This Is How Doctors Say You Can Safely See Your Friends
How joining a "quarantine pod" can make you happier and keep you healthy.
Quarantine may have seemed somewhat novel about two months ago. Maybe you took advantage of having a break from certain commitments, embarked on a project you've been putting off, or simply reveled in the excuse to wear sweatpants every day. But the coronavirus pandemic has not been quashed, and states that have started reopening are seeing an uptick in cases. All signs seem to be pointing at hunkering down for the summer being our best bet at finally getting a handle on the disease. But there are other concerns too, such as burn out, depression, or just becoming so fed up with quarantine that you're compelled to take unnecessary risks. As a longer term strategy, new research shows that "quarantine pods" could be the safest way to start socializing again. If you and the people in your pod are careful, you won't have to wait until the pandemic is over to see your friends. And for more advice to help get you through the next few months, check out 19 Summer Hobbies You Can Still Do During Quarantine
What is a quarantine pod?
Slate defines a quarantine pod as "the combination of two or a few isolated households, making one larger isolated unit." If you know another family or friend who's being strict about social distancing, staying home as much as possible, and wearing masks in public as you are, you would essentially behave as though they were in isolation with you. For example, two friends who each have been isolating alone and live very close to one another may choose to have dinner together or go on a walk without the recommended six feet of distance, being fairly sure that neither of them is infected.
The key is that everyone involved has to be serious about not slipping. If one person in your quarantine pod decides to go the grocery store without a mask on, they're not only at a higher risk of bringing infection back to your pod, but also of spreading any infection that may have come from your pod. One of the benefits that researchers are investigating is that pods would make any infections that do occur relatively easy to trace.
A quarantine pod—or a "bubble," to some—protects the people in it and the people outside of it.
Are quarantine pods safe?
The Slate piece cites a study preprinted (and not yet peer reviewed) in ResearchGate, which was conducted by researchers at Oxford, ETH Zurich, and the University of Zurich. The study modeled infection curves for three different strategies of easing isolation and increasing social contact, while still respecting the proven benefits of distancing. Of these three scenarios, "limiting interaction to a few repeated contacts" kept projected infection rates the lowest.
Per The Guardian, Stefan Flasche, PhD, an epidemiologist and mathematical modeler at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, is also studying the possible effectiveness of pods (or "contact clustering), but results are still weeks away.
Obviously, having contact with a few people outside of your home—even if they have also been observing social distancing—involves more risk than staying isolated completely. But it is a responsible way of expanding your circle that may make doing this for the long haul seem more manageable.
Are there other benefits, too?
If you rely on childcare from someone who doesn't live in your home, then you're already doing this. Same goes for those caring for elderly family members or anyone else who needs a little help. Joining a quarantine pod can mean sharing chores, such as cooking, shopping, or picking up prescriptions. Does a day off of home-schooling duties sound appealing? Yeah, we thought so. And for more advice to improve your well being, check out 17 Mental Health Tips for Quarantine From Therapists.