Information You Need: Pandemic Pods

As the need for physical distancing and pandemic safety precautions continue, many of us are yearning for a sense of normalcy. It is clear that physical distancing in combination with mask wearing works to reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, physical distancing can take a toll on our mental health and many of us may need more support than ever. Remember that the safest options to socialize still remain through online options. For more information, visit our previous update on how to stay social, while staying distant. However, there is an option that many people are choosing to explore – creating “pandemic pods”.

What is a “pandemic pod”?

  • This relatively new term is the idea of forming a limited social circle that you can more safely visit in person. The goal of creating a pod is to be able to socialize in person with a few individuals who are taking a similar level of precaution. These pods can vary in size and level of intimacy (e.g., meeting outside versus inside), depending on what all members are comfortable with.

Why are “pandemic pods” important?

  • These pods are important because they allow individuals to interact with their selected close circle, and they can help to reduce the level of risk associated with socializing in person – as long as safety precautions are still taken.

What are the benefits to creating a “pandemic pod”?

  • Pods can be a great way to introduce some normalcy into your life. Creating a pod may increase mental health and overall wellbeing.

How can you create a “pandemic pod”?

  1. Find people to include in your pandemic pod, but keep the circle small. Limiting the circle to about 5 people or less is ideal
  • These should be people that you trust and who are taking COVID-19 precautions as seriously as you are. Use the checklist below for additional considerations to take into account:
  1. Reduce contacts outside of your pod
  • To create a pod safely, you should reduce any other close contacts outside of your selected pod – This will help keep everyone safe. Reducing your outside contacts does not mean that you cannot go grocery shopping or run other essential errands, it just means that you should avoid any unnecessary outings and avoid close contact with others outside of your pod. 
  • However, if you do have close contact with others outside of your pod, be sure to let members of your pod know before gathering in person.
  1. Set your ground rules
  • Set some “ground rules” to make sure everyone in the pod is aware of boundaries and what individuals are comfortable with (e.g., only meeting outside, wearing cloth face coverings, etc.). 
  • See the checklist below for more details on how to set ground rules with your pod.
  1. Be sure to follow pandemic guidelines.
  • There is always still a risk if you choose to socialize in person. However, meeting in person is the safest when individuals are wearing cloth face coverings, remain 6 feet apart, and take place outside. Some ideas include:
    • An outdoor picnic in a non-crowded park: individuals can each bring a blanket to sit on 6 feet away from others in their pod, bring their own snacks and beverages to avoid sharing any food, and of course wear a cloth face covering whenever possible.
    • An outdoor movie night in a park, backyard, or front yard: individuals can each bring a blanket to sit on 6 feet away from others in their pod, bring their own snacks and beverages to avoid sharing any food, and of course wear a cloth face covering whenever possible.
  • If you, or someone in the pod has had an exposure, everyone in the pod should quarantine for 14 days. 
Considerations when forming a “pandemic pod”
It is a good idea to set some ground rules before creating a pod so you can establish what you are and are not comfortable with.
It is important to set the precedent of informing the group when you have had close contact with individuals outside of the pod. If this happens, how long do you wait before you meet again?
Since symptoms can develop as far as 14 days after exposure, it would be safest to wait 14 days.

This means you should consider:
What type of profession people have: You should weigh if someone is in a high-risk position (e.g., healthcare worker or a job with regular contact with the public) in your decision. If you are in a similar profession, this may be less risky. However, if you do not work in a high-risk field, having close contact with other individuals who do may increase your COVID-19 risk. 
If they are taking a similar level of COVID-19 precaution: You should also discuss with potential members what they are doing to prevent COVID-19 in their own lives. These can be difficult conversations to have, but establishing an open line of communication with members of your pod early on can help avoid issues that may come up later.

Ask potential pod members if they are socializing, attending a gym, or sending their children to schools. This will help you gauge if someone is a good fit for your pod and is taking a similar level of precautions. 
It is also important to consider what the rest of the potential member’s household is also doing in their free time. Remember that just because one member of the household is taking precautions, does not mean that others are. 

Does anybody have a fever?
Is everybody feeling okay today? 
Has anyone in the pod had exposure to someone who tested positive for COVID-19?

Pandemic pods can be a safer way to socialize in person with a select group of people. There is still always some risk of socializing in person, but by following these outlined steps, you may reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19.

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