We are never going to make it through Covid Winter without friendship, intimacy, and the humor that can only be shared between loved ones.
I’m going to tell you how to party this winter, how to be close with your friends, and navigate the great scary indoors. Ready?
You need a few practical items, and a mental adjustment. Let’s start with the mental part.
Many of us are worried about being too cautious (thereby going insane) — or too lax (thereby getting sick and a toe tag). — Right?
You are going to have to be flexible about two things:
1) our fast-changing knowledge about COVID transmission; and,
2) your community transmission rate. (This is EVERYTHING).
No one needs feel shame that they’re still washing their groceries or avoiding the beach — when this started, we had no idea what was going on. Now we know, for example, that fomites are low risk, and so are open breezy places, so we adapt. Adapt and overcome.
Pick a reliable public health source and read what they’re saying, once a week.
Why am I a decent source? Well, it’s my disposition to give a damn. I was among a cadre of sex educators during the 80s AIDS pandemic, who learned how to be junior epidemiologists. I learned about infection and harm reduction then, and they’re very helpful habits now.
VIRUS SCIENCE YOU CAN USE
Avoiding “clusters” and super-spreader events, is by *far* the biggest thing you can do to avoid infection.
What are dangerous clusters?
They are places with:
a) sizable groups of people, without social distance, in
b) unventilated indoor places,
c) who are stuck with each other for a significant period of time.
All these variables work together. An infected person with COVID can’t infect you easily from one breath across the room. Think of it more like marination.
You don’t want to be the marinated meatball.
Everyone was shocked at the photos from the White House Rose Garden. Many attendees got sick after that event. Statistically, their greatest risk was not the garden — it’s when they all schmoozed indoors at their indoor reception. — Plus those seats were too close in the garden, and people had to sit in them too long. Finally, this group of Republican campaigners already had a high transmission rate among their ranks. See how it all adds together? The combination is what sickens you.
Everyone is going to be a those tight spot sometimes. In that case, your mask is the protection you’ve got. Masks are critical in situations where you don’t have ideal control and high risk potential.
Such groupings are your typical grocery store situation. — In many so-called “essential” workplaces. We wear a mask, because it works.
In the coming months, you are going to hear as much about HEPA purifiers and ventilation as you are about face coverings.
Take note what each school/store/office you visit, is doing about ventilation and air purification. If they have the doors and window wide open, excellent! If they are advertising their HEPA filters, awesome. Opening up our lives depends on it.
Every indoor space in this country will need state of the art HEPA air purifiers. They clean the air, multiple times per hour.
“LOW RISK” — IS THE WHOLE ENCHILADA
Don’t get hung up on tiny percentages of risk. If you can eliminate 90% of the risk, you have beaten the odds.
We don’t start every day assuming we’re going to be hit by a car or bitten by a rabid dog. Eliminating LARGE risks is the key. Concentrate on big shit, and stop micro-freaking about the rest!
COMMUNITY TRANSMISSION RATE
Every day, as you check your weather, check your community covid transmission rate. That means: how many people per 100,000 are infected. Focus on this number.
My go-to COVID transmission chart is the link below. Bookmark it.
If you have under 20 cases per 100,000 people, good. Under 10, GREAT.
This is the ratio number you want to consult every time you want to head indoors with your dearest friends
Indoor gatherings will succeed or fail based on this vigilance.
Think of it, like checking the weather before you plan your day. Do you need a raincoat or a sun hat? You can handle this.
For example, in Santa Cruz, my home, the rate today is 4.3.
That means there are 4.3 COVID cases per one 100,000 people. I’m relieved at that low number. We all need to work at it! It can change, and that’s why you need to check every day.
HOW TO HAVE INDOOR PARTY
0. Check your community transmission ratio. — Is it under 20 cases per 100,000 people? — Even better, under 10? You are in good shape. Let your guests know, too.
Don’t have indoor parties if you’re seeing ratios of more than 25 per 100k. Switch to outdoor gatherings and work on getting those numbers down as a community.
That’s the first thing you do, every day.
1. Keep your indoor gatherings small.
2. Ventilate your rooms. Doors and windows cracked open. Cross-breezes!
3. HEPA Air Purifiers — Not a Joke. Our salvation. Keep them running round the clock.
4. Close the toilet seat cover before you flush. (Yes, fecal airborne profusion is a thing. You can’t see it, but it’s a dispersion caused by the flush).
5. Wash hands before and after meals, or food prep. This, again, has to do with fecal transmission (which no one thinks they have, but you accidentally do). You can’t see it. Just wash up and stop fretting.
6. Giving people space. Remember, you’re trying not to marinate. Your air flow and purifiers will do most of the work, but giving people room to move around, looser seating, no long periods of “sitting still” in one place, are all to the good.
-What about small groups who’ve been with each other the whole time? — Lovers, families, social pods, parents and children. You’ve been hugging and kissing this whole time, a real gift.
For already-intimate groups, focus on Steps 0–5. Check that rate! Then set up your structure.
GETTING REAL ABOUT SYMPTOMS
This is a biggie: Your guests, be it grandma or your favorite lover, need to do temperature checks before they come inside.
Do you have an easy no-touch thermometer? Get one! How about an pulse oximeter? Get one!
If you have these tools, and use them regularly, and nonchalantly, it’s a caring habit for everyone.
No one gets to join an inside gathering who is sick with ANYTHING.
Look, we’ve all been ill with colds and flus in past years… we forced ourselves to go to work or school or parties. No more.
We have to keep everyone’s immune system in top shape. Don’t feel guilty if you wake up on Thanksgiving with a cold. Cancel the dinner, and plan another day.
IF A GUEST HAS A FEVER
What if someone does come over to your indoor party, and they had a high temperature? (99+, say)
Have a plan to be compassionate and protective. Have your mask handy, on your person. offer them one. They might be scared. Ask them to sit down outside, fetch them a glass of water and aspirin. Ask them if they have a safe way to get home.
They might not have COVID, but a fever is a sign they’re fighting something. Tell them you can’t wait to see them when they’re feeling better. Make sure they have a partner to help them get home safely.
OUTDOOR GATHERINGS, DRIVEWAY PARTIES!
Socializing outside has been our salvation, hasn’t it? I don’t care if it’s a city street or a grassy backyard. Outdoors is where it’s at. It’s so fun, and it eliminates a huge chunk of the risk.
I think some of you cold-weather fans are going to have better ideas than me. Ice fishing shacks, anyone? Here’s what I’m planning:
- Easy-Up for the rain
- Outdoor folding tables for the food
- Propane heater, wood fire, barbecue. Any outdoor heat source!
- Putting out funky seats, furniture, and lights that can get wet or cold.
- Blankets and hats, sweaters. Everyone get those ugly woolies out.
- Warm drinks. I’ll do a recipe post later, but you know the basics. Coffee, tea, cocoa, and brandy!
- Let people know they can use your bathroom one at a time. Instead of repeating that like a hall monitor, put up signs on your doors. Keep your bathroom ventilated, with a fan on, and a taped reminder about keeping the seat lid shut. Put some paper towels by the sink.
- Also… this is the funniest tip of all. If you have the time and resources to build an outhouse — it solves a great number of hassles!
- Keep moving, this isn’t a statuary. Just because you put chairs a few feet apart, doesn’t meant everyone has to remain glued in them. “Move around the cabin!” Switch it up.
- What about getting high? Everyone’s uptight to talk about this, but let’s get real. Intoxication lowers your inhibitions, which can be nice in many ways, but has a carefree quality. Don’t panic about it. Harm reduction is in the up-front planning. *Think like a bar manager.* They have to do this every night! The key is: make it easy and habitual, for people to self-preserve. Set your structure up ahead of time. Have the the hosts on the same page. Follow the 5 guidelines up top. Check the guests’ temps. Even if one person fucks up, the fact is, you’ve created a largely safe bubble, and you can arrange their departure. No marination.
- This is a big one: Have the hosts on the same page, sharing the load. Covid vigilance could become one person’s ‘job’ who gets exhausted fast. Make it easy on everyone, make the structure do the work, so no single person has to be schoolyard monitor. And if you’re a guest, don’t ask what you can do… just do it!
WHAT ABOUT A STRONG IMMUNE SYSTEM?
Good question. We all want that. I only want to say one thing for now.
You could be in excellent shape, superb immune function, great diet, hardy lungs, etc etc… but if you in are an elevator for 10 minutes, without a mask, marinating with a bunch of people in a high-infection zip code…. you are FUCKED.
Same with church. Same with nursing home visit.
Focus on epidemiology rather than individual readiness. That is the only way.
I’ve found most people don’t know yet about HEPA air purifiers, and they don’t know about the community transmission rate. They don’t know how vastly different indoor vs. outdoor environments change our risk. That’s where my emphasis is, in this essay. I will post anew, as we learn.
Ask anything! Or give us some brilliant tip you’ve developed. No shaming, thank you very much. I look forward to being in your warm, safe embrace!