You may have heard the terms COVID pods or bubbles or even "quaranteams". Many public health experts have recommended “quarantine pods” as an effective way to get our social and emotional needs met without unnecessarily endangering ourselves or others. Pods are small, self-contained networks of people who you select. Most pods are family units, but pods can also be college roommates, classrooms or even sports teams.
“Being in a pod is like being in a little rowboat together and trying to stay dry,” says Preeti Malani, M.D., an infectious disease physician at Michigan Medicine, the University of Michigan’s academic medical center, and chief health officer for the U-M community. “If someone from the boat jumps into the water and then tries to climb back on board, the boat could tip – or they could get their fellow passengers wet. Taking on too many passengers could make the boat sink.”
Here is the latest Covid-related information to know...
First, make sure all pod members agree on the basic scientific facts about coronavirus:
- Coronavirus is more dangerous than the flu or many other viruses. It has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans and made millions more sick, including long-term symptoms.
- It spreads mainly through the air, especially indoors, but can also linger on surfaces.
- Wearing a mask over the mouth and nose can reduce the chance of catching or transmitting it. Protecting your eyes can reduce the chance even more.
- People who catch the coronavirus can go for days without knowing they have it – even while they’re spreading it to others.
- The most contagious days are two to three days before symptoms start, and three to five days after – but can last up to 10 days after the first symptoms appear.
- The highest risk of catching it comes from being within 6 feet of a contagious person for 15 minutes or more, especially indoors without masks. This can be a cumulative 15 minutes; it doesn’t necessarily have to be 15 minutes straight.
- Symptoms can develop up to two weeks after being exposed to a contagious person. They include fever, fatigue, dry cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea, loss of sense of smell or taste, headache, other aches and sore throat.
- Children and teens can catch and spread it, not just adults.
Follow these pod COVID-19 safety tips:
- Keep your pod small and agree up front exactly who is in the pod.
Pledge to be truthful with one another and promise to follow public health guidance. Even if you think of the pod as being the children, teens or adults who want to be together for learning or socializing, it actually includes everyone who lives with a pod member, too. That’s because the virus can spread easily in households or group living quarters. Agreeing to be in a pod, and to let your children or yourself enter other “pod homes” without masks, means you’re taking on the COVID risk of everyone in the pod.
You should all agree that you’ll tell everyone in the pod if you or someone you live with feels sick. You should all be ready to admit to everyone that you slipped and went to a non-pod event or party where people weren’t wearing masks. And people who aren’t working from home should commit to notifying the pod if they find out that someone at work has the virus or might have it.
Any brush with the virus means you should uphold the trust that your pod-mates place in you, and stay away from them for the time periods outlined below. Your pod is only as good as its weakest link. Don’t be the weakest link.
- Get a flu shot.
The last thing you need this fall and winter is a false alarm in your pod when someone comes down with a fever, aches, cough or a general “bleh” feeling, and you don’t know if it’s flu or COVID-19. Though the flu shot doesn’t prevent all cases of the flu, it can keep you from getting as sick as you would have otherwise.
- Find ways to be together outside, or to reduce indoor risk.
Even if everyone in the pod is working hard to stay safe, the virus can find its way in. And if you’re indoors in a small stuffy space, close to someone in your pod who has it but doesn’t know it yet, you’re at high risk of catching it. If the weather allows, spend as little “pod time” indoors as possible. When you have to be indoors, keep the ventilation system running and don’t get too close together.
- When you venture out of your pod, play it safe.
Every time you go into the “non-pod world,” you and your fellow pod members increase the risk that you could bring the virus back to your pod-mates. So focus on minimizing trips to indoor locations and prioritizing the ones you need to make most. Even if your state, county, city or town doesn’t have a mask requirement, everyone in the pod should agree they will always wear a mask over their mouth and nose when they’re in public and near other people who aren’t in the pod.
This is especially true for indoor spaces like offices, stores, churches and temples, schools, salons and theaters, or when doing something that makes people breathe harder like playing sports, singing or working out at a gym. If someone asks you why you have a mask on, tell them it’s to protect others; keep calm and walk away.
Avoid large gatherings and events even if you wear a mask. When you want to see non-pod people that you know, stay outdoors at a distance, alone or in small groups.
What to do if your pod has a brush with coronavirus:
- If a pod member has symptoms of COVID-19, the entire pod needs to stop getting together immediately.
- The person with COVID-19 symptoms should get tested immediately, preferably with a nasal swab virus DNA test, and should share their test results with the rest of the pod as soon as they find out. They should consult with their health care provider about how to monitor and treat their symptoms. They and the people they live with should understand what symptoms require medical care.
- While they wait for their test results for COVID-19, which can take several days, the person with symptoms should isolate, meaning they stay alone in a closed room in their home, have food delivered to their closed door, and not share a bathroom with others in their home if at all possible. If they live alone, they should keep in touch with other pod members for emergency help.
- The rest of the people they live with should quarantine, which means staying home except for going to medical appointments, or into their yard, patio or balcony for fresh air. Even if the person who has the symptoms hasn’t interacted with the other pod participants in person, the people they live with have. So, the rest of the pod is at risk and everyone in the pod should stay apart until the test results are known.