My partner knowingly exposed people to covid -- How to feel about it?
June 29, 2022 12:23 PM   Subscribe

My partner of two years got covid while on vacation, and her elderly mother got it too. Then they got onto a plane to fly home. This was only a day after the mother started showing symptoms, and four days after my partner did. She knows what she did is wrong, but she did it anyway. My feelings towards her have shifted, and I don't know how to deal with it. Any thoughts or advice?

Me: 50-something cishet male. Partner: 50-something cishet female. We've been dating steadily for two years now, and we were moving towards a lifelong commitment.

She took her elderly mother (75+ but comparatively very healthy) on a vacation in a U.S. state, about a 6-7 hour plane flight away. While they were there, they both contracted covid. Both were vaxxed and boosted, and both wore masks pretty regularly. They aren't covid deniers or anything like it.

About four days before their flight home, my partner got covid. Her symptoms are cold-like with coughing and nasal congestion, and she tested positive multiple times, so there was no doubt about it. Then, the day before the flight home, her mother contracted it. The night before the flight, the mother was feverish and coughing a lot, and she obviously tested positive as well.

Their plane flight home consisted of two legs -- a one hour flight, and a six-hour connecting flight. My partner was struggling with what to do, and I told her my opinion was that it's a really bad idea to get on a plane and expose a lot of other people to covid. I also felt like she was putting her mother at risk of worsening illness. I felt they should both be self-isolating for at least five days (perhaps longer), and I made it abundantly clear I thought it would be a serious mistake to fly. We texted back and forth about it a dozen or so times, and I told her the reasons why I thought it was a mistake, but it really wasn't my decision to make, and I didn't attempt to impose my opinion on her somehow. I tried to be as sympathetic and emotionally supportive as I could without supporting the actual decision to fly.

So on the day of the flight, she decided to go ahead and fly home with her mother. They wore multiple N95 masks and gloves. They arrived home without further incident. (Apart from the possibility someone else was exposed and got sick, obviously, and I have no way of knowing that. I was obviously very concerned about her mother's condition as well, but she seems to have gotten through it ok so far.)

My feelings towards her have shifted now. One of the things I had found most attractive about her is that she seemed to have a really good heart. She is very giving and caring to those around her, and she has made substantial sacrifices in her life for the good of others. I've always thought she is a really good person. But this was a very serious lapse in judgment and a deep ethical failure, in my view, and I don't really see any legitimate excuse, explanation, or mitigating circumstances for it. Or at least she hasn't told me of anything that would justify or excuse it. Now I'm finding it hard to reconcile that decision with my perception of her, and all of a sudden I find myself feeling less enthusiastic about spending the rest of my life with her.

At the same time, I feel genuinely sorry for her predicament. Nobody deserves to get covid, and certainly she and her mother did nothing to deserve it; to the contrary, they took all reasonable measures to avoid it, apart from staying home altogether. She was obviously under a great deal of stress and she was very distraught. I think it affected her decision-making, and it seemed to me she wasn't thinking super clearly on the day of the flight. Her reasoning and critical thinking skills are generally pretty average or maybe slightly below average, but she seemed significantly less rational under these conditions. At the same time, she knew what she was doing was wrong, and she feels genuinely bad and shameful about it. She felt bad about it before they actually got on the plane, and she feels awful about it now.

I haven't said anything to her about how I'm feeling, and I'm reluctant to raise it with her while she and her mother are still suffering from covid. I won't see her in person until I think they're no longer contagious, so I will wait to discuss it with her then, and I won't make any decisions until we've had a chance to talk in person. She can tell though, from our reduced volume of texting, that I'm feeling a bit more distant.

So I guess my question is: How should I feel about this? Is this the kind of mistake I can move past, or that I should try to move past? Is it something that would justify breaking things off with her, in your view? It's not like I'm feeling personally injured or aggrieved in any way. I'm not looking to punish her or something, and I'm not feeling angry towards her. It's more like I'm feeling deeply disappointed in her, and my perception of her as a really good person seems like it might have been an inaccurate one.

Additional details: They were staying with relatives while they were on vacation, which presented the potential for further spread if she stayed there, so it was a complicated situation. The relatives offered to let the mother stay with them for a few more days, but I'm not sure exactly what all the options were as far as her staying there. There was nobody who was particularly vulnerable or at high-risk at the house where they were staying, but there were several other people there, and it wasn't a large place. I offered to pay for a hotel room for her and her mother for several days, but she didn't take me up on it. They were in a tourist area that was pretty crowded, so it would have been difficult to find a vacancy, but probably not impossible. She has a job at home, and she was expected to return to work, but it's not like she would have gotten fired if she missed several more days. She would have lost that money though. She doesn't have much money, but she's not at a poverty level either, or else she couldn't have afforded this trip in the first place.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (88 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I agree this is a serious problem, but I do think it's one you can move past. Compare it to other selfish, irresponsible decisions she could have made. Drunk driving, for example. I think most people have had the experience of drinking a couple beers, not feeling particularly drunk, and driving home. That's an indefensible decision, but if she drove home from a happy hour, I doubt it would cause you rethink your assessment of her character. It's somewhat different because with a Covid flight you don't know whether she infected anyone, whereas with drunk driving you'd (presumably) know if she'd gotten in an accident that injured someone else. So let's walk through the possibilities: If she'd driven drunk but made it home without incident, how would that affect your perception? If she'd gotten in a one-car accident and hurt herself, but no one else? If she'd gotten in an accident that injured someone else? That killed someone else?

I think the mother is more of a problem than your partner. Not to excuse her behavior, but she was near the end of the CDC isolation guidelines. In the DUI analogy, I'd say that puts her closer to the buzzed and minor injuries scenario. But her mom essentially pounded some shots and then took the keys, and your partner let her go. That's pretty irresponsible. I'd be concerned about that - is your partner afraid to speak up to her mother? That's a way to start the conversation, at least.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:43 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Is it something that would justify breaking things off with her, in your view?

She was casually selfish in a way that had a non-zero chance of hurting or even killing other people. I would put it up there with very aggressive speeding on busy roads in order to make an appointment. It probably won't kill anyone, but it definitely could.

Regarding the difficulty or cost of finding a place to stay: I take the view that one shouldn't take a non-essential trip unless one is prepared to deal with the consequences of contracting Covid on that trip. It sounds like she wasn't willing to do that.

I would take some time to evaluate whether this seems like a pattern or whether she usually makes better, less selfish decisions. If she's usually not inclined to take moral shortcuts, then I would chalk this up to an unusual, stressful situation that quite possibly literally affected her decision-making skills, in that she was physically ill at the time. You don't mention in the question that I can tell, but it could also be that she was feeling a lot of pressure from her mother to return home despite the illness.

But if, perhaps in hindsight, this seems like the sort of thing she does on a regular basis, then you have to decide whether that's the sort of person you want to be in a committed relationship with.
posted by jedicus at 12:43 PM on June 29 [11 favorites]

Well, you can ignore this part: she felt bad about it before they actually got on the plane, and she feels awful about it now. It's meaningless. She made the decision to do it; so obviously she didn't care enough to NOT do it.

I'm not sure anyone can tell you how to feel; this is your girlfriend, we don't know her. I guess the question for you is, knowing what you do of the circumstances, do you believe you would have made a different decision in her shoes? And if so, why? And is the delta between that standard and hers enough to make you think she's an incompatibly worse person than you are?
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:44 PM on June 29 [13 favorites]

She struggled to find the right course -- she didn't "casually" do anything.

I wouldn't have done it. Unless I was desperate, exhausted from taking care of someone, maybe too tired to think clearly, and maybe with fewer resources than I have now.

She made a difficult choice, in circumstances that you did not share and cannot possibly understand.

There's a reason that "judge not lest ye be judged", "let he who is without sin cast the first stone", and "have one's day in court" are very very important fundamental ethical principles in functioning cultures.
posted by amtho at 12:48 PM on June 29 [48 favorites]

I wouldn't be wild about this but if it is truly out of character for her I'd put it down to extraordinary circumstances. People behave out of character when they are sick, under stress and worried about wages. That's why it should be society/the state/not-individuals-who-are-sick who make public health decisions.

You can be a good person and make a bad decision. It would be pretty weird, in fact, if good people never made bad decisions. My dad is a really good guy, for instance, and I could tell you chapter and verse why this is the case, but he made a couple of genuinely bad, harmful decisions when I was a kid that affected me pretty negatively.

I don't think I'd break off with someone over this. If they had cavalierly decided to make an outward journey while sick or had traveled without masks, yes, I'd break things off, or if they didn't see anything wrong with this decision. But given that we as a society have basically left covid up to the individual to manage and that being sick with a potentially very serious condition away from home with your sick elderly mother and facing the loss of wages, etc....It just seems like setting someone up to make a bad decision.

In the past couple of years I've come to understand better how people make bad decisions. Before vaccines were available, I got my groceries delivered - I sent someone else into a grocery store every week to potentially get covid because I was too scared. I hoped and assumed that they were likely younger and healthier than I was and in particular healthier than my partner was, but I had no way of knowing. To me that was a despicable thing to do and I still did it. It made me realize that I can do shitty things when I'm really afraid. It also made me realize that I don't always have a lot of ground to stand on.

Have you always behaved with total probity when put to the test? Have you been put to the test by something that really, deeply scared you personally to the point where it was hard to force yourself to act?
posted by Frowner at 12:52 PM on June 29 [105 favorites]

She has a job at home, and she was expected to return to work, but it's not like she would have gotten fired if she missed several more days. She would have lost that money though. She doesn't have much money, but she's not at a poverty level either, or else she couldn't have afforded this trip in the first place.

I mean, maybe she couldn't really afford the trip or the potential lost wages? Maybe it would have been a drain on the relatives to have two more adults eating their food, etc, for extra days even if they nominally offered to do it. And even if she could afford the trip as she'd planned it, maybe she couldn't afford the added expenses of changing flights, missing work, etc., on top of paying for the trip. And it's about to be the first of the month, too, when lots of bills come due.

Also, beyond the costs -- she's sick and dealing with a sick parent, and it's pretty complicated to find a new place to stay, move there, change flights, etc. Maybe she just didn't have the spoons for all that in the middle of also having Covid, even a relatively minor case.

Personally, her coming home as planned would be a red flag for me but not a deal breaker on its own, especially because I would guess that costs and exhaustion were pretty major factors since she did the things that didn't impact the expense or complication of coming home even if they were uncomfortable, like wearing safety equipment and getting back to work quickly, and since you know she's usually a very thoughtful and ethical person.

Also, just a thought experiment but: if you had been there to help her then maybe she would have had the luxury to do things differently. And in the future, if you stay together, then you will be her support system and she may very well have the resources to make the more ethical but more expensive and difficult choice when faced with a dilemma. I don't mean just more money, I mean also someone who could have helped her and her mom get a hotel room and move, change the flights, deal with all those hassles that she apparently couldn't handle on her own under the circumstances.

I dunno, I just would want to give her some grace. But it's up to you, I mean you don't HAVE to stay with anyone who you don't want to, either. I would definitely talk to her about how this worries you, but please try to be at least as compassionate towards her as you are toward the other people on her flight, is all I'm saying.
posted by rue72 at 1:06 PM on June 29 [22 favorites]

I wouldn't be wild about this but if it is truly out of character for her I'd put it down to extraordinary circumstances. People behave out of character when they are sick, under stress and worried about wages. That's why it should be society/the state/not-individuals-who-are-sick who make public health decisions.

Exactly. I don't know what her financial situation is, but there have been a few times in my life when losing "a few days' pay" would have knocked me off balance financially for months. I don't think one should be cavalier about that. (Also...staying in a hotel doesn't make you magically non-contagious to everyone in the hotel, especially the low-wage workers who might be cleaning or delivering food. Depending on circumstances, it might be less risky to others. But it's not like there was some truly trivial-risk-and-only-to-those-free-to-choose option that she ignored for convenience's sake.) So you need to consider whether this was a break under serious pressure or a symptom of a genuine disregard for others. We don't know her, but the rest of your description of her suggests the former.

Also you should be very careful that you are not holding her to higher standards than you are holding other people in your life who maybe you have less ability to control or feel less entitled to judge. Does your best buddy always mask in grocery stores?
posted by praemunire at 1:06 PM on June 29 [39 favorites]

I would tell her that you think flying home seems like a lapse in judgement and out of character for her and talk it out. Maybe she actually does need the money from work. There may be family dynamics that made the situation harder. I know my family would not be thrilled with "I'm going to go isolate in a hotel room paid for by my boyfriend." I had family visit and their flight home was cancelled and they didn't like when they were rebooked and even that basic rescheduling was pretty tense. Leaving her sick, elderly mother behind while she flew home may not have felt like a good option, either. Try talking it out and see if you can understand her choice better and talk about how to handle situations like this in your relationship better (for example, talking on the phone vs. texting, having more context for her family situation).
posted by momus_window at 1:09 PM on June 29 [11 favorites]

Your partner made a bad decision.

Amongst the things that can cause people to make bad decisions they otherwise wouldn't are:
- time stress, for example an impending deadline like having to make a flight that had been paid for
- financial stress, for example having to miss work suddenly while racking up unexpected hotel bills (even if someone else will subsidize them)
- mental stress, for example having an elderly parent who is normally healthy become ill with a disease that is more serious to 75+ year olds
- being physically sick, for example being infected with the novel coronavirus
- social pressure, for example spending a lot of time in an environment where an ongoing pandemic is not being taken seriously, or trying to triangulate between personal needs, the needs of a parent you are caring for, the needs of relatives you are staying with, and the needs of the general public.

So I can see reasons that your partner might not have made the decision they should have made, or the decision they normally would have made. That said, how someone acts when the chips are down is an important part of their character; how have they acted other times when things were difficult?

I imply from the statements about the flights (1 hour connecting to a 6 hour flight) that you do not live in the US and probably live in Europe; I would not want to be trapped in a foreign country with a famously rapacious and ridiculously expensive health care system if I was ill. I don't know if this is another motivation that you didn't mention, but it might be.
posted by Superilla at 1:11 PM on June 29 [9 favorites]

I guess for me it would depend a lot on what she says about it now.

Does she regret it? Does she acknowledge it as a lapse in judgement? Does she say that she should not have done it, but was tired/stressed/overwhelmed? Does she say now that she wouldn't do it again? Those things would make this forgivable to me.

If she blames other people or circumstances or says it is no big deal, then I'd reconsider the relationship.

Nobody is perfect, and a good person can screw up, but people of good character learn from their mistakes and try to do better.
posted by FencingGal at 1:12 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

I don't really want to endorse knowingly exposing other people to illness... but they took other precautions. I feel very differently about this than I would have a year ago, when I would have been horrified to read this story. Now, I think that anyone boarding a plane (or dining indoors at a restaurant, attending a concert, etc.) realizes that they are likely being exposed to Covid.
posted by Viola Swamp at 1:13 PM on June 29 [43 favorites]

"I was really surprised you decided to fly you and your mom back when you were both sick. Can you explain a little more what you two were thinking?" I mean, she made an objectively wrong call, but have you ever panicked and made a wrong choice? I have. It might help to understand her mindset a little better, or maybe what her mom was insisting on that you haven't been privy to.
posted by Charity Garfein at 1:15 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Being desperate to go home is the easiest reason to understand, of everything else that could've happened on a vacation.
posted by michaelh at 1:15 PM on June 29 [10 favorites]

I don't really see any legitimate excuse, explanation, or mitigating circumstances for it. the way, this is a strange thing to say. The mitigating circumstances are pretty obvious (as noted by many here already), and if you can't think of them, you'd probably better put a pause on your moral judgments. They may not justify the decision (I personally do not think it was the right thing for her to do), but...really? You don't think having a sick parent on your hands, being sick yourself, potentially losing money on a flight change, having to either impose on relatives or move to a hotel, definitely losing money at your job, etc. qualify as mitigating?
posted by praemunire at 1:16 PM on June 29 [34 favorites]

So I guess my question is: How should I feel about this?

I'd say that you "should" occupy yourself with compassion for your partner and ask how she's doing, how she's feeling, if there's anything you can do to help (maybe bring over dinner next time you see her, if she's still feeling residual stress and overwhelm from being sick and traveling).

That is, if you're interested in maintaining the relationship and being a good partner, yourself. You aren't obligated to.
posted by knotty knots at 1:19 PM on June 29 [13 favorites]

I'm assuming you're in the USA due to lack of information to the contrary in your post. If you are outside the USA, replace US with your country, and my post will probably still be accurate.

How should I feel about this?

I think there are a multitude of valid answers here, of which, many will be contradictory - the tension is not obvious to resolve, and will be part of handling COVID in the foreseeable future.

One thing I'd be feeling (amongst those other valid feelings) is frustration that the US government has no long term plan to ensure people have sick leave and sick pay for COVID-related work absences, and most companies are moving towards making cancellation/change of plans for COVID difficult/expensive/impossible. This puts people in a particularly crappy place. You have mentioned it is, at the very least, difficult for your partner not to work, and your partner would have had to find a new hotel, a new plane ticket, new rental car, and more expenses for delaying the trip, with no additional income to pay for those expenses.

"Don't travel unless you can afford to get stuck somewhere due to COVID" is not a particularly useful answer here. Travel is important to many people - especially, for instance, an elderly parent coming towards end of life. Even for me, a financially stable, well-off person, paying for an additional 5 days ("or more", per your words) of a trip may be an expense of thousands to tens of thousands of dollars if I have to pay last minute rate for hotels and plane tickets - and that's not something I can easily handle unless absolutely necessary. I'm not even considering the stress I'd be under to make last minute changes, with relatively little information, and potentially (if out of country), limited internet/phone access.

Is this saying what your partner did is "right"? No. Am I suggesting you should completely accept the choices your partner made? That's for you to figure out. However, I would suggest you consider that sometimes the least crappy outcome is, itself, a crappy outcome.
posted by saeculorum at 1:20 PM on June 29 [22 favorites]

If this is a deal breaker for you, that would be incredibly understandable. If there are reasons this isn’t a dealbreaker for you, that could be understandable too.

(For what it’s worth, I think this is more fraught than just a Seinfeld level complaint of “she always takes two mints when it says take one, Jerry!”)
posted by raccoon409 at 1:22 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

Remember what it was like before COVID? People would often go out in public or even fly while they were sick. They might have flu-like symptoms and they probably knew that people sometimes died of the flu. But they themselves didn't feel anywhere close to dying from what they had, so it was hard to think of it as a really serious danger to other people. It was something people commonly complained about. You would read articles or posts on places like MeFi urging people to stay home if they were sick and not expose others. But not everyone felt that strongly about it. In general, it was seen as a minor act of mild selfishness, not a terrible crime against humanity. If you had learned five years ago that your partner had the flu but got on a plane anyway, I bet it wouldn't have had a serious effect on your relationship. Maybe you've even flown with flu or a bad cold, something that might have been life threatening to an immunocompromised person.

Maybe what your partner did is not so different from flying with the flu five years ago. Or at least maybe it's reasonable for her to have felt about the same way about it. Most people who are getting COVID now don't actually get that sick. She had it herself and wasn't that sick. Most people who are really concerned about it are vaccinated and there is good evidence that the vaccine provides some protection. And having just gotten it despite taking all precautions, precautions may have felt almost pointless. She did take measures to prevent spreading it though. Five years ago it would have been really unusual to wear a mask and gloves on an airplane in the US, even for someone who knew they were sick. Her decision was obviously not the most considerate possible one she could have made, but I'm not sure it's that different from choices many of us have made at times - driving over the speed limit, driving while sleepy, not getting a flu vaccine, etc.
posted by Redstart at 1:25 PM on June 29 [12 favorites]

"Don't travel unless you can afford to get stuck somewhere due to COVID" is not a particularly useful answer here. Travel is important to many people - especially, for instance, an elderly parent coming towards end of life.

Especially an elderly parent who might not have seen certain family members much or at all in the past two years.

I agree that this wasn't a great decision, but I'd have compassion for the fact she had to make a hard choice while feeling unwell - potentially infect people sitting around her on a plane? potentially infect family members? potentially infect hotel staff and other patrons? Unclear if there was any good option here, made worse by the fact the US government won't require vaccinations/masks on airplanes, etc.

I also agree that giving her some benefit of the doubt that she was potentially facing some various family pressures would be a good place to start when you have a conversation with her about it.
posted by coffeecat at 1:25 PM on June 29 [8 favorites]

There is no should in feelings. You feel how you feel. Your partner's lapse in judgement has impacted your trust in her and has you questioning her character. That's just how you feel - that's what you told us!

We can't really tell you if you're allowed to feel this way. You are allowed to - and probably should - make character judgements about the people you decide to trust and spend your life with. I think you could probably spend some time really sitting with it for a while. What do you want to do with or about these feelings?

I agree you need to share them with her, and think you're right to wait until she is under less physical and emotional stress. Maybe you can take the time to really think about what you want to change. Do you want to not be together anymore? Do you want her to admit she did something wrong and commit to being / doing better in the future?

Whatever you do, try to focus your judgements / feelings on what it means for you - not for her, and her life in the world. It sounds to me like you are very capable of that. Spend this time processing your thoughts and feelings and thinking about what outcomes would feel positive to you.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:38 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

Unclear if there was any good option here

I agree. None of the options sound great. It sounds like the relatives didn't really have the space to be able to host two isolating/infected people; she maybe didn't feel ok about missing more work; you mention that hotel vacancies might have been limited and also that finances are tight... I'm just not seeing a perfect solution. I think there is a lot of room to argue about which is the least-bad option, but none of them are great.

It's completely within your rights to decide this is a dealbreaker for you, but from the outside, it looks like someone was stuck in a difficult situation and chose what they felt was the better of a set of bad options.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:40 PM on June 29 [12 favorites]

Saying that she "knowingly exposed people to covid" made it sound like she went to a concert while sick with covid. This is a much more complex situation, and it sounds like she had no good options and was pretty distraught. If I was traveling with my elderly mother, I probably would make the decision on a bit of a selfish basis - what would be best for my mom? If she ended up quite sick, would it be better to just get her home so she'd have her regular doctors with full medical history etc etc.? Would she even have her medical care covered where she was? I can't say I'd do the same thing or not in her shoes, it sounds like it was an incredibly difficult decision and she didn't know what else to do than just get home.

Also like others said, any choice she made was going to be exposing people to covid. When you have covid, you are either home shut in a room if you're able, or you're as close to that as possible if that's not possible. Sometimes that isn't possible, and then the choices are expose this group of people or expose this group of people.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:42 PM on June 29 [13 favorites]

I think it was a bad decision, but then I still think flying anywhere for less than a dire emergency is a bad decision, even masked, etc. So that’s where my caution meter is set.

In your shoes I would want to talk to her about it, when she is well. It seems like all her options were bad - even the hotel option risks other people - and I can imagine her decision was not an easy one or one made lightly.

But, yes, in the end, it might be a dealbreaker for me. I wouldn’t know without talking it out with her. I don’t think you will know either. So have the conversation.
posted by Stacey at 1:43 PM on June 29 [5 favorites]

Casually selfish would have been ignoring symptoms entirely and/or testing but going lol whoops! when it came back positive, then shrugging and breezing onto the plane maskless anyway. That would certainly be grounds for me to consider the termination of a relationship. But I have no doubt she was under a great deal of stress over the situation, encumbered with an elderly passenger, likely being the only adult personally handling a multitude of issues at once (figuring out where to stay, how to get there safely, contacting work, trying to change plane tickets, figuring out where to get meds and juice from a Walgreens, and on and on and on), having to take on another five days of unplanned vacation expenses, plus facing down lost wages that sounds like it would have complicated her life in the short-term. I can very easily see how someone would arrive at the decision to multiple-mask and forge ahead just to get home as soon as possible where her mother could convalescence more comfortably and with more resources. Particularly since there is no "rule" anywhere anymore that can clearly prevent that from happening. No doubt there were others with Covid on that plane, whether they knew it or not.

I agree with everything Frowner wrote.
posted by anderjen at 1:43 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

It was a desperate situation. Maybe she felt it was better to get her mom back to the home country; I’d be scared to death if one of my elderly attend got sick abroad and would try to get them home asap. A lot of people are traveling with COVID and it’s not good but again it’s often not a choice or the best worst choice for them. I would not be mad sitting next to them because it’s fucking hard. I’d worry but I can choose to wear a N95 or not too.
posted by smorgasbord at 1:43 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

I think that your partner's choices were valid and defensible despite being somewhat antisocial.

COVID isn't nothing, but as a disease it's substantially more dangerous in outlying cases than it is in most cases. It is true that some people have died and suffered greatly from COVID but it is also true that most infected people have neither died nor suffered greatly. I believe that it is reasonable at this point, 30+ months after the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, for a person to decide that they care no more about transmitting the virus then they do about transmitting a cold or flu virus -- members of the general public have had ample time to determine their own risk of COVID and plan their activities accordingly. I, for example, am immunocompromised and also have essentially zero confidence that strangers will behave in my best interest. I use these two factors to determine what exposure to COVID I am prepared to risk and I certainly wouldn't go an airport or get on a commercial flight without assuming my risk as very high.

You don't mention your partner committing any fraud to circumvent any laws or policies, so I assume the nations between which she travelled and the airlines that carried her did not require screening for SARS-CoV-2 before departure or arrival and so everyone travelling in proximity to your partner should have analyzed their risk and taken responsibility for it on the assumption that people like your partner, willing to fly so soon after infection, exist in significant numbers. The events of the pandemic have given no one a reasonable basis to expect that the masses will behave carefully without careful policing.

Your partner's choice was unquestionably antisocial and had a definite potential to cause unpredictable harm. But your partner may have a reasonable perspective on the extent of potential harm or on the extent of her culpability within a system of shared responsibility. If you can learn more about her perspective, perhaps there will be something in it to challenge your own.
posted by chudmonkey at 1:44 PM on June 29 [5 favorites]

She knew what the right decision was, and even though she agonized over it, she chose not to do it.
Only you know her well enough to decide whether her circumstances (as many people above have described) warrant your understanding, compassion and forgiveness. In general though, I'm out of patience for people who have put their own convenience above the well-being of their community. (They really didn't take their masks off to eat or drink during a six hour flight? Even though the grandmother had been feverish and coughing?)
posted by MelissaSimon at 1:44 PM on June 29 [5 favorites]

Also to consider: she may break up with you over this too so problem solved! It sounds like you had good intentions but weren’t very understanding of her difficult situation. I don’t blame you for feeling how you do but I’d be upset if a partner weren’t more understanding here.
posted by smorgasbord at 1:44 PM on June 29 [12 favorites]

I don't really want to endorse knowingly exposing other people to illness... but they took other precautions. I feel very differently about this than I would have a year ago, when I would have been horrified to read this story. Now, I think that anyone boarding a plane (or dining indoors at a restaurant, attending a concert, etc.) realizes that they are likely being exposed to Covid.

Yeah, I've been far from the least judgmental person about people's Covid decisions, but this is pretty much how I feel about it. Once you mentioned that they were wearing N95 masks that made it different for me. If it was a flimsy cloth mask or whatever that would be different but...they were taking precautions seriously...those are the masks that actually work. (Although you shouldn't wear "multiple" N95 masks, I don't think it's a character flaw to make that mistake.)

There was almost certainly someone else (or multiple others) on the flight that had Covid and was probably not wearing a mask. Whether because they were in denial and thought it was "just allergies" or "just a cold" or didn't have any symptoms yet. If anyone caught Covid on the flight, it probably wasn't from your girlfriend or mom. I was on a flight recently, I assumed there would be Covid in the air around me and wore an N99.

Not that I think this was the best decision sounds like there wasn't a magic easy option that would have posed no risk to others here and I don't think she's a terrible person for doing this.
posted by picardythird at 1:48 PM on June 29 [15 favorites]

Also, a lot of people had been lying about their COVID test results in order to get back into the US. Whenever she was coming from and going, negative COVID tests were not required to board so the airline and all the passengers know the risks involved. Not saying it’s fair or good but something to consider.

Ultimately whatever feels right to you is the right decision!
posted by smorgasbord at 1:48 PM on June 29

Her reasoning and critical thinking skills are generally pretty average or maybe slightly below average

Btw, this is a pretty unloving and hurtful characterization of a partner's abilities. I only bring it up because I hear some variation on this wording from men all. the. time as a comparison tool to paint themselves themselves as the unfailingly logical and correct one whenever they disagree with a partner's more "emotional" point of view. For all we know, her decision to get on the plane was the least bad choice of everything she had available to her and thus the most critical and well-reasoned one. So I hope you can set that part of yourself to the side once you're ready to hear from her.
posted by anderjen at 1:57 PM on June 29 [119 favorites]

Just break up with her. Your feelings have already shifted over this and I can’t imagine how you’re going to react next time she inevitably makes a big mistake or a less than great decision. Like, she’s still recovering from a scary situation and terrible illness, along with her sick mother, and you are already being distant via text or thinking about how you should feel?? I think the answer is there.
posted by inevitability at 1:57 PM on June 29 [18 favorites]

But your partner may have a reasonable perspective on the extent of potential harm or on the extent of her culpability within a system of shared responsibility.

I find this to be an interesting point as well. What is the extent of the responsibility we (i.e., the "cautious" people) have to continue to do everything we can to protect others around us when the majority of people are not doing their part in the slightest? Am I supposed to bend over backwards forever to protect people who are doing nothing to protect themselves or others and are going to get Covid or pass it along regardless of what I do?

(Like I realize that everyone else doing something doesn't mean it's ok to do and that potentially adding to transmission at all puts vulnerable people at risk...and I'm still way more cautious than everyone I know...but when anything I might do "wrong" is a drop in the bucket I'm not sure it's reasonable to feel a lot of culpability about that.)
posted by picardythird at 1:59 PM on June 29 [12 favorites]

There's no particular way you "should" feel, but I'd like to point out that you're judging her choices in a very black and white way despite acknowledging a lot of factors that made her decision complex (e.g., unable to safely isolate at a relative's home, unable to get a hotel, employer expectations, caregiving while sick) and also noting the measures she took to protect others (N95s and gloves). In the absence of policy-level interventions, it's tempting to judge individual choices--especially those of us who take COVID seriously and are watching others act like it's nothing. But we need policy-level interventions specifically because individuals are going to individual: people are going to fly without testing beforehand or masking in transit, bosses are going to expect their employees to pretend COVID is in the past, and even the most conscientious people are sometimes going to make the determination, "my least terrible option is to travel while sick and wear an N95."

I don't know what the correct decision would be here. Maybe I'd feel differently if there had been a straightforward, safe place for them to stay for another week, or if she was traveling solo, or some other factor was different. But genuinely, my overwhelming thought is: I'm glad I didn't have to make that call. That sounds awful, and miserable, and I am far more irritated with people who want to pretend COVID is over than people who are trying to make the best choice they can when we basically have a total abdication of responsibility by our state and federal governments. This situation is a great example of why we need public health policy for navigating COVID. Individual moral purity is a total fantasy. Maybe there's a way to definitively prove she made the wrong choice. Even if that's the case, that doesn't mean she has a bad or morally corrupt heart. It means she attempted to make a complex decision and picked wrong. You and she (and every other living human) are going to make wrong choices from time to time, until you die. I think your perception of her kind heart is worth considering here. Can you accept that this person you love is going to fall short of her own ideals (or yours) and make mistakes, despite being generally a kind-hearted and morally admirable person? Or is your reaction to this situation evidence that you're looking for her to have a level of moral purity that is impossible?
posted by theotherdurassister at 2:03 PM on June 29 [22 favorites]

Did she have health insurance where she was? Was she concerned about expensive medical care if she her or her mother took a turn for the worse? Does her mother have any more complex health conditions that would make it very important, almost critical, that she be near her team of doctors? Is the medical care subpar where they were staying?

What about their expenses—could they really, truly afford to stay several extra days? Were there costs associated with changing the flight and then needing to book a new one? Did they have travel insurance?

COVID has cognitive and neurological impacts in addition to respiratory ones—is it possible that this affected her cognition or judgment in the moment somehow?

None of us have had a perfect pandemic, far from it, as much as some like to pretend they have. You seem to view this as black and white when there are so many extenuating circumstances that make it far more of a nuanced gray area than you care to or are capable of admitting. This is not the same virus or situation as spring of 2020. We cannot maintain those same standards that we established in the beginning of the pandemic, nor should we pass the kind of judgment that you are here when people don’t adhere to those prior standards.

If there was ever a time for grace, this is it.

If you cannot do that with the utmost love and forgiveness for her, let her go.
posted by Amy93 at 2:08 PM on June 29 [14 favorites]

If they flew wearing "multiple" N95 masks, it is unlikely they exposed anyone to covid. Masks continue to work very well at controlling the source.

There were very likely other people on that flight who knew they had covid and were not wearing masks. Half the country sees covid like a cold and behaves accordingly (I am not in that half--but have certainly interacted with such people while at airports and on planes).
posted by millipede at 2:10 PM on June 29 [17 favorites]

If she'd gotten on the plane without masking, I'd drop her over it. There are likely unmasked people with covid on every planeload, these days, but she wasn't one of them. She was wearing N95 masks and gloves, you say. That makes it forgivable, in my opinion.
posted by metonym at 2:16 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

Some perspective is useful. If she was wearing multiple N95s the whole time, the chances that she transmitted COVID to anyone are extremely remote. There are probably many activities that she or you do regularly that put other people at greater risk... like driving a car, for example.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:21 PM on June 29 [8 favorites]

I got Covid, after 2 boosters, after flying to visit family. Luckily we'd already planned on driving the other way, so we canceled the rest of the vacation and drove home. On the trip home we went through some pretty red country (central Oregon), and as I tried to arrange logistics (order from Target, ahead, have them bring it out to the van) and saw everyone running around, and going indoors, without masks, it got harder and harder to care.

I've tested negative for a few weeks now, and, when I go indoors, wear my mask indoors, and am grateful when the space I go into checks vax cards, but...

The vast majority of people have ceased to care and are treating it like a bad flu season.

When this thing was new, I thought about not taking precautions as akin to deliberately killing someone.

Now? Now it seems like everyone around me is treating it a lot more like driving. Yeah, statistically I'm causing death every time I get behind the wheel, but it's a base level death that we've accepted into society.

And yes, I know that that comparison is millions, or hundreds of thousands, to tens of thousands, which kinda makes the cultural response worse, but if people are testing and masking when they know they're positive? At this point that feels like they're 90th or 95th percentile responsible. There's a hell of a lot of social pressure to just power through.

I don't know if there's an answer in there, and I'm definitely masking a lot and staying pretty isolated, but I feel like the world has mostly given up on trying to contain this, and it's become really tiring to stay self-righteous. Let alone just careful.
posted by straw at 2:22 PM on June 29 [11 favorites]

I dunno. As a stranger receiving this, I think I identify with the other passengers on the plane, and this story really pisses me off. But there’s a lot of ways to empathize with her in this situation as well. You can choose to be empathetic, if preserving the relationship is important to you. Unless you actually don’t want to be in the relationship, I think the best you could maybe do is acknowledge how hard that experience would have been for her, give her the benefit of the doubt that she doesn’t actually want other people to get sick, and make sure she knows that you would like to be a help and support to her during difficult times — and ask whether there was anything differently you could have done to help her for next time.
posted by sk932 at 2:23 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

FWIW, as a random stranger on the internet who doesn't know either of you, it doesn't sound like you're over-reacting. I'd view this as worse than an "I got drunk and slept with someone else without telling you" incident and better than an "I panicked and shot someone during a bank robbery" incident. Both of which are things I'd seriously consider getting over for someone who is worth it in other ways. I've done stupid things in the past and been grateful for forgiveness. For me, the question would be how she views it today. Or, rather, after recovering fully. Sympathy.
posted by eotvos at 2:24 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

So I guess my question is: How should I feel about this? Is this the kind of mistake I can move past, or that I should try to move past? Is it something that would justify breaking things off with her, in your view? It's not like I'm feeling personally injured or aggrieved in any way. I'm not looking to punish her or something, and I'm not feeling angry towards her. It's more like I'm feeling deeply disappointed in her, and my perception of her as a really good person seems like it might have been an inaccurate one.

So first, the general thing. I think your issue is in the last sentence here.

It's a thing in American/North American/colonial culture to try to divide people into categories of "good" and "bad." In my belief, being a good person isn't something you are, or even something you do. It's something you attempt. And there isn't only one way to do that.

You seem kind of wrapped up in the idea that you are dating "a good person" and someone who is a really good person and who, in your words, makes sacrifices.

As a person -- and a woman -- who has done the same and who is now 51, I gotta tell you, when people sacrifice of themselves over and over, often the end result is that they have nothing left to give...particularly if your definition of "a good person" is someone who always does the self-sacrificing thing. So for me, the idea that you love her for that makes me a bit uncomfortable. Because it doesn't seem to account for the cost to her of meeting the definition of "A Good Person."

If that's truly the case, that you love her because you depend on her to Always Make The Right Choice, then I think the best thing is to end the relationship. Because while I do think there are people who will endlessly make the self-sacrificial choice in general (not getting to this situation yet), they are few and far between and your girlfriend made a different choice (sort of.)

Now to this situation - I think to understand her, if you want to, you would have to listen to her. My guess is that she may or may not believe she did the right thing. (People have explained a lot about that, but bottom line is, we don't know what she was thinking. We know she mitigated the risk with an N95, which I think does say something about her character.)

But say she agrees with you that she didn't do the right thing and she still failed. That is so human, man. Are you prepared to date/move in with/marry a human? This human?
posted by warriorqueen at 2:31 PM on June 29 [63 favorites]

I am really surprised by the number of people trying to justify that this is OK here. It sure seems pretty bad to me. That doesn't mean it's not something you can work through, but, like, this is information about how she thinks it's OK to treat strangers in society, and it seems not great. I think the best path forward is to tell her how you feel (once she is sufficiently recovered from the covid to have that conversation), and see what she has to say about it, and spend some time reflecting on that conversation.
posted by wesleyac at 2:31 PM on June 29 [16 favorites]

Amazed by responses here! I'm an outlier, I guess, even on Metafilter. This behavior would be a dealbreaker for me. I know it's likely very common. So's racism, and cheating on one's taxes, and a dozen other things that would cause me to think a little bit harder about marrying someone. Antisocial behavior is a giant turnoff. YMMV.
posted by eirias at 2:41 PM on June 29 [16 favorites]

This is not 2020. COVID is out there, and she wasn't introducing a uniquely deadly strain. I don't like this decision, but I'm certain she didn't like it either.

That said, it sounds to me as if you should break up with her, not because your feelings are good and correct but because they exist and you will not overcome them, whether because you can't or you don't want to. Contempt is a death knell for a relationship, and you now have it for her.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:56 PM on June 29 [11 favorites]

I read a lot of that subreddit where they posted anti-vaxxer’s Facebook posts and then their posts as they declined through covid and (usually) eventually died. What really stood out to me is the obvious and fairly immediate cognitive decline that was apparent in all those posts. Usually a post or two BEFORE they tested positive they would start having less coherence and it would just go down from there.

That’s adjusted my personal behavior in two ways. First, I am expecting and forgiving of the fact that anyone who has covid is going to be not their best most intelligent self. Second, I have written out a plan for if I catch it so I don’t have to make decisions while my capacity is diminished.

On a friendship level I have had many friends catch covid. Most of them have been lackadaisical about it in a way that made me have to withdraw emotionally to a degree. A few have made some rather bad choices but felt they were in a bind they couldn’t get out of. It has been easier for me to regain trust with the people who made some awful choices but also said “here’s how I would not make the same choice the next time.”

Individuals are in an awful bind. What would it have cost to reschedule the flight? Would her mother have been able to access healthcare if she had taken a turn for the worse? The CDC and airlines have basically said “assume someone on the plane with you has covid ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ good luck! And most people aren’t even bothering to test anymore. At least they wore masks and did their best.

I don’t know if I could personally continue dating someone who did this. But I also don’t know that I could continue dating someone who chose to take a trip cross country during the middle of a surge. To me this is an obvious and likely outcome. I’m sorry you are in a bind, but I think the best you can do is talk to her and understand how she made the decision she did and see if you feel like that’s something you can live with or not. But I do hope you will bring grace to an individual who has gotten ill because the public health agencies have abandoned us. Whether you can go forward or not, I hope you bring kindness.
posted by Bottlecap at 3:00 PM on June 29 [10 favorites]

I had COVID 5 weeks ago. I am immunocompromised and have been incredibly careful for 2 years. I got COVID at a small outdoor cookout from someone who had tested negative before they came to the cookout. I just stayed home while I was sick, but I did have to go inside the pharmacy (wearing an N95) to get my Paxlovid because their drive-through was closed (because most of their staff was out with COVID).

I can absolutely say that the brainfog that COVID causes is severe.

I was aware that it was not a great idea to go inside, and in retrospect, I could have totally asked my neighbor who had offered to help if they could go pick it up for me, but that did not occur to me at the time. I was simply not thinking or reasoning at my best, and so I did a dumb thing to get the medicine that was supposed to help me get better. I could totally imagine in that same state getting on a flight even though I knew it wasn't a great idea because of all the mitigating circumstances combined with brainfog.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:03 PM on June 29 [31 favorites]

As someone who just is beginning to recover from covid a second time, and still has long covid from the first...

It wasn't a great choice. But I know what covid did to MY brain and ability to weigh options. I am glad I was not in her position, because my normally quite intelligent, practical, and logical brain took a freaking vacation for weeks both this time and last.

Further than that, though, the expectation that you and your partner will always be in lockstep on everything is fairly unrealistic for most people. When I make a major decision, I'll ask my partners for their opinions. Sometimes I get a perspective I had not seen, sometimes I don't. And my final decision is not always congruent with their advice.

Think about whether you want a full partner who is flawed and sometimes contradictory and very human. Because if you don't, you not only should not marry this woman, you should not marry at all.

By all means, talk to her. Ask what led this decision, tell her you are uncomfortable with it. Talk about how the two of you will handle other situations where you disagree on right action. That conversation could make or break your trust in each other. But I think it needs to happen before legal documents bind you together, for both your sakes.
posted by Vigilant at 3:07 PM on June 29 [11 favorites]

I am really surprised by the number of people trying to justify that this is OK here.

I don't see a lot of people saying it's okay. I see a lot of people saying it wasn't an egregiously, wantonly selfish act of the sort that would make a break-up a foregone conclusion.
posted by praemunire at 4:01 PM on June 29 [26 favorites]

I would prefer a partner who had a good plan in place before they traveled regarding how they would cope with covid should they contract it - and who, if they could not come up with a plan due to lack of money, no place to quarantine, etc., decided that the the trip was not doable. Crossing their fingers before they travel and hoping that things would turn out fine (or, worse, assuming that covid can't touch them) probably isn't the kind of partner I would want to spend the rest of my life with. That's too fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants for me. The partner does get some points for double-masking and wearing gloves, though. I'm not judging ... I'm sure partner is a good person ... I just couldn't live a life like that.
posted by SageTrail at 4:11 PM on June 29 [10 favorites]

I would prefer a partner who had a good plan in place before they traveled regarding how they would cope with covid should they contract it - and who, if they could not come up with a plan due to lack of money, no place to quarantine, etc., decided that the the trip was not doable.

I'm totally undecided on the issue, but agree with this last bit so much. This is EXACTLY why I will probably never travel again long distance, actually. I can't afford two extra weeks in a hotel room, so no go.

I do concur that her thinking was probably not sharp, she had to worry about infecting people she knew and paying for a hotel room and losing pay, and wearing masks/gloves may have been as good as she could do.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:59 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

For reference (only) I live in Australia, a western country with possibly the most draconian border closures and restrictions that largely pursued and achieved a zero-Covid strategy up until the vaccines were widely available... and I think what your partner did was okay.

Right now, in Victoria, if you have Covid, it's still legal for you to wear a mask and transport a family member to school or work or healthcare. You would still technically need to quarantine for 7 days yourself but honestly there's zero enforcement and I don't see any way this could be enforced. You would presume everyone around you is potentially Covid+ and if you want to protect yourself, wear an N95 mask, just like our hospital staff wore N95 masks when treating / handling Covid+ patients in the early days of the outbreak.

A family member works in a hospital with responsibility for Covid patients, in a community which has been consistently the worst affected by Covid, and there's just 1 ward reserved for Covid+ patients (out of 20 wards in the hospital) and the load on the system seems manageable despite the relaxed rules - pretty much no masking and most people living life as normal. Overall hospitalization stats for Covid seem to be a very similar proportion between Australia and US right now. (roughly 2-3k versus 20k-30k with the US having 10x the population)

The next part is just speculation but there's not a lot of evidence that flying is particularly risky, probably much less so than eating at a restaurant. When we had incoming flights during the border closures, a small percentage (2% or so) would test positive during their quarantine period after landing, and you'd expect that perhaps some of them might even have been infectious during the flight itself, but we never saw the kind of disaster scenario where "wow half the plane was infected at once" while we DID see many cases of "wow the entire workplace caught covid at once because one employee was positive".
posted by xdvesper at 6:07 PM on June 29 [5 favorites]

What do you wish she had done, instead? If you’re invested in the relationship, you might consider being more curious about her decision and less judgmental. This seems like a very bad-faith reading of her behavior in a pretty impossible situation (given that she went on vacation in a world where this was a possible outcome) and I wonder what else is going on. Especially given your contemptuous description of her intelligence.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:17 PM on June 29 [18 favorites]

I think that she chose one shitty option out of a couple of shitty options.

The ideal thing to do if you get covid is to stay at home. However, if you are not at home when you get covid it becomes really difficult.

If they were staying with relatives and couldn't continue staying there, what would have happened?

* They would need to find and book new accommodation. $$$
* They would need to make their way to the new accommodation. This would likely involve exposure to other people
* They would need to stay in the accommodation for at least several days. This might involve exposure to other people, especially if ventilation in the building is not great
* They would need to get food during this time. This would become incredibly expensive if they needed it delivered
* All the while, your partner is losing money by not working
* What happens if one or both of them is still experiencing symptoms after the minimum quarantine time? Do we assume they are infectious or not? Do they need to stay longer? I had symptoms for over two weeks and stayed in my house that entire time.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 6:33 PM on June 29 [8 favorites]

I feel you on this. Even though I agree with many of the very insightful comments above pointing out the different stresses she was dealing with, and all the reasons she might have felt cornered into this decision, I would still be rattled in your situation. As others have pointed out, the only real way to resolve this is to have an honest conversation with her, where you both listen and talk to each other, and work through both your feelings and what they mean. As others have pointed out, she might also be disappointed in your reaction, but your feelings are no less valid than hers. You feel what you feel, and there's no right or wrong in that.

I'm curious about what she did once she got home. Her boss was expecting her back at work, so did she self-isolate in accordance with public health guidelines or did she go in to the office with symptoms? Did she tell her boss and co-workers what was going on? In short, does her behaviour now match up with how badly she says she feels about getting on those planes and knowingly exposing her fellow passengers to a serious disease?

I'm also wondering if some of your angst is coming from the fact that she asked for your advice and then didn't take it. Do you feel that she somehow made you complicit in her decision? Do you resent pressure to support her or make her feel better about doing something that you advised her not to? If so, how much of that pressure is coming from her vs your own ideas about how much partners should agree with each other? Have the two of you navigated other areas of disagreement in your relationship before this?

A couple of months ago, I watched two sets of very "good" and "moral" friends justify similar decisions around Covid for weaker reasons, and it hit me that we can't really trust anybody except ourselves on this. Even if you're Covid-cautious, there are probably at least a couple of things you do that seem unreasonably risky to someone close to you, and a couple you don't do that seem like overkill to them. Sadly, due to the failure of most governments to set strict and consistent guidelines, we're all on our own and there's no point in being constantly angry with the flawed individuals around us. When that hit me, I felt a huge sense of relief, then went through a period of something almost like mourning. I wonder if that might be where you are, too.
posted by rpfields at 6:34 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

This would be a dealbreaker for me. It's akin to secretly having unprotected sex with additional people when your partner thinks the sex they're having with you is monogamous. Unless your partner or her mother told everyone on that plane that they were positive for COVID-19, nobody around them was allowed to make an educated decision for themselves.
posted by headnsouth at 6:35 PM on June 29 [6 favorites]

The ethical differences would be an absolute immediate dealbreaker for me.

That's someone who enjoys the pretense of being a good person, so long as it doesn't inconvenience them.
posted by stormyteal at 6:43 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

"this was a very serious lapse in judgment and a deep ethical failure, in my view, and I don't really see any legitimate excuse, explanation, or mitigating circumstances for it. Or at least she hasn't told me of anything that would justify or excuse it."

I'm not sure what additional information you need? Your girlfriend contracted Covid -- it fairly eats brains. You recognized that she "seemed significantly less rational under these conditions." She was ill, traveling far from home with a sick, elderly person, and under considerable duress. Her decision-making abilities (which you already find less than impressive) were significantly impaired. Flying back is the evidence.

You "texted back and forth about it a dozen or so times" & "offered to pay for a hotel room for her and her mother for several days, but she didn't take me up on it. They were in a tourist area that was pretty crowded, so it would have been difficult to find a vacancy, but probably not impossible." You made a truly generous offer. I really wish you'd gone further, given the circumstances. As examples:

- "Three hotels with no-contact check-ins within a 15-mile radius have availability for the coming week; I can book online right now."
- "There are medical transport options, which will take the proper precautions, to get you there."
- "I've found several contact-less delivery services for meals and pharmacy runs."

OP, you "tried to be sympathetic and emotionally supportive," and focused on ethics. Your girlfriend (of two years!) needed concrete logistical support during this crisis, not a debate partner. I'm trying to imagine the Ask your gf would write about this situation; you describe a generally good, self-sacrificing person now awash in shame, so any shift in her perception of her longtime love probably wouldn't come up.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:02 PM on June 29 [61 favorites]

If she was boosted, masking, and taking it seriously and not denying it, there's no way you can blame her for this. I don't know if there's something I'm missing, and I haven't read the thread, but I really don't see where you're coming from. Something like 80% of US counties are experiencing high transmission right now of something that is invisible. It's impossible to know if there's any nearby or if enough is getting into your body to overwhelm your defenses.

I'm on a trip right now and I've been as careful as I could be, but I'm still terrified of bringing it home. If god forbid I do there would be no way I could cope with my partner acting like I had committed some sin by contracting a terrible disease I was doing everything I could to avoid.

Furthermore as for flying, according to a thing I read if one person has it and they're wearing an n95 and the person next to them is also wearing an n95, they'd have to spend 25 hours together before the virus could make its way over to the other person. Therefore anyone who doesn't want to catch it should be wearing an n95. If they're not wearing an n95 then they're traveling at their own risk. Therefore as long as they were keeping their germs to themselves I can't blame them for wanting to get home just because that's what I'd want to do and I can't judge someone for that.
posted by bleep at 7:26 PM on June 29 [20 favorites]

Break up, and in the future don't date someone you think is stupid and kind of pitiable. That way, the odds are that when that smarter person you respect does something stupid (and they will), you'll automatically accord them more grace than you are to your poor partner.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:33 PM on June 29 [35 favorites]

so did she self-isolate in accordance with public health guidelines

Current CDC guideline is only five days of self-isolation.
posted by praemunire at 7:53 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

Reading this I had similar thoughts to Iris Gambol. If you'd offered to take the lead on the logistics of staying (not just the money), things might have gone differently.
posted by BungaDunga at 7:57 PM on June 29 [5 favorites]

I just have to reiterate because I can't stop thinking about this, but if this question had been written by my partner, I would feel shocked, betrayed, heartbroken, terribly alone and quite afraid. I don't know how a relationship could recover from how I'm picturing I would feel if I were treated the way you describe here.
posted by bleep at 8:11 PM on June 29 [34 favorites]

You pride yourself on being more reasonable and logical than her, and also, you were on your home turf and didn't have covid yourself, and weren't caring for a sick elderly person. But like, with all those advantages, what did you actually do to help?

I don't think your partner made a great decision, but from what you wrote, your contributions were not helpful. Did you research and send her links to available nearby hotels with photos of the rooms so she'd know the space was accessible to accommodate her and her mother? Did you call the airline and check what the cancellation cost would be, and what the right flight would be after her quarantine, and reassure her you would rebook those tickets using your own credit card? Did you send all that info in a single well-organized easily digestible email, like a sort of executive summary of the options you believe she should have taken, that could help her see the logistics of a few of the the choices she could make?

And did you also outline the details of what support you were offering, including the dollar value and the fact that she wouldn't need to repay you? "It will cost $700 extra to switch the flights, and $2000 for a week in this hotel, and that amount would be my pleasure to give you as a gift because I don't want you to travel while you're sick. You'll miss a week of work and I'd also like to gift you $2000 to cover that lost cost. So all that to say, if you stay there for 7 more days, I will give you $5000 to cover those costs because I love you."

You seem to think you could have "been sick" better than she was, and made better decisions.... but you were healthy and have money and resources, yet you yourself didn't manage to exceed her skills to get actual decisions made and people's physical bodies actually moved to safe places where they could sleep. She did.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:21 PM on June 29 [64 favorites]

Good people can make one bad decision and still be good people. If this is an unforgivable thing, then that’s your call, but in that case a heads up that she was choosing between her partner and her and her mom’s need to get home would’ve been fair.

I wonder what kind of practical support you offered her and her mother? What would she have done if you said “I’m so sorry, you must be exhausted and worried. Please don’t get on a plane, it’s not safe for anybody. I’ll make a hotel reservation on my card and I’ll pay for the whole thing”?
posted by kapers at 8:25 PM on June 29 [8 favorites]

There is a big assumption here from the OP that staying where they were instead of getting on a plane would have put less people at risk. That is not necessarily the case. My work colleague caught covid interstate on an island on vacation - apparently the venue was FULL of sick people. He tried to do the right thing, told the island he was sick. They kicked him off, made him catch a ferry full of people while ill and go back to the mainland.

He couldn’t catch his flight home (he told the airline he was sick so they refused to let him fly) and had nowhere to stay on the mainland to isolate. He was forced to speak to individual hotels in person begging for a place to isolate while ill. They all refused to take him.

Eventually he phoned that state’s covid hotline, said he was sick, stranded interstate and he was trying to isolate but no one would take him and his girlfriend and were homeless. Their official advice was to lie (as in don’t declare he had covid) to get a hotel room, or he would be sleeping on the streets.

So he did. But he still couldn’t isolate as this was a remote part of the world that didn’t have Uber or home delivery service. He was forced to go supermarket shopping and to the pharmacy, catching buses etc to get there just to get supplies, multiple times.

After a full fortnight of exposing many, many people, hotel staff, people on buses, taxis, supermarkets, pharmacies, plus thousands out of pocket due to having to pay for another two weeks in a pricy hotel at peak tourist time, he was finally well enough to fly home. So I ask you, would he have been better off flying straight back and just exposing the 80 or so people on his very small regional flight, or staying two weeks and exposing lots of people?

Plus, he didn’t have an elderly parent to look after like the OPs partner. I think the OP is having a very uncharitable take on this and quite possibly starting from an incorrect premise that she made the wrong decision to begin with.

In a perfect world, we would all make perfect decisions. I think the OP should break up with his partner and find someone who makes the right decision every time and is as perfect as he clearly is. Good luck with that.
posted by Jubey at 10:17 PM on June 29 [45 favorites]

Jubey’s colleague’s horror story above is why we should all think twice about traveling, and why we should all be very, very angry that our governments have by and large completely abdicated their responsibility to us. I have to travel frequently to support a sick parent. Every dire outcome described is one I started worrying about as soon as he got the diagnosis and asked for my help. I responded to this risk proactively by renting an apartment where my parents live. Having a safe plan for isolation in case of COVID should now be a prerequisite for travel. Is it fair that I am suddenly spending $1400 a month on this problem? No. It was not in my budget. But putting others at risk remains morally unacceptable. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I did what your partner did. So I pay.

I don’t love how many here are basically kink shaming OP for putting honest and prosocial behavior on his list of things he’s looking for in a spouse. OP, you will potentially be signing tax returns with this person. It is entirely reasonable that you want to be able to trust her to behave honorably. She didn’t.
posted by eirias at 10:38 PM on June 29 [6 favorites]

She felt it was more important to get herself and her sick mother home and used every precaution, but it was a risk. As long as she realizes it was a very risky and selfish thing to do, and she learned from it, she's forgivable... now. When you do that... is up to you.

The people I have NO sympathy for are those who INTENTIIONALLY hid their illness for something frivolous... like "attending a wedding" and exposed some 80-year olds to COVID (who then caught it, and is now in a hospital).
posted by kschang at 10:39 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

My view is your partner absolutely did something wrong, but she knows it and feels awful about it, and it sounds like she did have mitigating circumstances (her other options might have been not ideal either). So it’s really up to you if you can show more empathy and forgive her and give her more support. If you do think of her as a good person overall, then yeah you probably should be more understanding. Your own characterization of her "reasoning and critical thinking skills" isn’t very kind and perhaps points to deeper issues in the relationship.
posted by bitteschoen at 2:21 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]

The CDC's current guidelines for isolation are to isolate for 5 days (or until no fever and symproms are resolving) and mask around people thereafter. It's not actually clear from what you said how close she came to that, it could be 4 days, or 4 days and change.

According to the CDC, those guidelines are based on "science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the 1-2 days prior to onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after."

Those guidelines are not intended to prevent all possible covid transmission, of course. They are a compromise. Transmission is tapering off in that time period, in most cases.

Is there a strong moral distinction between 4.whatever days and 5 days then? Or do you expect her to exactly follow the guidance as stated? Or to exceed it because you distrust the guidance of the CDC?
posted by joeyh at 2:22 AM on June 30

TBH, if they used the N95s the entire time, the risk to others was pretty low. Vanishingly small to those who gave enough of a shit about their own health to also wear an N95.

If she'd just YOLOed it and gone without an N95 or used a mask as chin decoration the entire time, yeah, I'd also be very disappointed in her. But she didn't, she took the best precautions that we can. If others chose not to do the same, that's on them. Her choices may not have been the best, but they pale in comparison to the poor choices a very large fraction of the country is making on this topic even though the inconvenience to them is essentially zero. The one thing the anti-maskers are right about is that there is an element of personal responsibility involved, it's just that they're unwilling to take that responsibility. Your SO, on the other hand, did her best to reduce the risk of transmitting her illness to others.

When I'm out and about in a county that is about as blue as it gets anywhere I only see maybe 10% of people wearing a mask of any kind. And whether due to better treatment or some other factor the risk of severe disease is much, much lower fit almost every cohort than it was two years ago. It's still not something I'm personally willing to mess with given the risk of long COVID (my brain is already slow enough, thanks, I don't need it to get any worse!), but the situation now is objectively different than it once was.

If you can't handle people in your life occasionally doing disappointing things you are going to have a very hard time.
posted by wierdo at 2:26 AM on June 30 [11 favorites]

So I guess my question is: How should I feel about this? Is this the kind of mistake I can move past, or that I should try to move past? Is it something that would justify breaking things off with her, in your view?

Yes, this justifies breaking things off, but mainly in the sense that it's always OK to break things off when they don't feel right anymore.

You haven't given much information about practical aspects of your relationship. Do you live together, share any finances or obligations? Not that convenience should be the deciding factor, but if you do not share a household on any level, this will not cause a major upheaval and I think it's a little more acceptable to put a pin in this, just for a matter of days, see how you feel after a few conversations, and then decide. This is the kind of thing where I think you often wake up one morning and just know what to do.

But why are you with someone whose reasoning and critical thinking seem "below average" to you, in the first place? A lot of people wouldn't care overly much about those things in respect to a partner, but I think those people would not make the kind of observation that you did. Maybe this relationship has been a compromise for you all along, and this event has dramatized that and now it's time to move on. As others have suggested above, if someone made those kinds of judgments about me, I would want them to leave me.
posted by BibiRose at 5:42 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]

I share your gut horror at people flying with known COVID, but have been equally horrified recently (after hearing some personal stories like this one) to realize it may be the best option available in some cases. I would feel horrible and mortified and hate every encounter I had with anyone around me if I were forced to be out around people with COVID, but wearing an N95 is a significant level of protection, and is consistent with the direction US public health guidance is going in.

Our society is not set up to enable a zero-risk solution. I think a lot of my horror in hearing my coworkers' stories of needing to fly home sick was in realizing that assumptions I had made about my world were no longer valid - that the person next to me on a plane very well could have known COVID and no one would stop them, that the person next to me at work or the doctor treating me could easily be on day 6 of a known case and still symptomatic and be welcomed (or forced) back to work by their organization's CDC-compliant rules. I thought it would be possible for a sick person to isolate until they were almost certain to be non infectious! It feels like it SHOULD be possible! But it's not what our society is trying for right now with COVID, so if that's what you're trying to do you have to really be willing to fight a lot and give up things that matter (like the folks here saying they don't travel anymore).

In general you can be a "decent normal person" and aim for 90th %ile or whatever, but that won't get you to being 100% able to avoid posing a danger to others (whether it's COVID danger or car crash danger or...). If you want to remove a societally accepted risk from your own life you have to be really an outlier, and comfortable being that outlier and giving up those things.
posted by Lady Li at 6:03 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]

I don't think I would be very happy about this either, and it is clearly a flashpoint for many.

But. As someone who has flown on planes in the US in the last week, it is hard to overstate just how tiny the minority of people is who appear to care in the slightest about covid right now out in the world, and I would personally be pretty sympathetic to this being a very contagious mindset. The way the system is right now in the US as it appeared to me, if you want to actually think about covid, you really only have two choices: "accept non-trivial covid risk and travel" vs "no traveling at all by plane unless you have a ton of privilege". And the latter is not a real option in a range of circumstances. That is, on balance, based on what I witnessed I just don't think you can currently travel by plane without to some degree risking both getting it and spreading it yourself, systems in place to mitigate either of these things are just *gone* now. (This wasn't apparent to me before I left. Would I have canceled the trip? Not sure -- it was a long-time work commitment rescheduled from 2020. I did have the resources to extend my trip if necessary though, and would have. But, I'm extraordinarily privileged in this respect...)

Also, worth noting that airlines are no longer reliably letting people reschedule flights if they do get covid. Which again, of course if you have the $$$ you can handle..
posted by advil at 6:38 AM on June 30 [3 favorites]

I think you're being irrational about this (along with many folks answering). Your post title is "My partner knowingly exposed people to covid" but look - at the point that she got covid while away from home "knowingly exposing" people was a foregone conclusion. Either she is exposing the people she is staying with (but wait - it sounds like that wasn't actually an option for her to stay with them, just her mother) or people working in a hotel (although it isn't clear that this is even an option - you note it was "probably not impossible" to get a hotel which means (a) you didn't try to assist with this at all and (b) this is more about you having a fantasy of what is possible than this being an actual meaningful alternative).

You are having a feeling that flying was wrong because we all feel that we shouldn't expose people to disease and exposing people to disease on a plane feels especially bad, but you're not rationally engaged with what the real alternatives were. In an ideal world, sure, don't fly when you know you have covid. But your partner was involved in a real situation with real parameters, not an abstract ethical exercise. So given the actual parameters of her situation, was flying while using a high-quality mask the outcome that puts the most other people at risk? Were there actually realistic alternatives available to her? It seems like your reasoning and critical thinking skills are kind of below average here.

You can break up with someone for any reason at any time so if this is a dealbreaker for you then it's a dealbreaker. But don't kid yourself that this was a situation with an easy and clear answer. Also conflating sacrificing oneself with being a good person is gross and misogynistic and particularly as a cishet dude you need to spend some time understanding the ways that society forces women to be self-sacrificing and how that harms everyone.
posted by jeoc at 6:51 AM on June 30 [36 favorites]

Thinking about the dollar value of the decision she had to make:
You had considered the cost to rebook flight, and her lost income for missing an extra week of work, but also:

Energy to do research, make a plan, then convince her mom and family that her plan is good, all while she's sick, and put it into motion against likely resistance
Taxi to a hotel - say $30
Cost per night if they stayed in a hotel - say $200 for 5 nights = $1000
Cost to replace any random things they had been using for free from family / ran out of = $30
Cost per day for room service for 2 people (plus any dietary restrictions) - say $120 for 5 days = $600
Cost per taxi if they needed any care or medicine - say $20
Packing all their stuff again, alone at the hotel, to eventually take a taxi to the airport while lugging a sick elderly person (exhausting + $60)
Cost of a hospital stay if either of them got sicker - $40,000 - $110,000
Loss of a week's income, let's say $1000, plus her boss being mad at her and possibly thinking less of her or retaliating in some way. Also note that the less money she earns at work, or the more "disposable" her employer considers her, then the more likely it is that petty office politics and her boss "liking" her actually genuinely risks her material safety.

Imagine her in a hotel and her mom gets super sick - but she's also sick, and she's alone, and they're contagious - what's she supposed to do? How is she supposed to decide what counts as a medical emergency, especially when she's sick herself?

I'm not saying flying home was the correct decision. But it sure wasn't an easy decision. Getting home while they were still ambulatory, to a place where things are familiar and she has a support network, is in many ways a reasonable if imperfect decision. It just really wasn't a simple issue of "go to a hotel, it'll be easy".
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:59 AM on June 30 [21 favorites]

I probably wouldn’t break up with my partner if they killed someone deliberately. You don’t sound that into her, more that she suits you well enough. Maybe let her go to someone who loves her more? The bit about “she sacrifices herself for the sake of others” rubs me wrong, the one time she doesn’t you want to break up? She’s sick with covid and you choose not to see her till after? On top of that you’re not even really texting to her? The definition of “if they wanted to they would”, let her go. In fact, tell her you made a thread about her on the internet and see if it gels with *her* ethics.
posted by Iteki at 8:04 AM on June 30 [14 favorites]

I just took my second flight since COVID started. I flew to do a long-awaited performance with 120 people, all of whom had to test 24 hours beforehand. We didn't have a single positive. So I do balk a little at claiming that "well everyone knows someone on that plane must have Covid", because it diffuses individual responsibility, and large groups CAN in fact all test negative if they are careful and don't assume it's inevitable.

All of that is to say, individual responsibility is all we have to protect each other. Yes, I feel your girlfriend made a very bad choice. I agree with those who say as her long term partner, you could have taken more responsibility to help arrange other choices. I also personally judge their relatives, because IMO, if you accept houseguests right now you accept the risk that they will get covid and have to stay longer than you thought. The people who did NOT accept the risk are the people who didn't know they sat for hours next to two positive people who lied about it. And it is a lie by omission. They knew they couldn't fly otherwise.
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:30 AM on June 30 [4 favorites]

Her reasoning and critical thinking skills are generally pretty average or maybe slightly below average

Let me guess: yours are above average.

You should break up with her because you're willing to say this about her in public.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:14 PM on June 30 [28 favorites]

If you were my partner, I’d be very hurt that your opinion of me is so easily upended. You’ve been with her for two years. Your disappointment is more about her not doing what you think you would have done.

You have listed a bunch of mitigating circumstances and reasons why she did this, so I’d try to look at those and maybe be a little less strident about this is a “deep ethical failure”.

Have you ever been in a complicated and hard to resolve situation? Would you like her to judge your character based on one situation? She sounds like a good person who tried her best to do right by her mother and her life in general.

I also take umbrage to your low opinion of her “critical thinking skills” –that seems like a nice way to say you think she is kind of stupid, or more precisely, not as smart as you.

I want to emphasize that to me, a large piece of this is, as others have mentioned, is the financial reality. It is unclear how hand to mouth her life is, but you must realize that changing flights can cost hundreds of dollars. Staying in a hotel can be in the thousands, on top of transport and meals. This is on top of losing the time off work…..

I say this as someone who used to have a job with good benefits, a fine salary, health coverage. I no longer do. I cannot over emphasize how easy it is to take for granted having the financial security to do things such as change travel plans, juggle work stuff, and just be fine. When you don’t have that scenario, decisions are often fraught with angst and no ability to “do the right thing”….

I know you think it was a great, but offering to pay for a hotel was like offering to mail a bandage to someone who just was hit by a car.

There is no one answer to “how should I feel”, you are going to feel how you feel. But you could look at how you feel and delve into it.

To me, this question is more about your moral character than anything else.
posted by rhonzo at 12:23 PM on June 30 [14 favorites]

So I think you should break up, the reason being that this is probably just the clarifying incident that you’re not suited for one another. I would not be surprised if, looking back, you eventually found other things that were off. (FRT, I agree that this was irresponsible and I would also be not impressed. But as a relationship question, I think the COVID part is not really the point.)

What actually stood out to me was that you offered to help with a hotel… and she didn’t take you up on it. That suggests a rejection of mutual help in a way that I would expect to see in a serious relationship that is getting more serious. Not just help, but ideally, our partners help us to see when we’re being idiots and help us do the right thing. Or seeing us when we are at low points, and allowing us to be vulnerable - like maybe she also needed help on flight change fees to make that option viable, but telling someone that would obviously be showing some vulnerability.

Different relationships are different, so maybe this is a big deal, maybe not, but that definitely stood out to me - you offering to help her and her rejection of that help. But like I said, I think this is just the clarifying event. You might want to think back and consider if there are other things you glossed over but now come to mind as being not quite right for you.

It’s OK to break up if things have run their course.
posted by ec2y at 12:25 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]

I'm posting this while recovering from Covid, I had vaccines and boosters and a round of Paxlovid but I'm DEEPLY thankful that I didn't have to make any decisions involving air travel or the safety of elderly relatives during this time because my brain is FRIED right now.

Also I'm really glad my spouse isn't making decisions about our relationship based on any decisions I've been making while feeling like this...
posted by mmoncur at 7:15 PM on June 30 [8 favorites]

"... as for flying, according to a thing I read if one person has it and they're wearing an n95 and the person next to them is also wearing an n95, they'd have to spend 25 hours together before the virus could make its way over to the other person. ... citation ... "

That article includes this clarification: "All infection times in this infographic have been calculated in an enclosed, unventilated space with a distance of two meters between the two people." I'm not sure how much the air filtration on a plane will make up for the fact that your partner and her mom were probably one to two feet away from several passengers for six hours. Also, the article doesn't indicate which strain of the virus the study was done on. The article is recent, but I remember seeing charts with numbers similar to this one in the early days of Covid.

"Therefore anyone who doesn't want to catch it should be wearing an n95."

I agree as far as that goes, but many of us are then forced to spend time in close contact with these people in offices, schools, etc. - who of course are not wearing masks in these settings either - hoping our own masks will hold up. (And according to the same article - which, again, is likely about a version of the virus that was much less transmissible than the current variants - a maskless person will infect a person wearing an N95 mask two meters away in 2.5 hours.) These people will also share households with people who can't realistically wear a mask around them all the time, and may not be able to just leave them.

I think your partner is right to feel awful about knowingly exposing people to Covid, regardless of whether the people she directly exposed should also feel awful about whatever level of blame they share.
posted by Mila at 8:56 PM on June 30 [1 favorite]

Her reasoning and critical thinking skills are generally pretty average or maybe slightly below average

I'm glad others have already brought this up. You shouldn't break up with her because of her actions, you should break up with her because you don't respect her. Don't be with someone you don't respect. She shouldn't be with someone who doesn't respect her. Do yourselves both a favour and end it.

In terms of how you should feel about what she did, I don't think anyone can tell you how you should feel. You feel whatever you feel.
posted by foxjacket at 10:28 AM on July 1 [10 favorites]

P.S. here's another post on actual bad ethics around COVID for comparison's sake.
posted by foxjacket at 10:39 AM on July 1 [4 favorites]

This has been a fascinating discussion and I'm glad it's happened.

With respect to the original question, your partner had no good options before her. Personally, I think she made the best call she could make. Her elderly mother got sick with COVID while they were in another country, 24 hours before their flight home; if that happened to me and my mother, I would absolutely be trying to get us home as soon as possible. My head would be filled with uncertainty and fear. What if her condition got worse and she had to be hospitalized? I sure as fuck wouldn't want that to happen in another country. As others have said, yes, there was a risk of exposing other people during the travel, but they tried to minimize risk for other people and took far more precautions than many people would (and I wager, more than many people on their flight). As far as I'm concerned, she took the least bad option in a situation where all her options were bad and getting worse.

I frankly don't understand your statement "But this was a very serious lapse in judgment and a deep ethical failure, in my view, and I don't really see any legitimate excuse, explanation, or mitigating circumstances for it"—I mean, what? I'm absolutely boggled by this. How is it not possible that you don't see an explanation or mitigating circumstances here?
posted by StrawberryPie at 1:30 PM on July 1 [7 favorites]

THere's no correct answer here, but you have to acknowledge your feelings. Your feelings are saying that some value(s) of yours have been put in a bind, and that's worht exploring with a partner. Yes, of course there are ways to come back from these feelings, but only if they're aired and used as an opportunity to discuss them in good faith with the intention of looking for common ground and resolution.

But this was a very serious lapse in judgment and a deep ethical failure, in my view, and I don't really see any legitimate excuse, explanation, or mitigating circumstances for it.

I'd note, then, that the first part of your statement is sort of the thesis of what's at stake. WHat's in bold, though, merits a gentler touch if you want to explore it with your partner.

I'll say this: I'm an epidemiologist, and I have mixed feelings about situations like this. I won't go so far as to say that I don't see any legitimate excuse, explanation, or mitigating cirtumstances. It's just that the ones I do see are deeply human, irrational, flawed, panicked, desperate.

As you say--and as I can say myself when I've been ill with Covid--the mind is not operating in peak form. I got into a profoundly deep disagreement with my boyfriend the last time I was ill with Covid and have a hard time remembering what led to it or what was said in the process. I can only imagine how compounded that stressful feeling would have been if we'd been away from home when I got sick. People make very flawed, very human decisions every day. Not all of these flawed decisions are mistakes. Some of them are correct, for all their flaws. The devil's in the details, and you two need to have a heart-to-heart about how you feel (and how she feels--I mean the plural "we" here).
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 7:14 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]

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