What is the next step for people to be safe from the coronavirus — and have a life?
That’s the question as New York and other states loosen restrictions on businesses and activities.
Some misguided people have apparently decided that NY’s easing of business restrictions means it’s okay to simply ignore all the stay-at-home/shelter-in-place/face-mask orders that state officials put forward to keep the contagious COVID-19 from spreading.
It’s absolutely not okay.
Last weekend Watkins Glen’s Clute Park had a large number of revelers acting as if the threat of coronavirus had miraculously vanished. Many people along the waterfront and at other places around the village were sans face masks. Few practiced anything close to recommended social distancing, either.
In coming weeks health officials will likely discover if anyone — or how many anyones — in those crowds may have been contagious and spread the virus locally.
In Northern California this week, health officials in two rural counties are scrambling to track down several hundred attendees from two different Mother’s Day church services at which COVID-19-infected people attended. They tested positive the day after the event.
Those gatherings — however well-intended — violated the state’s mandate against such group events because of the contagion risks.
The impulse to cast off shackles of containment is completely understandable. The Clute Park and Watkins Glen partiers are hardly alone in chafing at the restrictions. They just carried it to the extreme.
But Gideon Lichfield, editor of the “MIT Technology Review,” has suggested a partial way for cautious people to break the solitude and self-imposed quarantines, yet remain relatively safe.
He calls it forming a “quaranteam,” or alternately a “social bubble.”
The concept is simple.
People buddy up, forming an extended group with which to socialize. It could be friends or family. And there should be clear ground rules to which quaranteam members agree to adhere. Each participant must be trusted to follow those rules.
But within the group, the various recommended coronavirus health restrictions — such as social distancing — can be lifted. The idea is that members of the quaranteam can trust each other to be equally cautious.
“Effectively ... an extended family,” Lichfield wrote in a column earlier this month. “Free to visit each other’s homes, share meals, and — yes! — hug.”
Hug! Imagine that.
That said, forming a quaranteam has risks.
“If you were living alone and you start bubbling with three other people, all of whom take the same precautions as you, your chances of catching the coronavirus will be potentially four times as high as they were — and so too will your chances of infecting someone you pass in the street or in the store,” he wrote.
“Four times a very small risk is still very small, but all the same with a great bubble comes great responsibility. The group is only as safe as its least-safe member.”
This quaranteam idea might be one way for people to better cope with the solitude and being forced to follow the precautions New York and other states want people to follow.
Expect many of those precautions to stay with us for some time.
Even though the number of new COVID-19 cases is slowly diminishing, the virus continues to lurk. Schuyler County last week reported it had two new confirmed asymptomatic cases. That triggered a county effort to find anyone who had been in contact with the infected individuals so they could be tested.
When that’s done, those Schuyler contact tracers should clear their calendars for another round of detective work.
Given the incubation period of two to three weeks for COVID-19, reports of any coronavirus infections from last weekend’s gatherings in Watkins Glen could start coming in almost any day.