Originally wrote this as a note to friends. Feel free to modify and share if helpful for your own conversations.
Hanging out in person is weird these days. We've found through trial and error that it's better to talk about Coronavirus stuff ahead of time than to assume that everyone's on the same page.
Since you're coming over, here's some of our our beliefs about Covid-19, what we do and don't do, and what to expect when you come over to our house.
Hoping that by sharing this, we can start a conversation and get past the awkward unsaid stuff so that we can better enjoy each other's company.
What we believe about Covid-19
It's really bad. It probably won't kill us, but if we catch it, there's a non-trivial chance we'd get sicker than we've ever been, suffer longterm damage, or pass it on to someone else. Also, Rachel's pregnant. We take Covid-19 seriously.
Coronavirus spreads primarily by breathing the same air with an infected person for a prolonged period of time. So long as no one's sneezing or coughing, we'd need at least 10 minutes in a small, poorly ventilated room with an unmasked asymptomatic carrier to catch the virus.
The risk of surface transmission is low. Despite all the package disinfecting we did back in March and April, there have not been documented cases of surface transmission.
The risk of outdoor transmission is low. If there was non-trivial risk of coronavirus spreading outside, we would have seen an uptick in outbreaks due to outdoor dining or protests. Open air seriously impedes transmission. Sunlight is coronavirus kryptonite. The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them is a great piece on this subject.
It's unlikely that you, or we, currently have it. Since August, New York City's daily positive infection rate has been less than 1%.👏👏👏
How we act
We've adopted a strategy of risk mitigation, not risk elimination. Here's what we do, and don't do:
- If we had a cough, sore throat, or fever, we wouldn't hang out with you.
- We avoid being indoors with other people when we can.
- We go into stores when we need to, but we don't linger, and we leave if it's crowded or if people are unmasked.
- When inside in public, we wear masks. My mask protects you, your mask protects me.
- When outside in public and near other people, we wear masks. But more for social normalization than for fear of transmission.
- We order takeout often. We occasionally do outdoor dining.
- We don't wipe down packages or groceries (anymore).
- We're homeschooling Emma this year.
What you can expect at our place
We're fortunate to have an outdoor space where we can host friends. There's room for kids to play in the yard while adults hang out on the patio. Here's what it looks like:
So here's a bit of what to expect when you come over to our house. And, again, offering this up to start a conversation and to avoid awkwardness – not to declare the house rules:
We'll wear a mask when we greet you at the front door, and when we walk you through the house to the patio. Fist bumps and elbow bumps seem like good greetings these days.
We don't wear masks out back. We're generally unconcerned about outdoor transmission. As extra precaution, let's keep some distance – for example, we don't need to sit four to the couch. We'll also turn on our industrial-strength fan to improve airflow.
Despite all the disinfecting we did of packages back in March, surface transmission does not seem to be a risk. We're comfortable serving you food and drink, and collecting your dirty dishes. We're comfortable sharing a meal (we have a grill), but we've also found that sometimes getting together for a desert and drink after dinner is lower anxiety for everyone. No need to offer to help with meal prep or dishes – we know you would in normal times. No need to bring anything, but we do enjoy pie.
We've got two bathrooms at our house. One's just inside the patio – y'all can use that one while you're here. We'll use the upstairs one.
Our murkiest judgment call is what to do when Emma has playdates. We typically don't require her to wear a mask when playing with friends unless they're spending a lot of time in her clubhouse or having a hard time keeping distance. Kids are at low risk, being outside is low risk. That said, we're cool playing this by ear with you.
On occasion, kiddos find a reason to go inside together to show off a room, get a toy, whatever. In those cases, we'd prefer that they're masked, and that they only stay inside for a few minutes.
So, that's where we're at – but as I said – this is meant to start a conversation, not to lay down the house rules. Not on the same page as us? Let's acknowledge that it's awkward, that we're all figuring this out as we go along, and then talk about it anyway.
It's also important to acknowledge that so much of these judgment calls are made on a case-by-case basis. While guidelines are helpful, what feels comfortable one week with one set of friends might not feel right the next. If your spidey sense starts going off, it's totally cool to say, "You know what, I'm uncomfortable with ___. Could we ___ instead?" Ultimately, even if the risks are lower than they were back in March, we are still talking about matters of life and death here.
Come on over!
Whew! Thanks for reading all that. It's weird to write 1100 words to invite someone over to your house but, hey.... 2020.
We're so thankful that you're coming over! It's such a luxury to spend face-to-face time with friends. Hopefully, for a few hours, things can feel normal again.
On a non-coronavirus note – we've got mosquitos. We'll have bug spray and citronella candles on hand, but you may want to wear pants. This isn't a Zoom call.
See you soon!