Quarantine pods, or bubbles, are the combination of two or a few isolated households, making one larger isolated unit. Essentially, it’s a slight expansion of one’s quarantined family. The members of each household agree to exclusively interact with the members of the other households in the pod. The idea is that if one pod member is somehow exposed to the coronavirus, the risk of contamination is limited to, ideally, fewer than 10 people. And if every pod person is staying isolated outside the pod, the chances of one of them bringing the virus into the pod are extremely slim—certainly no greater than they might be in a medium-size to large family. A study from sociologists at the University of Oxford and the University of Zurich found that a pod is more effective at limiting viral spread than any other means of constraining one’s social networks, including keeping to one’s own neighborhood. Forming a pod is the lowest-risk step beyond total social isolation, one that many countries and communities will likely adopt as an official recommendation as they make plans for the near-ish future. New Zealand already has, with instructions to “keep it exclusive … and keep it small.”…

Since then, we’ve been doing all the things everyone else is doing in quarantine, but together: grilling, working on puzzles, worrying about the future, baking cakes, riding our bikes while wearing masks, drinking heavily. When I had a day off work and my wife didn’t, I didn’t have to spend it alone. Four more people in my quarantine family means four more people who can pick up a missing ingredient at the grocery store, saving me an unnecessary trip. It means my wife doesn’t have to be the sole bearer of my occasional spirals into coronavirus anxiety. It means four more reasons to stop wallowing and try out an elaborate new recipe or think up a creative substitute for canceled summer events. I feel like I’m just listing all the reasons it’s nice to have friends—I’m sure I don’t have to explain them all to you. But it’s hard to overstate the psychic relief I’ve gotten from relying on a bigger day-to-day support system and having a life—however constrained it may still be—outside the walls of my apartment. Instead of thinking back on this time in my life as a loss, I’m starting to imagine remembering it as a time when we showed up for one another and our friendships deepened. The stability of a commitment to mutual care and combining resources is a lovely thing to have in ordinary times. In crisis times, when the future is terrifyingly uncertain, it feels like a lifeline.