Can we commit to being alone together yet?
How soon can we safely meet as a small group of family members or close friends, commonly known during the pandemic as a “pod?”
As you wait for your turn to get vaccinated, you may be wondering if it's worth creating a pod to ride out the lonely days of winter.
A pod is, “basically a group of people who don't need to mask and socially distance when they're together because they've agreed to follow certain rules and guidelines when they're apart,” explains Aaron Glatt, M.D., chair of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai, South Nassau Hospital.
For older adults, pods can pose risks, but they can also provide much needed socialization. A recent National Poll on Healthy Aging survey of more than 2,000 people ages 50 to 80 found that more than half felt isolated from others this year, making them more at risk for depression.
How to Start a Pod
If you decide to create such a group, you'll want to pick pod-mates who are like-minded about the pandemic. This isn’t the time to join a group of family members or friends who may be extending visits beyond your pod, you need a group of people you can trust. We now have months of pandemic behavior to go on, and we know that it’s exposure to large groups of people we don’t know that can put you at risk.
Schedule a video chat and ask questions to confirm how closely potential pod-mates comply with COVID-19 recommendations: Do they wear masks all the time outside the house? What about their adult children? How much shopping do they do and under what circumstances? Do they dine in restaurants? Do they have medical needs that will require frequent appointments? Does anyone come into their house regularly, like a housekeeper or a health aid of any kind?
While there are no right or wrong answers, it's important that their risk tolerance aligns with yours. And while anyone can be part of a pod, expanding your circle does raise the risk of contracting the virus. If your age or health status puts you at higher risk, weigh your decision carefully. And keep in mind that the person with the highest risk of getting the virus determines the risk for the entire pod.
Everyone involved also needs to be prepared to isolate and be symptom-free for two weeks before you begin to get together indoors. Then, everyone must follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Wear masks in public and any time you're around people who aren't part of your pod, stay at least 6 feet away from others, avoid crowds and wash your hands often. You may want to establish that you'll create a pod for two or three weeks, then evaluate how it's going.
How Many in a Pod?
While there is no fixed number of how many people make a pod safe, the smaller the pod, the lower the risk. Start with one other household, then see if you want to add another. Preferably 8 people or less keeps contagion risks low, experts say.
Remember that you must consider everyone in your household part of the pod — even members who don't actively socialize. If you live with your elderly mother, for example, she is taking on the same risks as everyone in the pod, even if she never leaves your house.
What if Someone Breaks the Trust?
"Anytime someone doesn't follow the safety protocols agreed upon by the pod, the pod is no longer safe,” says Glatt. For example, if the group vowed not to go inside anyone else's house and someone ducks into a neighbor's, even when masked and only for a few minutes, they need to come clean. One person's behavior impacts the health of everyone else.
If someone does stray from the guidelines, have that person take a two-week break and if they remain asymptomatic and agree to follow the pod rules from then on, welcome them back.
Finally, if anyone in your pod feels sick or tests positive for the virus, the entire pod needs to follow CDC guidelines. Stay home and away from others for 14 days after your last contact with the person who is sick, and watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms.
How to Make a Pod Work
The best thing about a pod is that you no longer have to feel alone. You can begin to slowly rebuild some sort of social togetherness again as we move back to a safer and healthy post-pandemic life. As you begin meeting and talking to friends or family again, it’s good time to start putting some plans in place for the future. The one thing this pandemic has done is to show us how quickly our lives can change.
I am here for consultations to learn how you can put a plan in place for you and/or your family. Schedule a meeting with me by phone, video, or in person (if you feel comfortable). Work with others as a support group to put a future in place, knowing you’ll be prepared for whatever life may bring.
Bob Michaels is extremely passionate about providing the best possible legal experience for his clients, and focuses his practice on elder law, estate planning, business, and real estate matters. Bob has been able to provide piece of mind and a solid foundation to many folks in the Puget Sound area over the years and wants to provide resources and relevant information whenever he can. Schedule your appointment today!
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