When I was little, I used to love peeing in the pool. Four-year-old me truly enjoyed the release followed by being quickly enveloped in all that warmth. And apparently so do a lot of other kids and too many adults. In a recent study, 100% of public pools had urine in them.
Great. Then let me be the one to tell you that in this time of COVID when you invite people indoors to your house, it’s basically like telling them to come over and pee in your pool. And then diving in, opening up your mouth and swallowing a fair amount for hours afterwards.
It’s a simple analogy really. The outdoors is like the ocean. It’s so vast that any pee dissipates. A restaurant, an office, or your living room is like a pool. Some are bigger, some are smaller, some have better circulation, and some don’t. But at the end of the day, they are all finite closed spaces. A space that retains every breath, every COVID particle expelled from a sick person. Obviously, the smaller the space, the greater the risk. So an airplane bathroom — very bad. Your average Costco Warehouse — much better.
Scientists now believe that when it comes to COVID two things matter: the duration of your viral load exposure and the intensity of your exposure. Put another way, how long were you in the pool? And how much water did you swallow? Someone who is in a “pool” for only a few minutes and keeps their mouth shut (think wearing masks) has less of a chance of swallowing a bunch of pee (aka COVID). Meanwhile, someone who swims for an hour and keeps diving in for more, is much more likely to get sick. But frankly, it doesn’t even take that long to get sick indoors. An intricate Korean research paper indicated that due to airflow, an unmasked teenager indoors at a restaurant got infected after 5 minutes from 20 feet away.
I hope this is evident to anyone reading, but the U.S. is in deep trouble when it comes to this next wave of COVID. Deep, deep trouble. Containing the virus is no longer possible at our current infection rate. You cannot contact-trace 200,000+ people in one day, and do it again tomorrow. Rapid testing is an oxymoron. (It’s neither rapid enough, nor cheap enough, not accurate enough, nor able to meet demand.) Our current federal government is useless, as they have been from the start. Thanks to the gatherings that will occur for the holidays, it is almost inevitable that many parts of the country will start running out of ICU beds by late January. Overwhelmed hospitals are not just bad news for COVID patients. They are bad news for heart attack patients, pregnant women, diabetics, cancer patients and just about anyone in need of surgery.
So what now? How do we wait it out for the vaccine that is surely just around the corner? Here are some suggestions:
- Pull your kids out of in-person classes. If there is an option for your kids to zoom, instead of attend classes in person, now is the time to exercise that option. It’s not just safer for your kids, but also for the kids that have no choice but to attend school because their parents are essential workers. Yes, it’s true that COVID doesn’t impact kids as much as adults…(but don’t forget it has still managed to kill over a 100 of them). And yes, it’s true that so far, schools have not been sources of major outbreaks. But for all that, we now know that kids do get the virus, and kids do transmit the virus. I’d put a fair wager that schools go virtual soon, in any case. Don’t wait for official word — pull your kid out now.
- Limit playdates and social gatherings. It’s getting cold out there. So it’s tempting to move dinner indoors or let the kids run around in your basement instead of your backyard or the local park. Don’t do it. The majority of infections right now are occurring because of small social interactions. ie, having just a few kids over for a birthday party, a few friends over for dinner, your neighbors over for movie night….so on. There is this strange assumption that as long as you are in your own house you do not have to mask up or social distance. Please remember, those people are currently peeing in your pool. You should act accordingly.
- Absolutely no indoor dining at restaurants. None. Indoor dining at restaurants and bars is increasingly linked to surges in COVID. And when you think about it, it makes sense, because at its core, a restaurant is a bunch of people peeing in a pool together and then sitting there (without masks) in that communal pee for an hour or more. So do take-out and use outdoor seating for as long as you can, but please do not eat/drink at a restaurant for a while longer. Remember the South Korean case…sick in 5 minutes from 20 feet away. That’s how long it takes.
It is important to note that we are all tired of being so careful. We all miss our friends and human interaction. But this is not the time to get sick. This is not the time to let your guard down. I see more and more of my friends and family claiming that at some point “you just have to live your life.” That is simply a fallacy of the highest order. We can live our lives post vaccine. But for now, we are in a war and we are responsible for each other’s lives. So please, I beg you, stop letting people pee in your pool.