This is part two of my series of articles on coven in the time of Covid-19.
It was written in June 2020.
How can we reduce the risks?
We know some activities are more risky than others, but we also can take some steps to reduce the risks.
Be further apart, physically. The current recommendation in most places is at least 6′, and ideally outside. (If outside isn’t possible, really good ventilation helps.) We should also avoid close contact like hugs, handshakes, or other informal kinds of contact.
Have separate food and cooking space from people outside our household, and avoid shared bathroom access. It’s easy in all these situations to touch something then accidentally touch our faces (a transmission route). This means that meeting for a longer period of time is a higher risk (someone might need the bathroom, or need to eat or drink.)
Wear a mask. It reduces the chance you might infect someone else, and also (to a lesser degree) helps protect you.
Masks need to be worn properly (cover your nose and mouth, without gaps), and remain on while you’re near people. Raising and lowering the increases the chance you can touch something infected and infect yourself.
They need to be properly cleaned or replaced after each use, depending on the type.
Reduce or avoid activities that can transmit the virus across larger spaces. Basically, this is anything that involves projecting your voice (speaking to an audience, singing, chanting) or that involves breathing more heavily (exercise or other physical exertion). For religious groups, this means no communal singing or chanting, at least not when you’re physically near each other.
Use individual tools and utensils. We shouldn’t share food, plates, serving utensils, etc. In ritual, that means we shouldn’t share ritual tools, everyone needs their own.
Think about the spaces we’re using. Private homes have lots of fabric and soft surfaces (harder to clean and disinfect). Pets can carry contagious particles on fur (they likely won’t get sick, but they could spread it to people in the household.) A lot of private homes don’t have enough space for more than one or two people to be sufficiently distanced.
Consider a risk budget. One approach some people have suggested is treating our exposure to risk like a budget. If it’s super important to us to spend time with family we don’t live with, or with our coven, what can we do to reduce risk in other areas of our life? Or if we need to spend time with other people for our work, how can we limit our exposure in other ways?
Taking stock of our specifics
We all have different situations (and in my coven, this is also true.) Taking a clear look at our individual situations helps us make better decisions about the group.
What is our living situation like?
Who do we live with? If we live with other people, who are they interacting with? (Is the household a tight bubble, and intending to stay that way? Or is it going to need to be more flexible?) One of the challenges of this particular situation is that we’re not only making decisions about our own behavior, but we have to evaluate how people we don’t know are handling things (like someone’s family members, or roommates. etc.)
- I live by myself.
- Two people have kids at home (For one kid, their father lives separately with multiple roommates.)
- Two live with partners or spouses
- One is pregnant and due later this fall.
What is our work like?
Are we working? If we’re working outside our home, how much interaction does that involve? How frequent is it? Are there other things that might impact our coven interactions?
- I am working from home (and will be through at least August), with slightly different hours than usual.
- A couple of people work in jobs that involve seeing other people at close distance (grocery store, vet clinic) even though they’re taking appropriate precautions.
- A couple of people aren’t working right now.
There are also other factors that are harder to pin down. I’m averaging a web call or two a day for work and I’m finding that Zoom Fatigue is a thing I have to pay attention to. I’ve learned I’m not great with calls over about 90 minutes, for example, and too many of them in one week and I get crankier than I’d like.
What about other essentials?
We all have some necessary things we need to sort out, like groceries, essential errands, medical appointments, and figuring out what kids in the various households need.
- I have some necessary medical appointments (allergy shots, which require my body to be near someone else’s…)
- Various other people in the respective households have ongoing needs to see professionals or specialists.
- At some point, there will be questions about when and how those kids go back to school or the summer equivalent.
- Several people have family in the nearby area they may want or need to spend time with.
- We’re taking a wide range of approaches to things like groceries and other necessities.
Driving in a private car (by ourselves or with someone else in our immediate household) is very low risk. However, if we have to take public transit or a ride share, that is higher risk.
- I and one other person have cars, and can drive ourselves.
- Everyone else currently relies on public transportation or ride shares.
- One person (besides the other driver) could walk to get to me, the other two are too far away.
Exercise and activities
Exercise outside is fairly low risk, but it might be higher risk if someone is doing it in high-traffic locations (like the bike path near my apartment…)
- I mostly walk in the quieter neighborhood streets. I wear a mask if I’m going near the main streets, or if I’m going down the bike path (and I pick quieter times of day.)
- Other people may be looking at whether they can return to a gym or specific activities.
Normally we would meet in my apartment. (I rent a walk-out basement apartment in a private house.) I do not want to worry my landlord and landlady about possible transmission, and the only portion of the backyard that is ‘mine’ is the concrete patio (maybe enough space for two people to chat, but not more than that.)
I only have one bathroom, so the entire bathroom would need to be thoroughly cleaned after anyone else used it, before I did anything else. Realistically, that’s not something I should plan on.
(I have chronic health issues that mean my stamina is sometimes unreliable, especially after exertion, which includes ritual or teaching. Sometimes I’m fine, sometimes I really need to sit down for two hours before I do anything. By that point, I might want to use the bathroom without needing to clean it thoroughly first…)
Posted June 23, 2020, reformatted November 2020