Understanding the risks of creating a COVID-19 pod

The most effective way to avoid exposure to COVID-19 is to avoid interactions with those who live outside of your household — especially if they occur indoors, in close proximity or without masks, according to Steve Lawrence, MD, associate professor of medicine. In some cases, he said, personal needs necessitate such interactions.

In a communication to students, Lawrence said that creating a COVID-19 pod (or bubble) that includes family, friends or colleagues has become a popular strategy for those who live alone or have close relationships with those outside their household. Within a pod, members accept the risk of interacting with each other — sometimes with less vigilance to masking and distancing.

To create a pod that is as safe as possible, all members must agree to have close interactions only with those in their pod. If one member of the pod decides to interact with others outside of the pod — by going to bars, dining indoors or having unmasked social gatherings — then the boundaries of the pod extend to all additional contacts, and the risk level is increased for everyone. While no pod is as safe as choosing to never spend time unmasked with people outside the household, the smaller the pod, the lower the risk — and in all instances they should not be larger than 10 people.

In a recent CNN article, health experts describe what rules need to be followed, how to handle tricky conversations with friends and family, and what happens if someone socializes outside the bubble.