Dear Ascent Community,

I’m writing to you from that hollow feeling of sleeping alone in the guest bedroom of your own home. No, this letter is not about marital issues – it is about Covid-19 and the daily difficult moral decisions we are all having to make including what to do when your partner starts exhibiting symptoms that might be Covid-19.

This pandemic has been a neverending roller coaster of difficult decisions!! (I really can’t emphasise that enough.) We have had to constantly monitor and balance our personal wellness and that of our communities. We have had to make decisions about seeing friends and family, working out, traveling, and how and when to go to work. We have had to decide if our runny nose is allergies or something more serious. And when we have mild symptoms we have to decide who to tell, to get tested, to quarantine.

I’m tired, we are all tired! And the pandemic is still going!

We must have a community system and support! Decision fatigue is real and individuals aren’t equipped to be making these types of decisions anyway. Humans are wired to react to the present. We seek immediate safety and comfort even if that puts us at future risk. We make decisions based on personal experiences and patterns. Most of the time this is good. However, it doesn’t work when the risk is invisible, rare or inconsistent. The decision to quarantine when you feel fine will never be made at the individual level. The decision to avoid gatherings when no one you know is sick is not natural. 

So how do we as a community manage future risks like Covid? We have to have guidelines and experts whose job it is to make sure these guidelines will work and are available for others to follow. We do this in so many other aspects of our lives! We wear a seatbelt, not because it’s comfortable, but because experts have determined it saves lives (O, and it has been mandated and is available in every car). We follow experts guidelines when investing for retirement so we aren’t tempted to pull our money when the market is down. We get uncomfortable annual exams to monitor for cancer. To name a few.

Why is it so hard for our country to come together and follow consistent guidelines around COVID so that making individual decisions are easier? I have a few thoughts on this:

  1. Covid is new, information was changing quickly and experts had a hard time determining best practices leading to poor distribution and consistency of guidelines
  2. The tools needed for best practices are not widely available
  3. False and inconsistent information – mostly spread by our president and click bait media causes people to believe they are doing what’s right when they may not be. Plus when false information comes from our leaders it leads to a lack of trust among the population and lack of adherence to guidelines. 
  4. Too many personal sacrifices and not enough support! Sick leave policies for one should be encouraging people to work from home or take sick days if they suspect being positive – not punishing people.

What do we do now?

Based on my research the last few days there are guidelines out there. We need to spread them and get mass participation. There are a lot of strategies for managing this virus and they all require mass compliance. 

  1. Minimize risk: Masked, Outside and Distanced (MOD)

Winter is coming and it’s getting harder to lean into the outside element of minimizing risk. Plus, like I said above, we are getting tired of social distancing and starting to get complacent. Now is not the time, community spread is rising and we must continue to minimize risk. When community spread goes down risk goes down!

Best practice is to reduce your weekly risk by limiting encounters that do not meet the above criteria (I know, it’s hard!). Choose 1 or 2 things a week that are moderate to high risk; for many people this may be your job. Can you count all your close contacts for 2 weeks at any given time? If this list feels long it probably is! I slso, think this calculator is a great tool! 

We need to take care of ourselves by socializing, exercising, getting hair cuts etc but be mindful of your weekly exposure. For example, If you choose to travel or have Thanksgiving with your fam then don’t do other things like eating out or going to the gym in the weeks before and after.

We are doing our best, at Ascent, to meet the MOD requirements by keeping distance, opening doors and wearing masks, but we still consider our indoor classes moderate to high risk (depending on community spread) and they should be part of your risk equation.

  1. Prevent Spread: If you are taking risks you must be prepared to prevent spread and quarantine if needed. Screen for symptoms and exposure daily! Stay home if you might be positive. Yesterday we posted the CDC’s self screen tool for work (I think this self-check should have been mailed to every house and business in the US!) 
  1. Have Symptoms? Assume you are Positive! Quarantine and call a doctor. This is easier said than done and that’s what has brought me to writing this letter in the first place. The early and mild symptoms for covid are common and can very potentially be something else, assume you are positive until proven otherwise. According to the CDC guidelines, if you have symptoms you and any close contacts (> 6ft for <15min) in the last 2 days should quarantine and monitor symptoms for 10 days. Hopefully if you were following step 1 this list is short. Your close contacts do not need to notify their close contacts until they have a reason to believe they are also positive (test or symptoms), but they should follow quarantine procedures. Unfortunately, false negatives on tests are also quite common due to timing sensitivity, and we can’t lean too hard into them. Positives are a positive.

Vote! At minimum, these guidelines should be modeled and encouraged by our leadership. Our leadership should be doing everything they can to make sure people are aware of how to minimize risk and prevent spread. At best, we should feel supported for making these tough decisions! There is too much individual risk and insecurity (job, financial, and medical) for most individuals to make the best decision for the community. We need leadership! It is not easy to quarantine for 10 days – especially when you feel well. It is not easy to ask an employer to work from home or take sick leave because you might have covid. It is not easy to schedule a doctor’s appointment if you are underinsured. Leadership should be helping to make these policies easier. Vote like your life depends on it!