So You Think You Can Pod: Safe Social Practices During the Third Wave


Note: Much of the factual information in this article comes from public health experts at the University of Michigan

Just days after Friends Select’s full transition to iSelectLearning, many students are rushing to arrange small social groups, known as pods, in lieu of social interaction at school. However, students and their families must understand exactly what is and is not safe as they interact with other families at a time when all Pennsylvanians have been advised to “buckle down.” 

COVID-19 cases in Philadelphia have increased by 163% in the last week alone, and hospitalizations have risen by more than 183% in the last month. In response to these alarming statistics, the city introduced sweeping restrictions on indoor dining, gyms, museums, and public and private indoor gatherings. 

Before families introduce others into their social pods, it is necessary for all parties to acknowledge the science of COVID-19, set ground rules, and pledge to be honest with one another. Every person in a pod should agree to wear masks in public at all times, limit interaction outside of the pod, and closely monitor their own health for possible symptoms. Additionally, all pod members should be forthcoming about their health and notify their peers if they have been exposed to the virus.

As a precautionary measure, all people planning to pod should get tested and receive a flu shot before they engage in maskless face to face interaction. It can be hard to distinguish between some flu symptoms and COVID-19, so it is best to take all possible measures against the flu to prevent fear and uncertainty. 

Even inside of a pod, outdoor hangouts are preferable to indoor get-togethers. There is always a risk that one person in a pod could unknowingly and asymptomatically carry COVID-19, and spending time outdoors is an effective way to mitigate risk. As temperatures fall, outdoor time might become uncomfortable or impractical, but it is still safest to interact outside of enclosed spaces.

Most importantly, take every precaution possible when traveling outside of your pod. Trips to the grocery store and other essential errands bring a slight chance of exposure — masks, hand sanitizer, distancing practices, and general alertness can prevent mistakes and keep all pod members safe.

The more time you spend interacting face-to-face with an individual outside of your household, the more your risk of contracting COVID-19 increases. Make sure to keep a mask, hand sanitizer, and tissues with you at all times to mitigate potential spread.

In the event that you or a family member has been in contact with a COVID-19 positive individual or displays systems consistent with COVID-19, it is essential for your entire family to stay at home until it is safe to emerge and contact those who you have been around in recent days.