, PA.

Also, possibly relevant: wife and I are "around 40", zero comorbidities, metabolically healthy.
posted by theorique at 5:54 PM on December 18, 2021

Best answer: Covid is airborne. The most dangerous places are crowded indoor gatherings with poor ventilation where people sing, gossip, eat and drink. I don't worry that much about the grocery store or highway rest stops anymore. I also don't really worry about planes.

I think there are a variety of decisions reasonable people could make at this point about whether to go to church or have a party with friends, but I absolutely consider those, church especially, mandatory N95 mask situations. If you were going to change any one thing about your precautions at this point, that would be my inclination.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 5:54 PM on December 18, 2021 [12 favorites]

Where I am you have to wear a mask indoors if you’re not at home or working out or not around people.

I work in fitness; we all wear masks and stay about 6 feet apart. I haven’t eaten in a restaurant since Dec 2019. I have used a gym, masked, two machines apart. I grocery shopping with a mask. No trips. I saw Dune with my double vaxxed teen in N95s with 4 other people in the entire theatre.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:59 PM on December 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't go anywhere with other people without a mask.

I have dined indoors with my soccer team once a week. Am the only one who wears a mask when not taking a bite or a drink. Am planning on not going next week, due to Omicron.

I rate your behavior as "Not Safe".
posted by Windopaene at 6:00 PM on December 18, 2021 [5 favorites]

I'm unclear what precautions you think you are taking other than being vaccinated. I'm sure you're not the only people living at that level of risk, but thousands of people are dying daily. I would find this immensely reckless and would not hang out, even outside.
posted by jeather at 6:00 PM on December 18, 2021 [17 favorites]

Best answer: This sounds astoundingly risky to me, and far far off from what anyone I personally know, online or off, is doing. For whatever a point of comparison is worth, here’s what things look like in my life in Pennsylvania:

Shopping and restaurants: No one I know is dining indoors. A few people dine outdoors. Most people are still at “pick up takeout, masked.” There is a pretty decent mix of shopping in person vs. still doing delivery only, but no one is shopping unmasked.

Parties and gatherings: There was one wedding that several friends went to, masked and outdoors. Other than that no one is throwing parties. People got pretty wild once over the summer and had eight or so people at an outdoor brunch. Otherwise, people are keeping social interactions still very small. I have one friend I see indoors and unmasked, two more I have seen very briefly outdoors and masked. I do know one friend who goes to concerts indoors; she has a very public facing customer service job and has decided that if she has to take on so much risk for work, she can take a few measured risks for personal joy as well.

Church: I know one person who is going to in person church; it’s a critical quality of life thing for her and she risk budgets for it by being very cautious everywhere else. I know some other people are doing online services. Mostly church is not a big thing for most people I know.

Travel: No one is flying unless it’s a work requirement or a serious family emergency. Or, in one or two cases, a “holy shit borders are opening up I can finally see my family after three years” thing. A small number of people are taking driving trips to cabins or airbnbs where they can go without endangering people on the other end in person, and doing some combination of quarantine and testing on return.
posted by Stacey at 6:03 PM on December 18, 2021 [9 favorites]

I also think this was a more reasonable lifestyle over the summer, when we were all freshly vaxxed and there was no Omicron. With Omicron and increased indoor socializing from the change in weather plus holidays, it is probably time to reassess. I would also get a booster shot in your shoes.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:03 PM on December 18, 2021 [16 favorites]

The norm around here (North Texas) is somewhat vaccinated, no masks, no more physical distancing, travel and shopping back to pre-covid levels.

Which is why I wear a mask in groups larger than 5, do not dine in at restaurants, and canceled my recreational December travel plans when Delta hit.
posted by rakaidan at 6:04 PM on December 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

IMO, you're behaving at the very high risk level, and I wouldn't chance being around you in person; I have a child too young to be vaccinated in my household.

You might be "normal" for the midwest... but then, from what I can tell, there's an awful lot of reckless behavior happening in a lot of the rest of the U.S. I'm ever so grateful to be in Oregon. I disagree with our governor on an awful lot, but at least she's doing her damnedest to keep Covid under control. I still want Kitzhaber back, but, at least in this, I suspect he'd have made approximately the same choices.
posted by stormyteal at 6:04 PM on December 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Our road and air travel has primarily been to major east coast US cities, FL, NJ, PA.

It's possible then that you could be picking up virus particles in these places and then spraying them all over the air everywhere you go which is several times a week. Maybe your immune system has this locked down but other people going to the same places as you who pick up what you're spraying out won't be so lucky. This is a highly contagious, highly dangerous disease.
posted by bleep at 6:07 PM on December 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

The church and parties are the riskiest possible things you could do. Short of hanging around a COVID ICU without a mask, I guess. I am from rural Midwest and I know what you’re doing also seems normal to people I grew up with who still live there. My aunt and uncle have gone maskless to church since Day One. He also spent six weeks in the hospital last November and still can’t sleep without oxygen. So, you know.
posted by something something at 6:08 PM on December 18, 2021 [16 favorites]

A plea: at work, my department masks whenever we're in communal spaces. We are open to the public, but we have no mask mandate. I'd say that about a third of our visitors don't wear masks.

Our unmasked visitors have been slowly destroying my goodwill toward humanity. I've been working in a mask since before the first mask mandates went into place, and my job requires me to interact with strangers every day. When our visitors don't mask, it's like they're wearing a giant sign that reads "I don't care about your physical and mental health."

Please wear a mask in public.
posted by toastedcheese at 6:09 PM on December 18, 2021 [42 favorites]

Very risky, in my opinion. As to if it’s “normal” it depends on who you’re comparing yourself too. I, too, am in the Midwest and haven’t seen anyone in a shop without a mask since early pandemic times. Culturally, where I live it’s expected (also an illinois state mandate). Many of my favorite restaurants check vaccination status before allowing anyone in (not a mandate, but I prefer going to these businesses). That said, I’ve flown for work quite a bit this fall, and found myself the only one in a mask in hotels. Better safe than sorry, in my mind. I would not go to an in-person event with lots of taking or singing like church, even if everyone was masked. A good friend canceled her holiday party of 20 people this week because of the risk even among all vaccinated and mask compliant friends.

I’ve eaten in a few restaurants and wear my mask when I’m not eating. What that means, is I put it back on if I’m resting between bites or chatting, not that I take it off as soon as I sit down until I pay my check. Starting this week, I don’t think I will be eating indoors for a while which, in Chicago, means takeout since it’s winter.

At the very least, I believe wearing a well-fitted N95/KN94/etc mask is basic decency and shows that you care about other people’s well-being not to spread your germs to them.
posted by Bunglegirl at 6:12 PM on December 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

I think the responses on askmetafilter about covid questions generally veer towards the overly cautious (often to the point of ridiculousness), but not in this case. You are indeed reckless. Twice weekly gatherings with 10-20 people??? Church with 200-300 unmasked people??? My guess is that your church services contain a much higher average of unvaccinated people than the general public, and the people who are attending your 10-20 person gatherings are most equally as reckless in their daily lives. So not only is your behavior risky, but the people you surround yourself with most likely make it even worse.
posted by jonathanhughes at 6:13 PM on December 18, 2021 [38 favorites]

We seem to be on the slightly riskier end of the folks around us, and 2/4 of your points made me audibly gasp on behalf of the people who are vulnerable to serious illness or have small children in your community. We aren't doing anything indoors unmasked, have eaten out 3-4 times since August (unmasking only to eat), and someone in my household got covid one of those times, at a time when local rates were about where yours currently are. In the last 10 days, rates have jumped to ~10 times that, thanks to omicron. Don't mess around.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:14 PM on December 18, 2021 [8 favorites]

I would slow down until we have more information on the omicron variant. If it retains its lethality, it’s going to spread through these groups and cause damage before anyone has a chance to react to it. I would think a few weeks should be enough to get more of an idea, certainly by the end of January.
posted by michaelh at 6:18 PM on December 18, 2021

Best answer: The church and the parties make you high risk of exposure in my book. We match on shopping, restaurants, and travel except I grocery shop in person, typically unmasked.

I attend an in-person meeting indoors of 25 people twice a month with no masking. Your risk is roughly 2-4 times as high if your parties last a couple hours and are indoors.

I have attended 2 conferences this year (both recently cooincidentally), probably about as many people there as your church. Everyone was vaccinated and masked. You have a similar risk at that weekly, without the singing. With the singing, I'd multiply risk by maybe 10? So roughly 52/2*10 = 260 times my risk (!!!!!!!) Probably others would estimate this differently, it's a rough rough guess.

With that said, risk of what? If you think you and everyone will get covid eventually due to endemicity, and will likely be protected from serious disease/death by the vaccine, then all the exposure risk math is unncessary and we're instead the risk of needing medical care soon vs at some later point. This is why my own risk levels are comparatively high for this thread; I have been assuming endemicity for over 9 months now, and so I adjust my behavior based on informed guesses about upcoming hospital capacity and immune system ability at this point.
posted by joeyh at 6:18 PM on December 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Wow. So basically you are taking zero precautions? My friend was just diagnosed with a brain tumor and was forced to spend four terrifying days and nights in the emergency room waiting for surgery because the hospital was overflowing with Covid patients. Fucking hell. To answer the question: Yes. Reckless.
posted by HotToddy at 6:21 PM on December 18, 2021 [35 favorites]

Granted, I’m in an unusually competent and well-behaved area (>80% vaccinated for all ages 0+ ) with a mask mandate, but your behavior seems exceptionally risky given that places with similarly competent societies are seeing massive surges in hospitalization due to Omicron.
posted by aramaic at 6:22 PM on December 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

By definition the people you see out in public are the ones who are taking more risks. The people who are masking and taking precautions are less likely to be in restaurants, at parties, on planes, etc. So you're taking your cues from the more reckless end of the spectrum to start with.

Listen, I get it. I live in the Midwest and routinely feel like I'm going crazy because everyone acts like there's no pandemic on. Please, let me assure you, there is. I provide in-person health care and I am always worrying that my next client will be someone who behaves like this. As people have said many times above, the risk is not just to you.
posted by brook horse at 6:24 PM on December 18, 2021 [25 favorites]

Indoor gatherings without masks are where the great majority of COVID infections are transmitted.

It's great that you're low risk but COVID is a collective problem and when you dine indoors, grocery shop unmasked, and attend church unmasked you are putting others in harms way and if you become infected, which can easily happen without your knowledge, you are speeding the spread and therefore mutation of the virus around the world and putting others in harms way.

Everything I just said is not an opinion or take, but rather is supported by overwhelming evidence and can safely be called a fact.

My advice: seize hold of the facts not the (dangerous) norms.
posted by latkes at 6:26 PM on December 18, 2021 [22 favorites]

This really seems like zero precautions to me. The church attendance strikes me especially because of the huge number of people and multiple hours unmasked.

I'm not saying any of this to pile on, but I live in an urban area in the US midwest and this is an alarmingly low level of precaution to my mind. This feels past "high risk" and into "pretending everything's normal" territory in my opinion.
posted by augustimagination at 6:26 PM on December 18, 2021 [12 favorites]

If I lived where you live, I wouldn't be doing the same things you do.

Not updated for Omicron yet, but you can plug in your settings into to see how risky they are individually.
posted by freethefeet at 6:28 PM on December 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

So ... are we normal? Is "Omicron" changing everything? How risky is this?

It's incredibly risky.

My question to you is; what precautions are you actually taking? You're not wearing masks in stores, you're eating indoors in restaurants constantly, you're having large unmasked indoor parties/gatherings on a weekly or greater basis, you're taking flights, and you're gathering in a massive church and singing which is about as high risk an activity as possible.

So, yeah, what exactly are you doing which you consider a covid precaution?
posted by Justinian at 6:30 PM on December 18, 2021 [25 favorites]

My family in the midwest say that pretty much no one is wearing masks there. But in Portland, we still have an indoor mask mandate, so everyone is masked up inside. Personally, I find your behavior to be at the riskier end of the scale. But even in pre-covid times I wasn't seeing 10-20 people 1-2x per week. So maybe you've scaled back?
posted by hydra77 at 6:36 PM on December 18, 2021

There is no zero-risk activity but the risk of covid for the fully vaccinated is less than or equal to risks that you take everyday and accept, like driving in a car.

That may have been true pre-omicron, on which I will not take a position, but you have no basis for believing it now that omicron will be the universally dominant strain everywhere.
posted by Justinian at 6:38 PM on December 18, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I think in any discussion of what is "safe" and what is "reckless", a comparison metric should be used. No action is "safe" objectively - the world has been fraught with peril both before and after COVID.

A useful metric I've used is something like "as safe as driving a car" (which is objectively dangerous) or "as risky as catching the flu" (which is also objectively dangerous). In most parts of the USA, case rates, hospitalization rates, and death rates for fully vaccinated people are comparable to, or less than, hospitalizations from the flu, or deaths from car collisions. There is a drastic difference in risk in the USA between those who are vaccinated and those who are not. The numbers bandied about by many people on MetaFilter generally do not reflect that distinction.

COVID, for an average person, is no longer a significant risk when compared to the background risk that people have always accepted. It has not been since Delta, and Omicron is not yet a change to that. You may or may not be an average person! Other people definitely are not necessarily average people! You may be more or less concerned about COVID outcomes other than hospitalization (ie, "long COVID"). If you are comfortable with comparing yourself to an average person, though, I think you should no longer worry about COVID.

To answer your question, if my local government allowed the precautions you're describing, they would be the ones I would use.
posted by saeculorum at 6:39 PM on December 18, 2021 [6 favorites]

The additional benefit of masking/social distancing is so minimal as to be negligent and in my opinion not worth the social and emotional cost anymore for most people. I am very pro-science!

Given every single legitimate health agency strongly urges universal masking and social distancing I find these two sentences to be impossible to reconcile.
posted by Justinian at 6:43 PM on December 18, 2021 [31 favorites]

The vaccines are almost 100% effective at preventing serious illness and death

Deaths in the US went up 7% in the last week, specific areas are seeing hospitalization spikes (relevant to OP, Illinois is up by 11% in the last week) so you may want to revise your risk analysis in light of the latest figures. Further, early data from Europe seems to point to 2 shots being the same as no shots in terms of infection.
posted by aramaic at 6:45 PM on December 18, 2021 [7 favorites]

I live the Southern US, near a major hospital system so mask wearing in public is common in my area but not necessarily my state. My SO has cancer and is undergoing Chemo. We are in our 50’s. Vaccinated and boosted. We have had a vacation but kept to our vaccinated social group with minimal outside contact. We do eat out sometimes. small niche places where crowds are not an issue and we are comfortable with their cleaning procedures. We stay away from large crowds. I shop, he sometimes goes with me. We always wear a mask in public. He has doctor appts, he stays masked, they stay masked. I now have to go into work, I do not sit within 30 feet of anyone and I wear my mask in common areas.
I actually think we are sorta loose in precautions. Your lifestyle does not seem to have any precautions beyond the vax.
posted by ReiFlinx at 6:49 PM on December 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

People who think they don't have to worry about covid anymore are going to be the death of me.
posted by jesourie at 6:52 PM on December 18, 2021 [25 favorites]

A useful metric I've used is something like "as safe as driving a car" (which is objectively dangerous) or "as risky as catching the flu" (which is also objectively dangerous). In most parts of the USA, case rates, hospitalization rates, and death rates for fully vaccinated people are comparable to, or less than, hospitalizations from the flu, or deaths from car collisions. There is a drastic difference in risk in the USA between those who are vaccinated and those who are not. The numbers bandied about by many people on MetaFilter generally do not reflect that distinction.
Really? The U.S. has more dead from Covid — at app. 800,000 — than any other country in the world. About 25% of the people who have contracted it will suffer from Long Covid, which there is currently no cure for and can impact your thinking abilities, your breathing and your heart. No one likes a cloistered life, and there have been lots of mental and emotional problems from the isolation of 2020, but we're not out of the woods yet because we can't get all on the same page about it — and Developed Countries paid no attention to those who couldn't provide or afford their own vaccines in Less Developed Countries.

Much of Europe is shutting down again, and NYC now has more cases of Omicron than anywhere else in the world, with hospitalization up about 25% in the last week.

In an airborne disease, risk gets passed on: What's high-risk to you is high-risk to all of us.
posted by Violet Blue at 7:00 PM on December 18, 2021 [11 favorites]

A useful metric I've used is something like "as safe as driving a car" (which is objectively dangerous) or "as risky as catching the flu" (which is also objectively dangerous).

I wear seat-belts and get flu shots. Wearing a mask indoors is a no-brainer. You are engaging in unnecessary risky behavior. Wear a damn mask.
posted by Mavri at 7:02 PM on December 18, 2021 [20 favorites]

Hi, I'm also on the side "your behavior is astoundingly reckless," but I rate the relative impacts of the unmasked store visit thing and the church and partying differently.

Choosing to participate in social groups like your party crowd and church is abhorrent to me and seems very high-risk, but at least they're all people who are freely able to leave.

Putting grocery store employees or other essential workers in the position of having to worry about your actions and your interactions with them or other shoppers when you choose to go in unmasked is a terrible thing to do. I've been in and heard about some really nasty interactions between covid-deniers and others. Forcing people to weigh and wonder exactly how unpleasant saying something to you is going to turn out to be is really not cool of you, regardless of the particular level of biological risk you're inflicting on them or yourself.

Like, I don't think I can describe how I feel about your actions accurately and remain within the bounds of good taste or MetaFilter moderation.

Instead, I will try a comparison: I'm trans, and a bunch of the people I care about are essential workers - in part because LGBTQ people are over-represented in having complicated life histories and relatively-easy-to-get jobs. From my perspective, you might as well say you've donated to homophobic and transphobic organizations specifically to further marginalize LGBTQ people: you are openly making life more unpleasant for people like me in a way that is entirely unnecessary and does not help you at all.

I will also add an anecdote: an unmasked woman in a post office attempted to strike up a conversation with me in line, complaining about the speed of the counter workers, and what I said to her, with intense contempt, was a variation on "put your mask on." If I had the misfortune of interacting with you in another person's workplace, that is approximately what I would say.
posted by All Might Be Well at 7:02 PM on December 18, 2021 [26 favorites]

The AskMe community skews very cautious when it comes to COVID. VERY. These responses demonstrate that. (This is unsurprising since AskMe and MeFi are pretty hard left.)

I, like you, am fully vaccinated. I mask most places in public. I don't attend church. I'm a left-leaning centrist, if that makes sense. But hell, I've been eating in restaurants 2-3 times per week for the past year. I go to parties (where people are vaccinated) and folks don't wear masks. I've taken several flights. One of those flights was to Cincinnati, where few people seemed to give a fuck about COVID. Another was to Austin and same deal. I've attended a conference of 1000+ people. No COVID cases came out of it. I attended a smaller conference of 100+. No COVID cases.

I've seen much of the country (and some of Mexico) over the past eighteen months. So, I've been able to observe a wide range of behavior. I'd consider what you're doing to be about average. There are people and places that are far more cautious. There are people and places where nobody is doing anything. (I drove through Wyoming a year ago. Nobody gave a flying hoot about COVID. No masks anywhere.)

All this is to say: COVID is real and dangerous and you should take precautions. But it's not the plague, which is how some folks (including the AskMe crowd) treat it. You're taking a few more risks than I am, but I wouldn't consider what you're doing crazy. You are vaccinated. That's not 100% effective, of course, but if you're with other vaccinated people, I personally believe you're doing what you ought. If you're in a fully vaccinated crowd and still worry, then wear a mask.
posted by jdroth at 7:02 PM on December 18, 2021 [8 favorites]

Have you prepared for what you’ll do if you get sick? Remember, severe illness = hospitalized. Mild illness can still be quite debilitating and you might have a hard time caring for a child if you’re both ill. You also won’t be able to go out for supplies, so have a couple weeks of easy to prepare food and various medications stockpiled. Get a booster asap.

This is way more risky than my life (also 40ish, healthy), but I suspect you’re closer to average in behavior than I am. I go to work in person a few days a week, and I’m very conscious of coworkers who are at higher risk than I am. My state has an indoor mask mandate, I go out to eat/drink maybe once a month at this point, usually outdoors, and will probably switch to takeout now it’s cold and omicron is spreading. The churches I’m familiar with here haven’t gone back to in person services.
posted by momus_window at 7:04 PM on December 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Other people carrying on like nothing is happening are THE reason why many people like me might never see our families again.
posted by bleep at 7:07 PM on December 18, 2021 [37 favorites]

Oh, I should add: Although my behavior has been pretty similar to yours, the Omicron thing does worry me. I plan to be more cautious than I have been over the past few months. But that's not going to stop me from eating in restaurants, shopping at grocery stores, or seeing friends. It just means more frequent masking and more frequent washing of hands.
posted by jdroth at 7:08 PM on December 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yes, your behavior sounds pretty normal to me, which is how come 800,000 people have died in this country. Normal normal normal.
posted by phunniemee at 7:09 PM on December 18, 2021 [45 favorites]

Would be hard to take more risk than what you're doing, to be clear.

Seems borderline reckless, and is certainly careless.

Scale it back.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 7:11 PM on December 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

The additional benefit of masking/social distancing is so minimal as to be negligent and in my opinion not worth the social and emotional cost anymore for most people. I am very pro-science!

No, no you are not.
posted by Ahmad Khani at 7:12 PM on December 18, 2021 [40 favorites]

jdroth: while technically correct that COVID isn't literally THE bubonic plague, it is literally a global pandemic. it's the closest we've had to "the plague" in almost any living person's lifetime, and we're at 1/10th the global death toll of the bubonic plague, with no signs we're on a downward trend.
posted by augustimagination at 7:13 PM on December 18, 2021 [8 favorites]

"We're located in the midwest USA"

Yo, Illinois has the strictest, best-enforced Covid mitigation regime in the midwest, and our Covid rate is HALF of some of our neighbors.

We are down to 275 ICU beds statewide, out of 3,000. Large parts of the state have ZERO ICU beds available. Surrounding midwestern states are already completely out of beds, and transferring patients to Illinois. (A guy who got in a car accident in Kentucky had to take a THREE HOUR medevac flight to get to an ICU that had space.) In the past week, ICU admissions in Illinois have gone up 19%, and this is the very beginning of the forecasted Omicron spike in Illinois.

This strikes me as wildly reckless behavior in the Midwest, which is at the start of an Omicron surge and most of the region is already out of hospital capacity, before the surge even really begins.

Even my super-Catholic parents who believe it's a mortal sin to skip Sunday Mass have not been going to Sunday Mass and intend to skip Christmas Mass for only the second time in their lives.

(If it matters, we grocery shop once a week in an N95 mask. We live in a town that's over 90% vaccinated, and I haven't been anywhere without a mask in public since the summer. I also haven't been to a restaurant since the summer, and then only outdoors. I have been to zero parties. I have socialized outside with two close friends, and otherwise just my family. Now, my youngest two children only got vaccinated in early December because they're in the 5-11 age range. But even now we're going to remain extremely cautious, in the hopes they can continue going to school. Although the way case rates are going, I'm half-convinced we're going to be distance learning after the winter holiday anyway.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:14 PM on December 18, 2021 [19 favorites]

If you were looking for people to tell you that this was in the "normal" or "cautious" category, you've come to the wrong place.

However, I can see that you are marking comments saying this is risky behavior as the best answer, so perhaps you have come to the right place, and I hope you take the comments to heart. There's a powerful human desire to not stick out, act like the people around us, and not be seen as "overreacting." That's why we're in this mess.

Wow, everyone needs to calm down. Covid is going to be with us forever and most of us are going to contract it eventually unless we die of something else earlier.

Not gonna lie, comments like this drive me apeshit. Yes, I fully expect to get Covid at some point. I would much prefer to get it when (1) we have much more effective, reliable treatments and (2) our healthcare system isn't completely overwhelmed and (3) in particular (for my self interest) have ways of preventing long Covid from developing from the "mild" case of Covid I'm going to get.

There are many other people who have entirely reasonably made the same risk calculation as me. So (sarahnicolesays) could you not show up and tell people they're overreacting and should be totally fine with getting Covid because at least they won't die or have to go to the hospital.
posted by Squalor Victoria at 7:16 PM on December 18, 2021 [30 favorites]

Good Lord. Yes, it’s like driving a car. Assuming you don’t wear seatbelts and periodically run red lights.
posted by FencingGal at 7:17 PM on December 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

All this is to say: COVID is real and dangerous and you should take precautions. But it's not the plague, which is how some folks (including the AskMe crowd) treat it.

I've wondered a lot in the past couple of years how many people with this attitude have serious chronic conditions or have experienced life-threatening health emergencies. A very large part of my covid anxiety and risk assessment is informed by the time (pre-covid) that I spent 12 hours in a crowded ER in excruciating pain with what turned out to be a life-threatening health condition. When covid fills the hospitals, vaccinated people who think they're totally fine will have health emergencies and will suffer and die because there aren't enough beds or staff. It seems like this would be important, even if you're only motivated by self-interest? I wonder if this is too abstract to matter if you've been healthy your whole life and don't have the imagination to think about it happening to you or the empathy to care that it will happen to others. It's viscerally terrifying to me.

Wear a damn mask jfc.
posted by Mavri at 7:20 PM on December 18, 2021 [32 favorites]

Restaurants and church can be done at home. Grocery shopping in person is necessary sometimes for some reasons, but you still need a mask. Partying with multiple other households multiple times per month is too much. Flying after September for leisure is too much.

I know someone who had to wait for 6+ hours to get an ER bed twice in the last month. It was not okay in any way. This kind of behavior is the reason the waits are so long.
posted by soelo at 7:21 PM on December 18, 2021 [12 favorites]

There is no zero-risk activity but the risk of covid for the fully vaccinated is less than or equal to risks that you take everyday and accept, like driving in a car.
For both driving and COVID, you might also want to account for the risk that your behavior will kill someone else. Motor vehicle crashes kill about 100 people per day in the US. COVID is killing more than 1,000 people per day in the US. If you end up contributing to COVID spread in your area, it probably makes you much more likely to kill someone than driving a car does.
posted by mbrubeck at 7:24 PM on December 18, 2021 [13 favorites]

The U.S. has more dead from Covid — at app. 800,000 — than any other country in the world.

Correct. The vast majority of people dying these days are unvaccinated. In Ohio, in 2021, 610 vaccinated people have died from COVID. In a typical year, over 2200 would be expected to die from the flu.

In my region, 1.5 to 36.8 per 100,000 vaccinated people (depending on age) have been hospitalized for COVID. In a typical year, 3.3 to 26.4 per 100,000 people (depending on age) were expected to be hospitalized from the flu. Importantly, my region no longer even tracks death rates from vaccinated people below 65 from COVID - the rate is so low the number can't be measured.

It's unfortunate the government and mainstream media sends the message that the vaccine is not effective. The COVID vaccines are incredibly effective at preventing hospitalization and death. Again, for an average vaccinated person, COVID is no longer a hospitalization or death risk.
posted by saeculorum at 7:25 PM on December 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

For context, I live in an area that is 95% double vaxxed (regional Victoria, Australia) with boosters just starting to roll out. We’re hitting new records in COVID cases these days, and this is the first time in the pandemic that people in my area are getting sick.

I wear a mask in public areas (indoors) and don’t linger in shops. I’ve eaten at restaurants a handful of times, but probably won’t for a little while, and I’m nervous about our lunch booking on Christmas day. I haven’t traveled by plane (and would be unwilling to do it until I get a third vaccine dose), take the train or tram a few times a week (masked), and work in a low-density office 2 days a week.

I haven’t been to in-person church since March 2020 — I feel like my work in the city exposes me more than other people I know and don’t want to risk infecting our elders at church.

From my vantage point, your personal COVID protocol is very lax, and I wouldn’t socialise with you indoors. But I also know others would consider my own choices reckless.
posted by third word on a random page at 7:30 PM on December 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Again, for an average vaccinated person, COVID is no longer a hospitalization or death risk.
@saeculorum — Yeah, but can we talk about Long Covid !? That kind of summary cherrypicks information in a dangerous way.
posted by Violet Blue at 7:31 PM on December 18, 2021 [12 favorites]

The weekly and twice-weekly parties and the church seem risky to me, assuming they are likely to be mixed vaccination status events. (Some people vaccinated, some people not, some people medically vulnerable). The rest of what you describe seems fairly normal and not worth worrying about too much unless/until there is another major outbreak. (i.e., possible soon depending on the omicron projections.)

The parties and church might be normal where you are, and are definitely "normal" in the sense that many millions of Americans are joining you every week, but those are your events where you are most likely to be exposed, and perhaps worse, likely to expose others if you are having a breakthrough case.

There's a cost to staying home as well, especially psychologically and emotionally, so I understand these things are tricky to balance. AskMe skews super risk averse, too.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:33 PM on December 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

Here's another way I think of this (and I know this will make the AskMe crowd angry).

I feel like many of my hard-core conservative friends are nuts because they won't get vaccinated and they won't wear masks. Their behavior is overly risky.

But I also feel like many of my hard-core liberal friends are equally nuts. They've cloistered themselves for eighteen months and have bought into an apocalyptic narrative. Their behavior is overly cautious.

It's true, of course, that being overly cautious in this case is much better for everyone than being overly risky. But it's still being overly cautious. It feels paranoid.

Something like 80-85% of all COVID cases are among the unvaccinated currently. And something like 95% of COVID deaths are among the unvaccinated. I maintain that if you're vaccinated and you wear a mask in most public spaces, your behavior is acceptable. (But again, Omicron may change that.)
posted by jdroth at 7:36 PM on December 18, 2021 [9 favorites]

For comparison: My wife and I both vaccinated and boosted. We work at home. She goes to the office briefly about once a week. I go to the office between a few minutes and a few hours about once a month, but I often see no one there. Now and for much of the pandemic, we get most of our shopping delivered. We have eaten in restaurants maybe three times during the pandemic, although I have eaten at restaurant patios maybe 10 times. We see one or two vaccinated family members or close friends indoors and unmasked maybe once a month. We mask indoors at any business or office. No parties, no crowds, no singing.
posted by NotLost at 7:37 PM on December 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Just a note, the country with the most covid deaths isn't the USA, it's India. They've virtually certainly lost more than 4 million people. This isn't relevant to the level of risk but all those folks mattered so we should recognize them.
posted by Justinian at 7:37 PM on December 18, 2021 [22 favorites]

I maintain that if you're vaccinated and you wear a mask in most public spaces, your behavior is acceptable. (But again, Omicron may change that.)

Thing is, when it comes to a global pandemic, you have to make the adjustments before it's obvious whether Omicron has changed the calculation or its too late.

As the epidemiologist I saw on TV right when things were kicking off in spring 2020 said, when it comes to fighting pandemics if it doesn't look like you over-reacted in retrospect, you under-reacted.
posted by Justinian at 7:40 PM on December 18, 2021 [24 favorites]

But I also feel like many of my hard-core liberal friends are equally nuts. They've cloistered themselves for eighteen months and have bought into an apocalyptic narrative. Their behavior is overly cautious.

Oh no doubt, but there's a pretty big gulf between cloistering yourself and attending parties like you're a frosh on rush week and then going and signing your little throat out with several hundred other unmasked people every Sunday.
posted by phunniemee at 7:45 PM on December 18, 2021 [21 favorites]

To answer your question about Omicron, yes, it spreads much more easily. Seems inevitable you will be exposed to Covid, and possibly get sick. Get your booster shots! It appears that "full" vaccination without a booster is way less protective for Omicron.

I was shocked when I visited the Midwest in mid-2020 from the Bay Area. Even though I was in a large, liberal city, it was like an alternate universe in terms of people not wearing masks. If you wear a mask in a store, that's good, but it would be much better if everyone *around* you were also wearing masks, since that would give you a lot more protection.
posted by pinochiette at 7:45 PM on December 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm confused by this question because it just sounds like you're not taking any precautions at all (except wearing a mask when you're basically forced to).

I guess it's all relative compared to what your lifestyle was like before the pandemic, but that's how this sounds to me.
posted by wondermouse at 7:47 PM on December 18, 2021 [11 favorites]

Short answer to this one: if you're not masking while in public--EVERY TIME YOU'RE IN PUBLIC--you're being reckless, especially now. I concur that if you only wear a mask when forced to, you aren't taking precautions.

I can't even imagine thinking it's okay to sing in public unmasked with 300 people. Like I know I'm an idiot who sings in public indoors, but not with 300 people and I keep my damn masks on while I do it, one of them being a KN95. I don't go into stores without a mask. For all I know everyone at your weekly(!) parties are at least vaccinated, but I doubt 300 churchies are.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:48 PM on December 18, 2021 [10 favorites]

It may be worth adding on to my previous comment, since you indicated it was helpful, that (other than friends with immune stuff who have a whole other calculus), most of the people I referenced in my comment about myself and friends aren't making our risk calculations based on hospitalization or death risks anymore post boosters. (Though, sure, that's still scary!)

We're worried about 1) what we owe to the people we live in a society with who might be indirectly exposed by our choices, including young unvaccinated children and immunocompromised community members, and 2) Long Covid.

When all ages can be vaccinated and there are significantly useful treatments for or ways to avoid Long Covid, those risk calculations will probably change. Until then, those are the driving forces.
posted by Stacey at 7:50 PM on December 18, 2021 [18 favorites]

I'd just like to point out that risky behavior being accepted as "normal" or "average" is a big reason why we're at almost a million dead from Covid in the US alone.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:50 PM on December 18, 2021 [18 favorites]

As a data point, I'm one of the extremely unlucky people who got the equivalent of "long COVID" due to nervous system damage from a common, much less contagious, much less deadly virus, as a perfectly healthy teenager. I was never close to needing hospitalization, though I was out of school for a couple months.

It took me 10 years to get my condition under control. I'm still not "normal" but I'm functional within the limits of my body. I would not be capable of going to parties twice a week and traveling every couple of months; it would wreck me. But I can manage a much quieter life.

Even if you don't get hospitalized or die, you may have to give up this lifestyle permanently if you get long COVID. Vaccination helps, but the risk is still a lot higher than mine was when I got sick. And rather than rolling a handful of dice as necessary for your physical and mental health, you're basically dumping a pound of them on the table at once. At some point, RNG is going to get you.
posted by brook horse at 7:50 PM on December 18, 2021 [12 favorites]

So here's the thing, jdroth. A lot of this comes down to whether you're completely selfish. It is true that you're very unlikely to die of COVID if you're vaccinated, middle-aged, and otherwise healthy. There's still the threat of long COVID, and we don't really know how that's going to work with breakthrough cases, but that's really a matter of people's personal risk tolerance. So yeah, you're probably not going to die of COVID. But if you get COVID and spread it, other people might die. Unvaccinated people might, and people who need emergency healthcare might, if the healthcare system gets overwhelmed by unvaccinated people. (And that's already happening where I live. All the hospitals in the next city over from me have cancelled all elective surgeries until at least after Christmas, and we all know things are going to get worse after Christmas.) So do you care that your behavior might kill some people, including vaccinated, responsible people who have heart attacks or strokes or get in car accidents? The risk calculus isn't just individual. And I guess that I think it's reasonable to make some sacrifices to protect other people. I am quickly realizing, though, that I'm operating with a different set of moral precepts than a lot of my Midwestern neighbors.

I am absolutely not saying that people should cloister themselves. But there has to be some middle ground here, and I don't think the OP has found it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:52 PM on December 18, 2021 [31 favorites]

This sounds exceedingly risky to me in any case, since masks are so easy to wear in those scenarios, but I wanted just to throw in there that risk differs depending on local case numbers, and what may be appropriate in one place may not be in another. For each location, I think there is a range of reasonable choices that are consistent with a person's moral obligations to others.
posted by lookoutbelow at 7:57 PM on December 18, 2021

Because you asked: Your behavior is reckless.

I've been around here for a long time. Very little on the internet shocks me today.

Your post made my jaw drop.

I don't know what set of rules you think you've been following, but (apart from being vaccinated) you're more or less checking every box on the list of "What not to do"

I get a distinct vibe that you've been doing these things because you feel that your community is somehow different. That your fellow churchgoers are well-behaved any unlikely to be engaging in risky behaviors. This is a fallacy. Your neighbors in Midwest suburbia are just as at-risk as anybody would be in Manhattan or Los Angeles (possibly even moreso given the evident complete disregard for any kind of precaution).

Please do better. For all of us.
posted by schmod at 7:58 PM on December 18, 2021 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: A couple of clarifications / additions:

- both of us WFH so there's no exposure risk there (not sure that's exactly a "precaution" but it feels like a risk reducer of sorts)

- most of the "parties / gatherings" referenced in OP are connected to our church small group, where it's always the same people recurring. Every so often added-on guests or friends will show up as well, but most of the time it's the same core group (mostly in a private residence, sometimes in a public venue).
posted by theorique at 8:02 PM on December 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

Seeking reality check

Your question betrays a stunning lack of compassion for your neighbours and, frankly, a fantasy that you are living that the pandemic just stops at the horizon.

I am an American living in Hong Kong. I have not been home in two years because of millions of fellow Americans like you living in a world where you see the choices you are making as normal when the rest of the world is being far, far more cautious.

What stops me from going home is the prohibitive cost of quarantine, a legal requirement to spend three weeks in a hotel or government quarantine centre regardless of your test results on arrival. You of course can't work from a wi-fi free quarantine centre, and good luck getting paid while you're not working. I'm not a millionaire, and neither are most of us.

Here, masking is universal and legally required in public places (and no, there's no "social and emotional" cost to putting a thing over your nose), you must use a government app to track your entry and exit to many different venues, you can't enter the city at all from anywhere else at all if you don't have residency rights, everyone is obsessed with hygiene, and even with *all this* we get people arriving in the city who test positive every day. They are *all* immediately hospitalised, on arrival, for weeks, before then being sent to a quarantine centre even if asymptomatic - because the risk to our health system, already at full capacity, is so high that even a tiny outbreak among our elderly population would shut down our hospitals' ability to provide any other care at all, including emergency critical care to people in, like, car accidents.

There was a minor skyscraper fire here a few days ago; no one died during the multi-thousand person evacuation, but a few people, obviously, went to hospital for some pretty intense care after smoke inhalation. These people would have died in a community with your attitude because every available hospital bed would have been full.

Died! Lives just over, with no nurses or doctors to take care of them in their last moments because they'd have to change their PPE every time they left the Covid ward to head out to the emergency room. Went to work, never came home. Families left with a body to manage on their own, a body they maybe collect in a hospital driveway. Funeral homes overwhelmed, caskets out of stock. That is the impact of people making choices you are making. People die because care can't be diverted from Covid cases.

You need to seriously, dramatically, immediately change the attitude you have to this pandemic and do more to protect not just yourselves, but the rest of your community - which these days, is everyone else on this planet. I'd love to get home by the summer but I know that realistically, I won't be going anywhere until the pandemic is over - and it very much is not.
posted by mdonley at 8:03 PM on December 18, 2021 [39 favorites]

Are we reckless, normal, or cautious?

Reckless, full stop.

I agree that there are extremes at both ends of the caution spectrum. At the extreme caution end are those who stay home all the time, while at the other, there are those who shrug and carry on as if nothing has changed.

If everyone were at the cautious end of the spectrum, COVID-19 would be a trivia question and something we told our grandkids about The Time We All Stayed Home For Three Weeks. Every day that huge numbers of people carry on with restaurant meals and singing with hundreds of peoples and by Christ one or two parties a week, tra-la-la, they carry us further and further away from the world they claim to want.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:14 PM on December 18, 2021 [15 favorites]

I'm just going to clear one thing up:

There's nothing inherently safer about going to a 300+ person church service in the suburbs than going to a crowded nightclub in the city.

Your statements seem to strongly suggest that you believe that your community is somehow different and special compared to the rest of the world.

This could not be further from the truth. There is no inherent virtuosity of your fellow churchgoers that is protecting them from COVID.
posted by schmod at 8:15 PM on December 18, 2021 [30 favorites]

We are both fully vaccinated, for whatever that's worth now (i.e. with waning efficacy, breakthrough infection, etc).

Why aren't you boostered?
posted by joycehealy at 8:15 PM on December 18, 2021 [5 favorites]

If 95% of COVID deaths are of unvaccinated people, that’s still a lot of vaccinated people dying. And that doesn’t even consider long COVID. Or community spread from people who are vaccinated but not hospitalized and get COVID.

My brother died from a cancer with a 99% survival rate. 95% is not 100%.

So just to reiterate, people like you are really hurting immunocompromised people like me. I get that I have to live a more limited life than healthy people. But my ability to be around people goes to zero because of people who behave as you do. Omicron means I may have to give up my one social activity - fencing outside with masked, vaccinated people.

I haven’t been inside my church since March of 2020. They stopped requiring masks, so I may never get to go there again. This is a very hard thing to deal with just because people can’t be bothered to wear a bit of cloth.
posted by FencingGal at 8:15 PM on December 18, 2021 [24 favorites]

most of the "parties / gatherings" referenced in OP are connected to our church small group, where it's always the same people recurring. Every so often added-on guests or friends will show up as well, but most of the time it's the same core group (mostly in a private residence, sometimes in a public venue).

I don’t get it.. this is while you’re going out to eat in restaurants several times a week, flying to some other place every couple of months, along with going to church services where people are singing without masks. Think of all the things all those people are doing in between your parties/gatherings. You are not taking any precautions whatsoever.
posted by wondermouse at 8:18 PM on December 18, 2021 [26 favorites]

Wait, are you asking how risky is this for you and your spouse personally, the people you gather with, the people working at the places you go, your community in general, society at large?
posted by kapers at 8:19 PM on December 18, 2021 [7 favorites]

An example of a precaution I take, and have taken consistently since I was about 5 years old, to prevent the common cold, is that I don't lick door handles.

Someone less cautious than me wanting to avoid the common cold might take a precaution like "I have limited the number of door handles I lick to one a week, and I swish with listerine afterwards."

Your version of precaution seems to be "oh I still lick the door handles, but I need you to know that most of the people who use this door attend my church."

I don't think you understand what a precaution is.
posted by phunniemee at 8:24 PM on December 18, 2021 [43 favorites]

For what it's worth, my personal risk tolerance would allow me to attend small gatherings in private homes, assuming that everyone was vaccinated and boosted. If you know everyone in your church small group is vaccinated and boosted, and you are willing to ask about the other people who show up, then I would consider those gatherings to be reasonable. I would hold off on meeting in restaurants for the moment. You can reassess in a couple of weeks, but for now that seems unnecessarily risky.

If you aren't boosted, then getting the booster is a relatively easy thing you can do to reduce the likelihood that you get and spread omicron. Everything is still really preliminary, but it seems like the two-vaccine series may only prevents serious symptoms, not infection and spread of that variant. If you're worried about risk to others, you should get the booster.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:32 PM on December 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Your statements seem to strongly suggest that you believe that your community is somehow different and special compared to the rest of the world.

On the contrary - when I look at weekly church services "objectively" - how many people, density of people in space, how many/few masks (maybe 2-5%?) - and without sentiment or emotional attachment, I do feel concerned about the exposure risks.

I think that many of the replies to this thread tend to confirm my intuition that this is probably the highest risk activity that we do on a regular basis.

Why aren't you boostered?

I'm still within the 6 month window following the initial vaccination.
posted by theorique at 8:33 PM on December 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

I hope you get boosters as soon as you reach the 6 month window. No one in my circle is doing nearly as much gathering, even with masks. The idea that you are doing it all without masks is astonishing to me.
posted by hworth at 8:49 PM on December 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

In Ontario, we've seen 30% per day increases this week with more than 2/3rds of the cases among the fully vaccinated, so it feels like we're on the cusp of something horrible. As it stands, my extended family will do a staggered Xmas visits with my boostered mum but I've cancelled all other socialization plans with my “bubble” friends and will continue to double mask while shopping. I think it would be crazy to indoor dine or attend church right now. If numbers continue to rise, we'll re-evaluate Xmas plans.
posted by brachiopod at 8:53 PM on December 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Since a lot of people in this thread are expressing shock or anger at your behavior and espousing much more restrictive regimes, it might be worth saying that my own choices have been much less restrictive than most people in this thread, to the point that I would say at this point I really don't find pandemic restrictions to be a burden or something that affects my life very much. I might be one of the people you see in the airport or the restaurant. And even so, you are taking notably fewer precautions than I am.

There are no hard and fast rules -- different choices create different levels of risk, and different restrictions are more or less burdensome to different people. I wear a KN95 mask in a store because that just doesn't negatively affect my experience of shopping, and it makes some modest contribution to reducing the chance I give somebody COVID. I also wear a KN95 at work (my work requires masking but doesn't specify what kind.) I don't eat inside in restaurants 2-3 times a week or even once a week, but I do eat inside restaurants when there's a good reason, and I have eaten outside at restaurants a lot. I have been on plenty of planes this year. I have been to synagogue with large groups of people singing, but our religious requirements are that masks are to be worn inside.

You ask:
How risky is this?

Well, that really depends on whose risk you care about. You're middle-aged like me, and so the odds of you getting seriously ill when you get COVID are not that high. Heck, I would say the odds you've already had COVID are reasonably high. (The risk of having a really unpleasant couple of weeks followed by a few months of fatigue/shortness of breath is substantially higher; this is the experience some other people I know our age have had, though this was before vaccination.)

On the other hand, you are imposing risks on the people you come into contact with, who, if they are old, are at much higher risk than you of serious illness with COVID, even if they are vaccinated. You may not care about this, and feel that the risks those old people choose to take on by being in public are the consequences of their own decisions and shouldn't have any influence on your actions.

With omicron coming, now, there is another aspect to consider -- we are likely to have a lot of cases of COVID in a very short timespan, which presents a reasonable risk of disruptions in hospitals and other healthcare settings. So taking actions to slow down the spread will likely lower that peak, which is good for everyone. We don't know for sure, but given the speed of omicron spread this issue might be localized to the next month or so.

All of these are reasons to, for the moment, impose some modest restrictions if you consider these risks to yourself and to other people worth taking into account.

If I could wave a wand and have you change a few things they would be, roughly in order of how hard it sounds like they'd be for you:

* get a booster shot, which will most likely decrease both the personal risk to yourself and the risk you present to others, and has basically no cost to you (unless you have horrible vaccine reactions or something, but you didn't mention this) (crosspost: I see while typing that you're not eligible yet, so I would say -- get a booster shot as soon as you can.)

* In situations where you do wear a mask, wear a better masks. This has a financial cost -- the KN95s are more expensive than the blue paper ones -- but not one that will be burdensome to you if you're flying and eating restaurant food a lot, I am guessing.

* wear a mask to church. This seems like the scenario where you would be most likely to give COVID to a bunch of people at once whose health vulnerabilities you don't know. This one does come at a cost -- you'll feel self-conscious and weird! I think it is OK to sit with this feeling and become at peace with it. There are probably other people at your church -- say, people who live with an elderly relative -- who would like to wear a mask but feel too self-conscious to do so. If some people are wearing masks and some aren't, everybody feels more comfortable doing what they actually want to be doing.

I think you could eliminate a lot of the risk you're creating without making major changes to your life, and so I think that's what you should do. I am, of course, Just Some Guy On The Internet.
posted by escabeche at 8:54 PM on December 18, 2021 [26 favorites]

Please consider that risk includes public health risk in addition to personal risk.

Like FencingGal (hello again, FG) says, the actions you take don't stop with you. I'm high risk of covid mortality (I've lost track but the numbers are 20% to as high as 40% in some studies), and I'm completely, utterly isolated at home and have been since March 2020. There's a lot of call for people to live their lives as normally as possible because of the mental health impacts, but because so many people are not taking precautions, I have to be even more isolated due to the wildfire spread. Mental health is an issue for me as well.

Before covid, my wildest dream for my post-transplant life was to go to Iceland and then travel around Europe for a month or so. Now, my wildest, craziest dream is to sit for a leisurely hour in a coffee shop, sipping coffee, reading a book. For real, I've sobbed over it. I can't think of anything I want more.

If enough people -- including vaccinated people -- took normal, standard precautions of masking and distancing (I mean, unmasked parties? Unmasked groups of 300+? What?) the risk might drop low enough for me to be able to do that. I totally get that it's not your fault that I'm sick, but is your unrelenting social calendar of event after event after event and all those weekly restaurant meals worth more than a single hour of me doing one small thing?
posted by mochapickle at 8:55 PM on December 18, 2021 [38 favorites]

I wear a KN95 mask in a store because that just doesn't negatively affect my experience of shopping,

I can't say the same, but I do it anyway. it's ok to make relatively minor sacrifices for the common good. and in this case it is not just ok but obligatory. this is a hard and fast rule.

many people certainly do seem to judge what is and isn't a good idea or a moral imperative by what does and doesn't "negatively affect [their] experience of shopping", though! what a world we do live in.

and has basically no cost to you

well, but this can't actually be a serious consideration or the deciding factor. not seriously. not actually
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:02 PM on December 18, 2021 [7 favorites]

I'm fully vaccinated as is my partner and I got covid at work in early Dec., then she got it. We just came out of quarantine days ago. It was no picinic. Tighten up your protocols, you do not want a mild case of this.

One of the things she pointed out was that we got this bullshit and we did nothing risky- no movies, no parties, no church(though that is something we do not do), no airplanes...we just went to work. Where we masked and handwashed etc. So, people like you brought the virus into where I work (a restaurant) and got me sick, and her sick. We are fine now. Please don't get anyone sick.

Sorry if I sound mean, I know you aren't trying to get anyone sick. Buying you a beer, spiritually.
posted by vrakatar at 9:02 PM on December 18, 2021 [18 favorites]

It's really all been said above. I'm just one more data point saying holy shit, so risky, my jaw dropped by the end of your list. I know mefi skews cautious but I don't know anyone in real life either who is doing all those things. I would also like to reiterate three things:
1) long Covid. Research suggests that even for vaccinated folks, your odds of having long term symptoms of some sort are around 15%. That's pretty high.
2) even if YOU PERSONALLY are okay with the risks (immediate but statistically more worrisome, long Covid), your current lifestyle basically guarantees if you get Covid you will pass it on to others. Some of these others may suffer, get long Covid, be hospitalized, and die. They may take up hospital beds that are not there, adding to the Covid-related harms that result from all of our Healthcare resources being deployed towards Covid patients. Most of the people we know are taking the perspective that they are part of a community, and don't want to be the cause of immense harm to others (who may include loved ones), and this is a large part of their risk calculations.
3. Omicron. You're double vaxxed. Good for you, but the latest research suggests that with Omicron that is now little better than a saline injection (20% effective, but possibly NO effectiveness *sob*) until you've been boosted. More research to come, but it's not looking as though 2 doses of our current vaccines are enough to be of much benefit.
posted by DTMFA at 9:08 PM on December 18, 2021 [5 favorites]

Let me make another point, because someone brought up the comparison to risk (again, to both you and others) of driving a car. I think this is actually a useful comparison, because driving a car is pretty dangerous, dangerous to you, dangerous to people you might crash into! It's probably one of the most physically dangerous things you do, if you do it.

So does that mean you should never drive? Well, no. Society is not set up to make that feasible for most people. It would come at a really high cost.

But does that mean you never think about the danger of driving, never take it into account? No. It means that you make modifications that attach the worst part of the risk but which fit into your lifestyle. It means I don't have a couple of drinks and then drive at the end of the night, even though I would surely be within the legal blood-alcohol limit, because my reflexes would be slowed down even within that limit and skipping the drinks on nights I'm driving is just not that big of a deal. There have been other times I've been on a long drive and found I was starting to get dozy at the wheel -- there were times when a cup of gas station coffee got me in good enough condition that I felt I was safe enough, but other times when I stopped for the night and stayed at a motel, even though this was inconvenient in terms of getting where I was going on time, and cost me money, because it just seemed like the right thing to do to mitigate risk.

Removing all risk from your life is impossible but there are lots of worthwhile ways to remove large chunks of the risk, and you don't want to let "removing all risk from your life is impossible" be an excuse for not doing that.
posted by escabeche at 9:16 PM on December 18, 2021 [13 favorites]

I'm disabled, likely from a viral illness I had as a teenager. It is true, the risks you are taking are the reason people are dead, and temporarily or permanently disabled. And you, your family, friends, and community are not immune to any of that.

You may have already had an asymptomatic case that spread to someone and caused irreparable harm.

My spouse and I just got our boosters. He works from home (I am unable to work). My spouse and I mask every time we go out. *I did not mask when at an outdoor festival, in a small town, where I kept my distance and we walked around for less than an hour. We didn't mask in a couple of stores where we were the only customers, and were brief.

We do not eat out. We have not been to concerts or large events. We drove and moved to a different state and I couldn't see my friends before we left because it was unsafe for me. I may never see them in person again. My husband and I just desperately want to go on a date and eat appetizers and some good drinks and experience the city we just moved to together, but we don't feel it's safe. Specifically it's unsafe because people will not take precautions.

I visit with my parents regular. All vaxed and boosted, who also mask most of the time. The largest thing I've done is a holiday get together with a handful of family. (I believe they're all vaccinated.) And I was nervous for a week after.

My mental health is beyond fractured, both from the isolation, the lack of clear hope, and the heartbreak from seeing just how little humans care. I fucking HATE wearing a mask. It gives me anxiety and I already am often panting because of my health issues, which is even worse with a mask and glasses and fog, and uck. But I do it anyway.

I am so tired.

For even selfishness, everyone needs to do as much as possible and for fuck's sake 1) Get vaccinated / boosted 2) stay home / away from unmasked situations 3) mask whenever possible in public 4) social distance and 5) wash your hands / practice good hygine
posted by Crystalinne at 9:18 PM on December 18, 2021 [20 favorites]

Church: I know one person who is going to in person church; it’s a critical quality of life thing for her and she risk budgets for it by being very cautious everywhere else

This describes how I've been living my life, except instead of church, it's been specific clubs twice a week. Pre-omicron here in NYC, I also expanded that to going to a restaurant or bar with friends once a week, unmasked while eating. The case numbers and vaccination numbers were good for so long, and I was keeping an eye on them and making that assessment before going out each week.

But apart from that, I work from home. I only exceedingly rarely go to stores (and mask the entire time when I do). I still get everything delivered (and mask when greeting delivery people, as well as encourage them to leave items rather than waiting). And if I'm around a lot of people I don't know outdoors or in a venue, I typically have been wearing a mask. I still have really only been seeing people in my bubble, apart from club nights, though my bubble has grown larger than it was last year. I've been wearing a mask whenever I go for a walk around the neighborhood on my non-club days, as well as on the rare occasions (in addition to my weekly journeys to the club and back) when I've used transit or taken a car somewhere.

According to the microCOVID project cited above, my behavior has still been way too risky. It's time to rein it in and cut back.

I got pneumonia over the summer from that bad cold that was going around NYC, then got sick from another one less than a month later, for almost a month starting in September. I was sick in some form for a total of 3 months this summer and fall, and I've been lucky not to even get the really bad thing. So I'm trying to avoid any respiratory illnesses, because I'm not sure what my lungs can handle anymore; even if folks have a cold or sinus infection, I'm masking up or not joining the group. And I just heard about a recent get-together that spawned at least one COVID case, a friend's grandmother who's in hospice with the virus, and one friend of club friends who now has it.

So yeah, I think I'm going to cut down and go back to dancing in a club only once a week (my gym and social time, basically, which has made a dramatic enough difference in my physical and emotional health that I'm going to hang onto it as long as I can). Clubs are starting to require masks again, which is great, and noticeably fewer people are going, which is also great (though of course the reason it's happening is bad). I got my booster shot. I just ordered more (and more effective) masks. I'm questioning things like friends' insistence on keeping a drink in hand to justify keeping masks off, or plans that would take us through anywhere like Times Square or Rockefeller Center again. Those areas aren't safe. And I've been having as much soup and tea as possible, to continue to support my immune system.

And yeah, you're traveling way too often. I really want to go on a trip coming up that a friend and I keep kicking down the road, and it seems possible we might need to postpone again. It is what it is, if so.

I'm thankful, so thankful, to have been able to have the time I've had to go out and get to know a whole new group of people at the goth clubs this year, thanks to vaccines. Even with the pneumonia I went through, on balance I would say going out dancing has been worth it. But if I have to pull back from that, there are fallback plans.
posted by limeonaire at 9:40 PM on December 18, 2021 [1 favorite]

To me this is so reckless and selfish my head is spinning and I’m feeling kind of angry. Church with hundreds of people unmasked and singing? During an airborne pandemic? And then you go out into the community and fly around to other places for fun, unmasked in planes with people who have to fly for things like dying family members? Is this what your religion wants you to do? Socialize constantly and maybe start a superspreader? Fucking outrageous. Truly. If you told me this in person I wouldn’t be able to even look you in the eye.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 9:47 PM on December 18, 2021 [27 favorites]

I heard an MD/MPH say yesterday say on CNN that Omicron is as infectious as measles. Measles!! It might have been Dr Jha, but I can't remember specifically.

Measles is probably one of the most infectious diseases known to man. It's so infectious that if a susceptible person enters a room vacated 15 minutes earlier by someone infected with measles the susceptible person will likely get infected.

I think your behavior pattern is very imprudent, reckless in fact, especially with the church singing and socializing, but your justification is that if you are vaxxed and so far have escaped infection, that you "should" be able to do the things you are accustomed to doing with the people you are accustomed to socializing with, taking the very minimal precautions you described. After all, you haven't so far gotten infected! I believe you are misjudging Omicron badly.

There is probably nothing the Meta community can say to dissuade you from this behavior (you seem to be hoping for our approval), but the Meta community has nothing, actually, to do with if you become infected, because we are not Covid gatekeepers. You are the people socializing in your community, and you will absolutely find out if your precautions are sufficient. Our opinion, if it coalesced around an opinion that you are (or aren't) taking unnecessary risks, is ultimately irreverent. You either will or won't contract Covid, but only you can modify your behavior to make yourself less susceptible . . . or not. For your sake I hope you will reassess and modify your behavior strategically and dramatically.
posted by citygirl at 9:51 PM on December 18, 2021 [8 favorites]

I also expanded that to going to a restaurant or bar with friends once a week, unmasked while eating.
I still have really only been seeing people in my bubble, apart from club nights

with respect, and with the acknowledgement that you laid out an understanding of risk and of the fact that risk has recently increased,-- you do not have a bubble. you cannot both be in a covid bubble and habitually go into restaurants and bars without masks, that is not possible.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:58 PM on December 18, 2021 [32 favorites]

We are all tired...

I'm cancelling something due to Omicron and lots of people coming to my house for Christmas. Am vaxxed and boosted. But, I can handle some more lockdown behavior. Wish we had dealt with it properly the first two or three waves. Stay safe everyone...
posted by Windopaene at 10:04 PM on December 18, 2021 [2 favorites]

My wife and I are a little younger than you, and have more comorbidities. Quite frankly, behavior like your family's (which could catch and re-transmit COVID widespread) is one reason why we haven't eaten indoors at a restaurant in 18 months, or done any of the other things your family doing. Not just risky, but crappy towards the rest of us, mate.
posted by Alterscape at 10:41 PM on December 18, 2021 [23 favorites]

This is fairly ridiculous. If your question is how risky is your behavior compared to average, you’re already better than a good chunk of the US in that you’re vaccinated. If you get boosted once eligible, you’ll be quite above average.

Lots of people are dying, yes, and mostly totally unnecessary unvaccinated deaths. You’re taking risks but on average? I mean, downtown NYC is bustling like, well, it’s Christmastime. Doesn’t mean you’re safe or moral or whatever, but yes, you’re quite average.

We just went to Japantown and the mall was packed. I’m not saying it’s safe, but it’s very normal to be out and about, dining indoors, etc. Lots of demand. The mayor of San Francisco is regularly spotted out massless at jazz clubs. Do I admire and respect her? Not really, but most people who don’t spend hours a week on online message boards are indeed living it up.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:48 PM on December 18, 2021 [3 favorites]

"Normal", "average" and "typical" are not always good standards.

Did your parents ever say, "If everybody else did such-and-so, would you do it, too?"
posted by NotLost at 10:54 PM on December 18, 2021

3. Omicron. You're double vaxxed. Good for you, but the latest research suggests that with Omicron that is now little better than a saline injection (20% effective, but possibly NO effectiveness *sob*) until you've been boosted. More research to come, but it's not looking as though 2 doses of our current vaccines are enough to be of much benefit.

I can’t link from my phone but this is misinformation. Protection against infection is NOT the only form of protection, and evidence so far is robust protection against severe disease (even if it does take a hit vs. prior variants).
posted by stoneandstar at 10:56 PM on December 18, 2021 [4 favorites]

In the United States, NOT having a condition that puts you at increased risk is actually pretty rare.

Still, I’ll take your word that you and your spouse are both among the vanishingly small number of Americans who have no history of e.g., depression, asthma, smoking, diabetes, nor a current BMI greater than or equal to 25. (That last one alone is ~2/3 of Americans.) But for my “social smoking” habit in my early 20s, I might have been a unicorn like you, alas! I swear I believe you!

That said, you’re not considering the risk you present to the literal majority of people who (vaccinated or not) are in less-than-perfect health.

FWIW, I used to be a regular and enthusiastic churchgoer, back in the Before Times. Those days are gone for a couple reasons:
  • My church, like most American churches, skewed geriatric. Like most American anythings, it had a lot of people with comorbidities. And like many mainline churches, it had people who were severely immunocompromised (e.g., in cancer treatment, or living with AIDS)
  • My spouse is employed by another church. (Somewhat ironically, he’s a nonbeliever.) We decided two churches’ worth of exposure was too much for our household, in which three people of variable risk levels dwell (my nonzero level being the lowest)
  • Even though leadership at both churches is pro-vax and pro-mask, grumpy old church people have a funny way of acting like defiant little babies when the slightest little thing changes at mass, y’know? Final score: Too risky!
When we see people going maskless at the grocery store, we avoid them, because they are signaling that they don’t care about protecting the safety of others. (Where we live, it’s very common. You would fit right in, I have to grant you that!)

We have traveled by air and eaten in restaurants for special occasions. We will be doing neither again for quite a while, now that omicron is here.

Please reflect on your risk budget not only in terms of your own safety, but in terms of the safety of the other people at the store, at your church, and those whose lives are (as we say) “closely linked with (theirs).” Consider your fellow travelers, even the ones who look young and healthy. Consider invisible disability. Hell, pray about it! WWJD?

And for Heaven’s sake, at least dial the socializing back a little until you’re eligible for the booster.
posted by armeowda at 11:34 PM on December 18, 2021 [9 favorites]

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