The golden rule of pandemic survival

I asked Atlantic writers who have spent months reporting on the pandemic for their simplest advice on making it to the new year. Some Americans live with roommates, some can’t work without child care, and some have to work in crowded conditions—everyone’s situation is different—but these basic tips can, we hope, be helpful in a variety of situations. My colleagues’ guidance boils down to this winter’s golden rule for interacting with anyone outside your immediate household: Don’t spend time indoors with other people.

The perils of the indoors have been demonstrated scientifically; for example, one study earlier this year found that a sick person was 18.7 times more likely to spread the coronavirus in a “closed environment” (such as a gym, a floating restaurant boat, or a poorly ventilated tent) than in an “open-air environment.” Some indoor spaces are likely riskier than others. Earlier this year, my colleague Derek Thompson advised readers to avoid especially spitty environments like bars, indoor restaurants, and gyms, where people are more likely to be eating, talking, shouting, singing, or breathing heavily than they are at, say, the grocery store. Restaurant dining in particular has been linked to a heightened risk of coronavirus transmission…

The most effective ways to mitigate risk indoors (and again, if you can avoid it, it’s best not to be indoors) might include some approaches that have gotten less attention in the past few months. For example, if you’re inside with other people, limit the time you spend there. A 15-minute visit with a handful of friends is less dangerous than a four-hour dinner party with them.