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Defining Your Pod's Isolation Level

Updated: Aug 20

The basis of this article came from Evelin Dacker MD and her post on COVID CARE.

Learning pods include more than just the students and educator(s) when it comes to safety. Outer-pod participants such as parents/guardians, your social circle, and family members (e.g., siblings) should also be considered members of the pod. A pod of three students could really be a pod of 10+ members!


More people mean more opinions; which is why a critical decision for all your pod members to make is the level of your pod's isolation strictness and related risk tolerance.


Discussing, negotiating, and agreeing to a pod's isolation strictness and risk tolerance level helps to set clear boundaries on what activities (e.g., going to a grocery store) is acceptable to your pod and which are not (e.g., going to a bar). There's no right or wrong level of strictness (provided it's lawful) but it's critical that all members agree to the same level.


For example, your pod might decide that not wearing face coverings indoors is acceptable provided everyone can be six feet apart. Or maybe your pod will decide to always wear face coverings because a member of your pod is an essential worker's child who could be more likely to contract COVID.


All members of the pod should agree on your level as early as possible to find differences in opinion and avoid breaches after the pod is launched.

Deciding On A Level of

Pod Isolation Strictness

A helpful and clear guide to define your pod's level isolation is Evelin Dacker's blog on COVID CARE published on May 7, 2020:


As risk tolerance increases, so does the potential harm to others. You are responsible for protecting others from yourself, otherwise, that is a consent and boundary violation.


The following scale is not inclusive of all situations and is just a guide. This is not prescriptive. The intent here is to create a common vocabulary so we can communicate where we each stand.


0: Very Strict — Have been in very strict isolation alone or with others in a container, which may include the following:

  • Stays exclusively within the container/household.

  • 6 feet apart with others within the household/container.

  • Strict etiquette including hand washing, masks and social distancing are used 100% of the time within the container.

  • Groceries delivered and wiped down.

  • No one outside is allowed in.

  • Infection control protocols outside of the bedroom. Bleach or sanitizing all surfaces touched by more than one person, no shared bathroom spaces.

People in this category are more likely to be at a higher risk of death from contracting the disease or be in a container with someone who is. They may value social responsibility towards others, and/or want to flatten the curve. Areas with a high density of people, such as a city, may be at this level for the foreseeable future, until adequate testing and contact tracing is readily available. Getting through this pandemic without illness to self or others is a strong priority.


1: Strict — Have been in strict isolation alone or with others in a container, which may include the following:

  • Does not optionally leave the house/container except to get groceries and go to work.

  • No social distancing with members of one’s container.

  • Strict etiquette including hand washing, masks and social distancing are used 100% of the time when outside of the container.

  • Groceries delivered and/or wiped down before being allowed into the container.

  • No visitors are brought inside the container.

  • Person to person connection is done virtually or across a wide berth >6 ft + masks.

  • Exercise alone or with others, distance strictly maintained.

For some, while they may want to be at this level, they cannot due to their societal, economic, and/or personal situation. Essential workers may be strict when they are able to make those decisions but their work puts them at higher risk, so their risk tolerance is higher than their desire.


2: Fairly Strict — Have been in fairly strict isolation alone or with others in a container, which may include the following:

  • Leaves the house to go to work, where etiquette to reduce transmission is not strictly available.

  • Fairly strict etiquette including hand washing, masks, and social distancing are used 80–100% of the time when outside of the container.

  • Minimizes grocery and other shopping (once a week or less).

  • Exercise with others where distance may not always be strictly maintained for brief moments.

  • May socialize with others outside of the container, at 6 ft apart or less than 6 ft with masks.

  • No sexual activity with anyone outside of the container. (Sexual activity is any behavior where sexual touch is exchanged.)

  • No one in the container has prolonged (more than 10 minutes) exposure with those outside the container.

People in this category may need more social exchange with others but still want to reduce the risks of infection as much as possible. Other circumstances, such as needing to continue work or take care of someone outside of the primary container, may require this level of risk tolerance.


3: Somewhat Open — Have chosen to be somewhat open with their container alone or with others, which may include the following:

  • Leaves the container to exercise, go to the store, work and other activities several times a week.

  • Etiquette including hand washing, masks and social distancing are used about 80% of the time when outside of the container.

  • Sometimes socializes with others who are not in one’s container

  • Maintains social distance

  • Less than 10 people

  • No more than twice a week.

  • Sometimes socializes with others at less than a 6 foot distance if they have been following fairly strict or somewhat open protocols as well.

  • May engage in sexual activity with others only if they have also have similar risk tolerance, with consent. Sexual activity is limited to no exchange of bodily fluids including open mouth kissing and oral sex.

People in this category may be found in places with lower Covid infections. Those who have lower risk of death and disease to themselves, and do not share space with others at high risk, may be in this category.


4: Moderately Open — Have chosen to be moderately open with their container alone or with others, which may include the following:

  • Leaves the container to exercise, go to the store, work, and other activities multiple times a week.

  • Etiquette including hand washing, masks and social distancing are used around 40–60% of the time when outside of the container.

  • Regularly socializes others who are not in one’s container

  • May not maintain social distance

  • More than 10 people

  • No regard to how often one socializes.

  • May engage in sexual activity with others only if they have also had similar risk tolerance, with consent. Sexual activity can include exchange of bodily fluids including open-mouth kissing and oral sex.

People here may believe they have no risk factors or do not believe they know anyone who is at risk if they get the infection, or maybe wanting to get infected.

They may have already been infected, tested positive for antibodies, and feel sure that they are no longer a vector for infecting others. Please note, that at the time of this writing, we do not know whether having antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 imparts immunity.


5: Very Open

  • Leave the container to exercise, go to the store, work, and other activities multiple times a week with no precautions that have been shown to reduce viral transmission.

  • Etiquette including hand washing, masks, and social distancing are used about 0–40% of the time when outside of the container.

  • Regularly socializes with others who are not in one’s container

  • Does not maintain social distance

  • More than 10 people

  • No regard to how often one socializes.

  • Engages in sexual activity with others only if they have also had similar risk tolerance, with consent. Sexual activity can include the exchange of bodily fluids including open-mouth kissing and oral sex.

Some people desire infection, have tested positive for antibodies, or do not want to be told what to do.


Anyone with this risk tolerance has the social responsibility to take strong precautions from possibly infecting others who may be vulnerable, including essential workers.

What To Do Next?

Once you've discussed the various levels with every pod member and come to a group decision, you should document this agreement between your pod's family members and/or between your pod and its educator(s).


Luckily, Scoot at Home has developed two helpful templates to formalize the agreement(s) and consider many related questions when starting a home learning pod:

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