Coronavirus Chronicles — You’re in a What? A Pod Guide

The subject is the pod (or, as some call it, the bubble) which is a purposely-constructed group with a common need, namely, to stay uninfected and sane during the pandemic. The benefits may be purely social, solely educational, or simply utilitarian (the need for trustworthy childcare), or a mixture. The authors of this comprehensive guide are working parents — three infectious disease epidemiologists, a pediatric epidemiologist, and a medical anthropologist — who practice what they preach.

Some pods are stricter than others, but the important thing is that everyone agrees beforehand on the rules. First, what are the criteria for belonging? If everyone is totally serious, joining will require testing for COVID-19 and two weeks of quarantine before the first meeting. This would apply to not only the children being socialized or educated, and the adults who will be physically present, but all the household members connected with these people, even if they never attend pod gatherings.

Learning is crucial

If the purpose is to keep the kids on track with their classwork for either remote learning or classic homeschooling, it probably makes more sense to include only children of a similar age. On the other hand, our pioneer forebears managed to make do with one-room schoolhouses that accommodated children from small to big. The instruction might be done by parents only, or they might bring in a professional teacher, who of course would have to be trusted to adhere to all the safety precautions.

Other decisions need to be made. The group will meet outside until the temperature goes down how far? When meeting inside, is everybody okay with having the windows open? Should the participants bring their own food and drinks? Will everyone agree to a thorough hand-washing on arrival, and at certain agreed time intervals if the session is likely to run long? If little children are to be on the scene for many hours, like during a parent’s entire workday, what will they bring to nap on?

Needless to say, it might take some very mature parents who are experts in communication, to make this work. Many parents have always been leery of leaving their children at other people’s homes even under the best of circumstances, and the environment we are dealing with now is far from optimal. The members might want to think about drawing up a written agreement that covers every possible contingency, including if someone absolutely must travel, or neglects to pick up their child on time.

How far is too far?

If the group is very tightly knit and totally reliable, the decision might be made to forego masking and relax the social distancing rules. But if someone (like a teacher) interacts with another group, even if they too are very conscientious in philosophy and practice, it is probably best to keep the masks on and observe the six-foot standard.

But creating the group is not the end of the decision-making. An agreement is needed on what happens if a pod member is exposed to someone who is potentially a carrier, or who is actually sick. No matter how beloved or useful, a member may need to be subjected to a two-week quarantine and a test before they are allowed back. Because people tend to take rejection personally, strict policing is a strain on relationships.

But it has to be done. The virus doesn’t care how emotionally close any humans might be. It doesn’t care that you are blood relatives who have always shared everything, or how many years you have been friends, or how delicate anyone’s feelings are. It doesn’t give you a pass just because your pod partner is an old high school friend who would never betray you. The virus is eager to do you wrong, and your kids, and your elderly parents, too. The virus is gunning for us all.

To get the full benefit from this examination of the pod concept, we really recommend absorbing every detail and nuance of the source article, because these authors have obviously made an effort to cover all the bases. Here is the bottom line:

Since Covid-19 will be part of our lives for the foreseeable future, it is essential that you pick strategies that your family can adhere to for months at a time.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Forming a Pod During a Pandemic,”, 08/21/20
Image by Sustainable Economies/CC BY-SA 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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