Friday, November 20, 2020

Social Distancing Life Lately: Change of Thanksgiving Plans

via Unpslash 

Well, we always knew this was a possibility. Two days after my previous "Social Distancing Life Lately" post went live - on the ninth day of our stricter-than-usual 14 day pre-Thanksgiving quarantine - K started experiencing some very mild cold symptoms. Naturally, our plans for K's parents to come pick us up and to spend Thanksgiving with them are now officially cancelled. 

K's feeling just fine, the symptoms are almost nothing compared to when we both came down with nasty colds a few weeks ago, and I haven't been sick at all this time around. But in this situation, where symptoms began within 14 days after our last outings - one masked grocery trip together and my visit to the office for some work that needed to be done on-site - and it's not currently possible for us to get a COVID test without additional indoor contact with people outside of our household, the right thing to do is clear. We cannot spend time indoors with K's parents and risk getting them sick. (See, for example, this CDC-derived graphic that's been going around, and these charts from the New York Times, which I learned about here.)

We're all disappointed. K's parents haven't seen him since February, except for a few curbside exchanges where they drove to our apartment building in NYC and stayed in their car with masks on while we also masked up and dropped off some things they'd asked for in their trunk - typically some Asian groceries delivered by Southeast Asia Food Group - and picked up items they'd gotten for us, including their extra Instant Pot. We wouldn't be able to live with ourselves if we got them sick. Cancelling our plans now is the correct and necessary thing to do. 

To tell the truth, K and I had been feeling some uncertainty about whether our original plan to spend the holiday together was going to work. Because we would need to travel through our apartment building's lobby - a shared space that generally has at least our or two other people around, even if everyone is masked - at least one time when they picked us up, it's impossible to have a perfectly airtight 14 day quarantine before we see each other. The risk there is probably minimal, it'd take barely a minute to pass through, but it can't be eliminated. 

Plus, COVID-19 conditions in all parts of the US can change so rapidly, both the NYC-area COVID data and the national conversation surrounding how to approach Thanksgiving kept shifting between when we first formed the plan in late October; when we started quarantine after I got back from the office on November 10; and as the days of our quarantine ticked by. The situation throughout the US has only gotten worse - far, far worse in some parts of the country - throughout those weeks. 

It's strange, I felt sometimes like K and I had sort of been outliers since July or August, in terms of still taking so many precautions and staying home so much while NYC was doing great with its COVID numbers. But, by having potential plans with his parents until today, we suddenly sounded reckless and foolhardy in the past week or two. So many of my friends - generally all very cautious, but who didn't always stay in quite as much as we did during the summer, particularly if they had their own car or could rent a car - cancelled potential holiday plans with their families at least a few days before we did. 

K, his parents, and I are still holding on to plans to start another 14 day - or longer - quarantine before Christmas Eve, in hopes of maybe trying again to be able to spend a holiday together. (We may even be able to arrange for it to be 17 or 18 days.) Once again, we are all in agreement that we would pull back and cancel if any of the four of us gets any symptoms during the 14 days, or if work makes it impossible for me to adhere to the quarantine due to being needed in the office again. But with how easy it seems to be to pick up a cold just from masked grocery trips outside the home - and with our lack of easy access drive-through COVID testing in NYC and the unknown availability of outdoor testing -  the likelihood of moving forward with December holiday plans may not be great. 

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