Every week I take questions from readers on Facebook live. I can't keep up in real time, and then questions keep coming in for days after, which makes me feel terrible. So, when I can, I go back and address those that seem like they'd be helpful to others, and some answers I post here. They aren't newsletters, and only exist on this page. Here's one.
A reader asks:
I'll start with the second question: not really.
Of course, most of the country went back to pretending there was no pandemic long ago. The pandemic is over (in their minds). It's a belief based on preference. Not "what seems true?" but "what would I like to be true?"
This approach to risk assessment is the cognitive equivalent of a Twinkie. Familiar. Safe. Easy. Soft. Individually wrapped. Filled with stuff that's shelf-stable for 400 years even though it's sort of frosting(?), but don't ask too many questions.
For those who partook of the cognitive Twinkie, the last thing they had to worry about was wearing a mask on an airplane. That ended last month, and they celebrated, waved their Twinkies in admonishment, and the final hurdle was behind them.
So now, by comparison, decisions in some places to cancel events or continue precautions feel especially draconian. Not necessarily because they are; but because the frame of reference has shifted far toward the Twinkie.
These decisions aren't easy. There's a lot to debate about how to navigate positive tests and gatherings among the minority of people who still care. From a distance, canceling graduation over one positive test sounds extreme, but I don't know the whole story. If a community wants to aim for a zero-COVID strategy, they might look at how that's worked in China.
In the longer term, the key generally—as with so many public-health challenges—is harm reduction. When you have an issue that is going to persist, your best approach is to accept that and plan accordingly rather than living in denial and, say, criminalizing drug use or unplanned pregnancy in attempt to make them disappear.
That's also essentially the answer to your first question. When it's possible to prevent a case without too much trouble, definitely, do it. If it means canceling a major life event for thousands of people, that's a bigger burden than a couple sleeping separately and eating outdoors for a few days.
You most likely have already been infected by your partner or child at this point, but there are plenty of cases similar to yours where some family members were sick and others somehow didn't get it. Ability to keep distance always depends on space and resources, which make it impossible to issue blanket directives. But I definitely wouldn't forego simple precautions just because you assume it's not worth doing anything.
Good luck. Not easy to navigate, I know. It's good that the moral clarity forced on us by the emergency circumstances of early 2020 is behind us. But now, navigating the less-clear-but-overall-still-very-consequential choices is in some ways a bigger challenge.