Human contact is important. We cannot live without it. Isolation can cause many negative side effects. Let’s explore the idea of joining a pod or bubble in a way that will reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 and encourage interpersonal relationships during a stay at home order. By finding ways to safely be together, we can help fight loneliness in our communities.
What is a pod?
A pod is a partnership between people with similar interests to improve socialization and ward off isolation. Parties agree to certain behaviors so that even when we’re on lockdown, it’s safe to have social interactions, at any age.
Reach out to others with similar interests — people you may have met at church or in book clubs or art classes, maybe Forward Chicago — and try to form a group of 6-8 people. Some experts suggest that everyone in a pod should be about the same age — peers, not parents and children. Individuals should belong to just one pod at a time.
Before you meet up in person, there are a lot of things to consider.
Have everyone isolate for 14 days. This amount of time is sufficient to make sure anyone who was exposed to the virus is exhibiting any symptoms before meeting with others and accidentally exposing them.
Then everyone should get a coronavirus test. Not all people who get coronavirus exhibit symptoms. This is a second layer of protection for pod members.
Agree on a trial period. If it doesn’t work out, members have an opportunity to leave if the pod doesn’t meet their needs or expectations.
Establish realistic strategies for staying healthy that all members can adhere to for months at a time.
Decide how to act when members are outside the pod. For example:
- Have groceries delivered
- Wear a mask when outside of home
- No visitors in pod members’ homes, other than pod members
- No other pod memberships to avoid cross-infections
- Decide how comfortable the group is with pod members meeting people outdoors (while six feet apart) if they aren’t in the pod
Layer as many protections as you can.
Establish the who, what, when, where, how of the pod
- Who are the members? Establish your pod members and start your 14 day quarantine.
- What are you getting together for? Meals, games, crafts, movies or all of the above.
- When and how often will you be getting together? Make it daily, weekly, or monthly.
- Where will you be getting together? At the same house every time? Will every member host?
How will you get together?
Decide on ground rules for each time your pod meets, that everyone will be comfortable with. At each activity:
- Screen for symptoms (fever, symptom check list, smell test)
- Spread out by staying six feet apart whenever possible
- Decide whether to wear masks or not
- The host should clean frequently touched surfaces (tables, doorknobs)
- Decide in advance whether the group is comfortable with touching and hugging
- Try to incorporate hand washing breaks
When you gain consensus on a list of rules, everyone will have fun and have fewer worries.
Remember, no pod is perfectly airtight. What should you do if someone takes a vacation and needs to self-quarantine upon return? What should you do if someone within the pod gets sick or exposed to someone who has Covid-19?
Require pod members who have not followed the agreed-upon strategies (for instance, traveled to another state or had guests who are not in their household) to isolate or be tested before they rejoin the pod.
Encourage pod members to openly report symptoms and reward each other for choosing safety. Never let anyone feel ashamed or overwhelmed when someone thinks they might be sick.
A strong recommendation is that all of this be put in writing and all members sign on to the decisions made by the group. It would not be a lawfully binding document, but it would make certain that everyone is on the same page when it comes to the pod.
Most of all, remember that human contact is important. Being alone too much can cause depression and anxiety. They can be as dangerous as the virus. Social interaction, whether you’re comfortable with a pod or if you’re sticking with Zoom meetings, is very important to your health. Stay safe in whatever way is right for you.
At Home Test Kit
“Forming a pod can be an impetus for having conversations about what constitutes acceptable COVID-19 risk within a household or family. And those conversations can make the burden of navigating winter a bit lighter on everyone. ‘A hard thing about the pandemic is the feeling that you have to negotiate every interaction with someone, and that’s really exhausting mentally,’ Robinson said. Talking about pod rules is a way to pre-negotiate, so that when you interact with people, you can focus more attention on the pleasure of their company.”Rachel Gutman – The Atlantic, 2020