Partially Stepping Down Isolation

by jefftkjefftk1 min read8th Jul 202010 comments


Personal Blog

On March 13th our household started isolating. We've relaxed our rules about surfaces a bit since then in response to changing estimates of risk—we've stopped sanitizing our groceries—but otherwise we haven't changed things much: I haven't gone into any buildings, or been close to anyone outside of my household. While the country as a whole is still seeing increasing cases, Massachusetts is doing pretty well:

The other indicators are also good: testing is way up, hospitalizations and intubations are way down, and the fraction of tests that are positive is below 2%.

Our house has decided to step down our isolation somewhat, while still being pretty careful:

  • Our default is the same as before: you can only interact with other people outside the household if you're outside, masked, and at least six feet apart.

  • Getting closer than that with people who have had COVID and tested positive for antibodies with a reliable test is generally ok, as long as you've shared details of their illness and test results with the house. We don't know for sure that they can't get it again soon, but it seems unlikely enough to us that we're willing to take that risk.

  • Additionally, each of us can be closer to one person per week outside the household. When we do, we'll put a note with their name in the #visit-log channel in the house Slack. This means that if we later learn that someone's been exposed we can trace contacts and know who to warn. The week rolls over on Monday, and you can see that person multiple times during the week. Being close to someone is unrestricted; you can kiss etc.

  • If you are outdoors and wearing masks, interacting with someone at under 6ft but at least than 1ft counts as half a person. For example, if I wanted to go sailing on a small boat with two people outside my household, that could be my interaction for the week.

  • Going inside counts as being close to all the people who've breathed that air since it last changed over. If you're visiting someone who lives in a shared house, you'd go immediately to their room, ideally holding your breath. Using the bathroom at their house would be ok if the fan ran for 15min before (and after, out of consideration for their housemates).

  • Guests mostly can't come to our house. The exception is if you have an exterior door into your space, or if they've already had COVID and the house has agreed.

  • The house has to agree about any exceptions. For example I have an in-person doctor's appointment this morning for my wrists, and I talked with housemates about timing and what precautions to take.

If the improvement in MA reverses or anyone we've been in contact with seems like they might have COVID, we'll put this on hold.

I know other households that have been using a closed bubble approach, but while I think that approach can work it's not a good fit for us. We have multiple housemates who would like to spend time with people outside the household, and there isn't a perimeter that would work. Additionally, we're much more wary of going indoors than the people we would potentially be bubbling with; most of them are still going into grocery stores.

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Thanks for sharing. How big is your household, and what risk bands do you consider yourselves in? This is more regimented than anyone I know, except for a few immune-compromised friends (and they aren't relaxing much based on current trends).

This is more regimented than anyone I know, except for a few immune-compromised friends (and they aren't relaxing much based on current trends).

FWIW I've been a bit stricter, and I assume a chunk of LessWrongers have been as well.

This is much less strict than most people I know, so this is probably a filter bubble thing?

How big is your household, and what risk bands do you consider yourselves in?

Six adults in our 20s-30s, two young children, no one at especially elevated risk.

Well, that's incredibly strict. Thanks for sharing. I take it all of you are having groceries delivered (I've found it impossible to go to the store without getting <6 feet with multiple people). Are you concerned at all about taking up grocery delivery slots that high-risk people might need? Or are there plenty of grocery delivery slots in your area?

(I'm one of Jeff's housemates.) Going to the grocery would violate our rules even if you could stay 6ft away, because it's inside.

I guess there's one market in our area that's (a) outside, with (b) careful distancing. Going there would be fine I think, but I don't know if any of us have.

At this point, you can place an Instacart order here and have it arrive in a few hours; Instacart seems to have gotten over their scaling issues.

Earlier we were organizing group buys from a restaurant supplier (our first one:

Thanks for this post!

I've been thinking about this – there's a particular person I'd like to start seeing in-person, unrestricted (e.g. inside, without a mask, hugging OK) but my concern is that my network of contacts isn't very strict at all.

After reading your post, I'm leaning towards waiting to see the particular person until I can move to a more strictly isolated network.

I am tho (slowly) updating towards less restrictions being reasonable. I've observed many people that are probably pretty close to pre-pandemic behavior in terms of unrestricted contact, and with many strangers, and I'm surprised that that doesn't seem to be spreading the virus, or if it is, there's no significant observable consequences (AFAICT).

Have you thought about milestones for stepping down isolation further?

Where are you? A lot of the analysis in the post is based on Massachusetts doing pretty well now, which isn't universal.