While sheltering at home is an incredibly important step to help protect those that are at higher risk, as well as protect our healthcare workers, it’s also been shown to be incredibly detrimental to our mental health.
In the face of this quandary, the idea of quaranteaming has come about!
The basics? The same group of people decides to socialize exclusively together. While this does increase the risk of that small group contracting the virus, it may help alleviate some of the detrimental damage to mental health of isolation.
For those living with a partner, roommates, or family, you’re probably getting by with a few mental aches and pains, but hanging in there for the most part? On the other hand, there are those living completely alone. These people have found themselves in a unique almost 100 percent isolated situation.
Facing the mental strain of loneliness, people have become quite creative, working with virtual platforms, social media, and social distancing, in order to stay connected and support their mental wellbeing.
Out of this creative drive for connection, quaranteaming has been born!
Quaranteaming is a somewhat controversial tool that individuals are using to attempt to socialize in a responsible manner. Basically, quaranteaming means “choosing to quarantine with someone you don’t live with” or regularly socialize with the same group of people. There are no real hard and fast rules to quaranteaming, but it generally involves social gatherings with the same group of people — sticking to 10 or under to meet the social distancing guidelines — as well as single individuals relocating and moving in with friends for the duration of the lockdown.
It sounds like a good idea, right? But is quaranteaming safe? Are you putting yourself, your friends, and others on the street at more of a risk of contracting the virus?
These are all questions you should be asking yourself before you decide to quarantine.
Let’s take a closer look!
Pros and Cons of Quaranteaming
The best way to figure out if quaranteaming is the right answer to your social distancing woes is to look at all of the pros and cons. Will it put yourself at a higher risk? How about your friends and/or family? What about a stranger at the grocery or drug store? Does quaranteaming increase the risk of passing the virus along to an essential or healthcare worker who is already at an increased risk?
It may be difficult to ask yourself these questions in the face of isolation and with the prospect of human connection, yet it’s incredibly important to make sure you’re looking at all sides of the quaranteaming coin before putting further lives at risk.
Alright, let’s start with the good stuff!
The most obvious upside of quaranteaming is that it positively tends to our mental health.
Human beings are naturally social creatures. This social aspect of humanity is deeply embedded within our design and has been essential for helping “our species to not only survive but also thrive over millions of years.” Yet, it’s a bit more complex than that. Per Susan Pinker, a psychologist, “direct person-to-person contact triggers parts of our nervous system that release a ‘cocktail’ of neurotransmitters tasked with regulating our response to stress and anxiety.”
While there are obviously exceptions — such as those that suffer from social anxiety disorders — for the most part, we crave and require this in-person connection cocktail to feel good.
By allowing yourself this bit of social interaction, you could be reducing the risks that come from loneliness including “grave health risk[s] that research suggests can be as detrimental as smoking, obesity, or being physically inactive.”
First and foremost, no matter how you practice quaranteaming it’s breaking the guidelines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have outlined to keep you safe. Most obviously, they recommend that “people who don’t live together practice safe physical distancing, such as remaining [six] feet … apart from one another.” This simply means that there are more “opportunities to spread [the virus] through physical interactions” or via surfaces.
Aside from breaking CDC guidelines, the biggest con is that you’re dramatically increasing your risk of both contracting and transmitting the disease. While you may fully trust the members of your quaranteam, you still can’t control their decisions. Maybe someone in your group doesn’t wear a face mask or properly wash their hands. Perhaps they simply forgot to bring hand sanitizer to the grocery store or properly handle food or grocery deliveries. Have you considered that people in your group are socializing outside of your group without mentioning it? If they are comfortable enough with quaranteaming, they are probably comfortable with other non-CDC safe socializing.
Lastly, unless your entire group has been properly tested for both COVID-19 and antibodies, you have absolutely no idea if someone is asymptomatic or presymptomatic. This means that one or more of your quaranteam members may be transmitting the virus without knowing it, passing it to the entire group who may not show symptoms for 14 days. This means that you’re putting yourself in that same “high risk” category as healthcare workers. Due to overexposure, healthcare workers are becoming far sicker — even terminal — more often than others.
These are definitely factors to think about before deciding to quaranteam!
How to Quaranteam with Safety in Mind
If you look at the transmissibility of the Coronavirus, no social contact outside of your household — in any way, shape, or form — is safe. The virus lingers on certain surfaces for over 48 hours. It was also discovered that the virus can live in the air — hence the six-foot social distancing rule. Buying groceries, going to the drug store, having food delivered, picking up the mail, or even going for a walk in your neighborhood can ultimately lead to infection.
Therefore, quaranteaming means accepting that you are enacting a higher risk of contracting the virus, as well as transmitting it to unknowing people. This means you need to come to terms and accept the fact that you are making decisions for other people — including healthcare workers and essential workers — based on the idea of quaranteaming.
With that said, if you choose to go down the quaranteaming route, there are ways to do it responsibly and a bit safer.
Before holding your first quaranteam group, it’s a good idea for everyone in the group to self-quarantine for at least 14 days.
Keep in mind that “quarantine” is much more rigorous of isolation than “sheltering-in-place.” Quarantine means that you have absolutely zero contact with anyone — including those in your own household, unless they are quarantining and quaranteaming with you.
No walks around your neighborhood. No exercising outdoors. No food delivered to your house. No grocery store or essential trips. Stock your house with food, invest in an indoor bike or exercise app, and hunker down for 14 days.
If your quaranteam group can stick to a strict quarantine beforehand, then you can all enter into a quaranteam situation knowing you’re not infecting each other.
Remember, this only secures that your first few social events are COVID-19 free. Once the group breaks quarantine, you’re once again at risk for contracting the virus.
Choose Your Group Wisely
This may be the most important part of quaranteaming! Make sure that you are quaranteaming with people you know and can trust with your life.
I’m not being dramatic here.
While most people who contract the virus will recover, many people — including young people — are experiencing horrifying symptoms that send them to the hospital. On top of that, the long-term damage caused by COVID-19 is just beginning to become evident including extensive lung damage. Therefore, the people you choose to quaranteam with literally have your life and health in their hands.
Practice an “Exclusive Group” Policy
Choose a group and stick with a group.
The whole idea of quaranteaming fails if you’re adding people to the mix — unless those people are quarantining for 14 days. Of course, even with quarantined folks joining, the more people that are part of the group, the higher the risk of contracting the virus. There are more variables in the air, more people needing to be incredibly hygiene conscious, and the higher likelihood that someone is asymptomatic.
Be Ultra-Hygiene Conscious
Make sure you’re practicing ultra-hygiene consciousness if you are part of a quaranteam.
This means choosing to have groceries and other sundries delivered instead of venturing to the store. Take care in handling delivered items including your own mail. Always wear a mask when you’re out and make sure to follow strict six-foot social distancing rules. Keep hand sanitizer at your front door, remove your shoes and wash your clothes when you return from a walk or exercise outing, and take care of cleansing your mask regularly.
It’s also a good idea to go over these guidelines with your quaranteam group as well.
If everyone follows the same strict guidelines, then you can decrease your risk of contracting the virus or transmitting the virus within the group or to others.
Exclude High-Risk People
It may be incredibly difficult to say no or exclude someone, yet how would you feel if a high-risk friend or family member became ill and was unable to recover? While it may ultimately be their decision to put themselves in a dangerous situation, it’s also your decision to allow them to join your quaranteam.
Discuss other options with a potential high-risk member. Maybe have them video chat into your quaranteam social gatherings instead?
Keep Your Quaranteam Group Small
While many states with more cases are following shelter-in-place guidelines, some states are now enacting safer-in-place guidelines. This means that while some quaranteam groups are flaunting their state’s rules, others are following them as long as they stick to 10 people and under.
No matter where your city or state is on the lockdown policy, it’s just smart to keep your quaranteam group small. The more people who are involved, the higher the risk of contracting and transmitting the virus.
Yes, It’s a Good Idea to Still Wear Masks
It may seem like overkill and it be seem super weird, but wearing masks for your quaranteaming social gatherings is still a good idea.
Even if you have all quarantined for 14 days.
Even if you have all agreed to strict hygiene rules outside of the group.
Even if you are a small group of only four or five people.
While your mask doesn’t make up for the lack of social distancing, it still provides at least one additional barrier of protection between you — a possible asymptomatic or presymptomatic carrier — and your friends and family. It may seem strange in the beginning, but it’ll become familiar the more you practice it!
Remember, it’s not just about becoming ill and making someone in your group sick. It’s about the grocery store clerk, your dentist, your doctor, a neighbor, a healthcare worker, or even the gas station attendant. Your decisions affect everyone around you!
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