Who's in your 'pod'? Michigan's latest COVID restrictions raise the question

Nov 16, 2020 at 11:00 am
click to enlarge Who's in your 'pod'? Michigan's latest COVID restrictions raise the question

There's no question that 2020 has introduced some new vocabulary terms and abbreviations into the collective lexicon — for example, terms like coronavirus, social distancing, personal protective equipment (PPE), and WAP.

Following a new set of restrictions issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday, a new word has emerged amid the growing COVID-19 crisis. (And that's a phrase we can't wait to never read or write ever again.)

The word?


Yes, “pod” — the word most frequently associated with those wasteful Keurig coffee pots, alien hibernation, or internet radio talk shows where celebrities basically just interview each other and promote bidets and underwear subscription services — is now part of the language of 2020, and it's being used to describe socializing in the age of, well, not really being able to socialize.

The MDHHS describes a safe social pod as a “core group of friends or family who agree to limit their in-person social activities to only see each other, and practice social distancing with anyone outside the group.”

Think of it like that scene in Mean Girls where Gretchen and Karen snap at Regina during lunch for wearing sweatpants: “You can't sit with us!” But instead of sweatpants, Regina isn't wearing a proper face mask, and according to her Instagram Story, was clearly at a house party where people were not social-distancing the weekend before.

In other words, selecting a pod is much like a high school clique, but one that saves lives. K? K.

So how do you, like, select your pod? Well, MDHHS has some suggestions. The hardest step is the first step, which is agreeing “upfront” who is in the pod, meaning all selected pod members should commit to being in just that one pod. A pod should be less than 10 people and consist of no more than one additional household. The pod should then identify who is the most vulnerable (has other medical issues, over 65 years old, etc.) and discuss ways to ensure their safety. Pods should also hang outside, whenever possible.

Here's where it gets tricky. Per the MDHHS guidelines, pod members should vow to be open and honest when disclosing to one another about activities. Whether it's irresponsible partying, totally unnecessary doctor's appointments, or a trip to the nearest Best Buy to secure a copy of Mean Girls on Blu-ray, your pod should be the first to know. No need to do a weird blood oath or anything because that, uh, sort of defeats the purpose, and is also a bit unhinged, but a verbal pact will do.

This is doubly true for pod members who may be experiencing coronavirus symptoms, at which point, the pod should stay the fuck away from that person and each other. In other words, the pod is canceled.

Not unlike high school, pods should not mix. Again, people should not pod with more than 10 people or two households, nor should you pod with people who are acting a fool by partaking in risky behavior or who ignore public health guidelines. The Plastics in Mean Girls did not commingle with the “cool Asians” or “sexually active band geeks,” and nor shall you.

Not included in the state's guidelines, however, is what the shit do we do about co-workers? While the new restrictions have put an emphasis on working remotely for those who do not need to go to a place to do a thing (Metro Times is a good example of this because, well, computers), it's unclear as to where co-workers fit into our new pod life.

But if we use the logic described in the “safe social pods” dos and don'ts, transparency is key. By including co-workers with whom you have close contact with (i.e., share a copier, coffee pot, or exchange sultry and obviously inappropriate glances) in conversations regarding outside activities, it may serve a similar public safety service as wearing a mask and socially distancing with your pod members.

And, hey, if your job is your social life (Metro Times, again, is a good example of this), then straight up include your co-workers in your pod — but be sure to tell your non-co-worker podsters about your work situation and what that entails for you on a daily basis in terms of your human interactions.

There you have it: Social pods 101. Now you can go about your day feeling like The Podfather while cranking Pod Stewart's greatest hits. Class dismissed.

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