When is it Okay to Visit Family During a Quarantine?

I have a habit of starting off a long monologue with a few qualifiers and this is not going to be any different. I want to start by saying I am not an expert on COVID-19. This is simply going to be my opinion. In the end, you will have to make your own decision. But I also do not want to shy away from having an uncomfortable conversation. We are all going through a lot right now. Today, I want to share my thoughts and feelings on this pandemic.

The article that I have linked here is a detailed timeline of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just glancing through it as I reflect brings back so many frightening memories. I remember discussing conspiracy theories with when this all got started. Since I have been working from home and in quarantine, I have not really thought about any of these topics much. It is hard to believe this pandemic got started in December of 2019.

Now, after three months in quarantine and isolation, the country is starting to open back up. My family lives in Lincoln, NE and relatively speaking, we have had things well. There are a few communities in Nebraska that have been hit hard per capita but compared to some other parts of the country we have been very lucky. With businesses opening, even if only to 50% capacity, people are starting to relax on their own quarantines in their home life. So, is that the right thing to do?

My Experience

It is a difficult question for sure and I think if you asked a big group of people you would get a wide spectrum of answers. No one really knows what to do and no one wants to be wrong. Over the past few weeks Alex and I have had several discussions on what to do. We have not always agreed and oddly enough, there have been moments where we flip flop viewpoints. It is so hard when you decide one thing as a family and then you see other members of your family behaving differently and you almost start to question yourself.

In the beginning, I must admit I saw the silver lining of working from home. I was going to get to spend a lot more time with Alex and Savannah than I got to previously. Savannah was born in January so the timing for our specific situation was a blessing. We did not have to go through the stress of having a child during this pandemic thankfully. All I wanted to do and still what I enjoy doing the most is spending time with that little girl of ours. I thought when else am I ever going to get an opportunity to spend so much time with our daughter, especially since she was so young. That is all true and I am so thankful.

The drawback I am now feeling heavily on my heart is a lot of Savannah’s family has not had the opportunity to see her very much since she was born. Savannah has all four of her grandparents and several great grandparents. She has so many aunts and uncles it is crazy! And they all want to see her and hold her, and Alex and I want the same thing.

So What Are The Risks

Here is a link to a google search on Coronavirus cases in NE. At the time, this article is being published, there are 16,315 confirmed cases out of the 1,934,000 million totally amazing people that live here. Which is less than 1% coming in at .008%. There are 1,205 confirmed cases in Lancaster county where my family lives. Lancaster county has a population of 545,724 totally amazing people. Which is less than 1% coming in at .002%.

Of course, we must think about all the cases that go unreported. I am sure there are a significant number of people that think they could possibly have the virus and they have decided not to get tested. And honestly it is really hard to speculate on just how many that number is. We did not have enough tests in the beginning. Sometimes people feel a stigma if they get the virus or if they were to get the virus so they may not want to get tested. But for the sake of this conversation, let us say there are five times more people that have the virus in Lancaster county that did not get tested. That would mean Lancaster county would have had 1.2% of it is population with a confirmed case. That number is confirmed cases total, so from beginning till today. Meaning a good number of those people have either passed away or recovered.

Here is a link to Nebraska’s Dept. Of Health and Human Services Guidance Documents. On here you can find the Governor’s Executive Orders and the “Reopening Guidelines.” This is the recommended guidelines for businesses and individuals that get back to entering businesses and attending events. I have opened a few of them and read the safety guidelines. It talks about how Dentists can be safe and still practice. I had my teeth cleaned recently and the hygienist had the full gear including a mask and a face shield. It was pretty awesome. I felt safe and hopefully she did as well. This talks about youth camps, booths and tables in restaurants, what measures Long Term Care facilities should take to keep their patients and staff safe.

With that context in mind, lets talk about the specific risk of getting together with your family. There is always going to be a spectrum of risk. There is a spectrum of risk with all things in life. A few years ago, I went to a family Easter lunch event at my parent’s place and the next day nearly everyone that attended was sick. We found out that one person had been sick a few days prior to the event. Maybe that was the cause, maybe it was something in the potato salad.

Evaluating the risk of getting together with your family starts with who is going to be attending and are there people in a higher risk category? These folks are more likely to have serious complications if there were to get the virus. If so, take that into consideration. Will there be people who work around people? Will there be people who work specifically in the medical field near the virus. Will there be young children that have a hard time following social distancing guidelines? Will there be young adults that have decided not to follow social distancing guidelines that perhaps might be more likely to be exposed to the virus? We have to think about these things when we get together.

What is the size in numbers of the group getting together? Alex and I have an interesting family dynamic because her family is very small and mine is significantly larger. Most of her family gatherings have five or six people including Alex, Savannah, and myself. Whereas mine can easily get to 10+. Obviously the greater the number of people the higher degree of risk.

You need to have “the talk”

If you are like me and you have gone through all of that really exciting risk evaluation and come out the other end deciding you just cannot quarantine any longer, then you must have “the talk” with your friends and family. You have upgraded from quarantining to social distancing, but you still want to be smart about it.

Alex and I have decided that we do feel that if we are smart about how we spend time with friends and family that we can still be responsible and safe with our daughter in mind. Having “the talk” simply means letting your friends or family know that you are open to spending time with them, but you still want to take a few precautions. Let people know that if they have felt sick at all in the last two weeks, then it is best you reschedule for a later date. If someone knows they have been exposed to someone who has been confirmed to have had the virus, you cannot be around them for at least two weeks. And if there is anyone that is a deal breaker because you know they do not follow the standard social distancing guidelines in general, they you can decide not to go around that person.

There are a lot of ways to be safe when you are socializing. Remember to try your best to stay six feet apart. Alex and I have a five month old and as much as we would love for each and every person to give her all their love, it is probably not the best idea for 10 people to hold her in a two hour time span. Whereas if a couple people hold her, we are lowering the risk quite a bit. Try to keep your hangouts to a safe amount of time. Less time together is less risk unfortunately. Remember to wash your hands often and if you get a bad itch, deal with it. Here is a great article on how to socialize safely.

Be Understanding        

Try to keep in mind that every family or every person is in their own unique situation. Everyone is going to have their own opinions and sometimes they will project those on to you.

There are grandparents that have been in quarantine for three months and never left their house for fear of their lives. They may be going crazy and ready to finally see their grandchild. Or they may think you are crazy for starting to see your friends and family.

There are young adults who are still going to house parties and the virus does not worry them too much.

There are families with children who may take extreme measures for their child.

There are those that work in grocery stores in front of the public all day long then go home alone and cannot find a single person willing to visit them because they are constantly exposed.

There are those that wear masks and those that do not.

In the end we can take care of our own family unit and then try to make the best decisions about who to visit and what places are safe. We are not ever going to remove the possibility of getting sick. Not even after this virus is long gone. But we can be smart about it.

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