I’ve always been a play by the rules kind of gal.

No speeding tickets since the ’90s. Truthful about my age (45 years young). Wait for everyone at the table to get their food before I start eating.

And then COVID-19 and the stay-at-home orders hit, and suddenly I’m not that kind of gal anymore.

No, I’m not drag racing through the neighborhood. My table manners are mostly intact. As for my age, I haven’t encountered anyone who doesn’t already know my birthday in weeks so it hasn’t been an issue.

I’m also taking the CDC recommendations seriously. I rarely leave home, and when I do it’s mask up, gloves on.

Well, mostly seriously.

Getting by with a little help from my friends

My quarantine social group includes my husband, 4 kids, and…4 other people who don’t live in my house.

If you are reading this and wondering if I mean you, yes I do mean you if you have been within 6 feet of me since March 23.

Whether you call it a quarantine pod, gang, or buddies, or the correct scientific term “contact clustering,” the meaning is the same. Expanding your quarantine social group to include a small group of trusted friends or family members who don’t live with you.

And by “trusted,” I mean everyone is still avoiding anything but essential contact with outsiders and taking sensible precautions when they do go out.

For my family, it’s been a lifeline. Other adults to help out with the kids and socialize with has kept the stress level in our house at a simmer rather than a full boil.

Is it risky? Of course. Both to us and any other people we might come into contact with. I can’t control what those 4 other people do. But if the worse did happen and one of us brought the virus to the group, we could contain the spread by staying home.

The level of risk? Above my pay grade. And my math skills. Thanks to homeschooling these past few weeks, I now know I have the math skills of a 7th grader.

But not insignificant, especially to anyone we might unknowingly infect.

Making living with social distancing a little more bearable

Going day after day, week after week, month after month socially isolated is risky too.  My 6 year old is desperate for physical play with a pal her age (and not a domineering older sister). My poor husband is locked up in a house with 5 women (even the dog is a girl). Fuses are short, tempers are high. Without the outlet of other people to talk to or places to go, fights erupt over the most minor of issues.

For my family, the risk is tolerably low when weighed against the psychological effects of total social isolation. We’re not alone in our calculation. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine is modeling what “contact clustering” could look like and whether it would be a sensible way to gradually loosen the lockdown.

One thing is clear that social distancing is not going to end anytime soon. Not by a long shot. The question we must decide is the best way to live with it, to minimize the risk to our health and our health system, while keeping our sanity in check.

What do you think? Do you have regular contact with someone you don’t live with it? What do you think is the best approach for living with social distancing for the next year, maybe 2?

Leave a comment or send me an email.

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