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Some Long Island families still in quaranteams, while others find the bubble has burst

During the coronavirus pandemic some Long Island families have created a "quaranteam," when more than one family isolates themselves with another. The McCormick and Anderson families have been practicing this for the past four months.  Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

For the past four months, Amy McCormick and Andrea Anderson have formed a bubble between their two Hauppauge families.

Each family has been strictly isolating — working entirely from home and having their groceries delivered. For their sanity, they say, they joined forces so that they could socialize without having to worry about exposing each other to the coronavirus. 

“We started doing it because we wanted to avoid getting sick,” says Anderson, 61, a retired teacher who has two daughters living with her, Rebecca, 25, and Jade, 18. “We watch movies, we will take walks together. When it was my daughter’s birthday, they came over. That made it a lot easier that we had a ‘buddy’ family.”

FORMING A QUARANTEAM

Long Islanders span the spectrum when it comes to isolating themselves from others socially. Some families, like the McCormicks and Andersons, have chosen to completely avoid having people in their homes beyond each other, calling themselves a "quaranteam." Other families are socializing but limiting their exposure by being choosy about who they will meet up with and where, depending on whether the other family is on the same page as they are.

“We were not lucky enough to find a quaranteam bubble,” says Noelle Eichenlaub, 26, of St. James, a voice teacher. So she only gets together with a small group of friends outdoors. That’s as far as she’ll go yet, because she says she feels like if someone in that group has only gone to the grocery store, she is then exposed to the people they’ve been exposed to. “Nobody’s been in our house since March.”

Now that society has opened up more, forming a quaranteam is a greater challenge, some people say. “I don’t think it’s possible to achieve,” says Richard Albano, 59, a retired real estate investor from Smithtown. He says people have a hard time keeping their distance even when they plan to. “At the beginning of the night, they’re shaking hands with you by touching elbows, and by the end of the night they’re hugging you goodbye,” he says.

LEVEL OF TRUST NEEDED

Sarah Berg, 38, a former preschool teacher and now stay-at-home mom to Nola, 10, Stella, 7, and Brody, 4, says she tries to keep her children playing with the children of just one other family that lives two doors down from her. “The kids ride bikes together,” Berg says. At the beginning of the pandemic, neither family was doing much outside of their homes, Berg says, creating their own bubble. But the other family has since expanded their circle as they made the decision to send their children to summer day camp. “I am more hesitant,” Berg says; she chose not to send her children to camp this summer.

Amanda Vargas, 41, of Bay Shore, says she’s taken some peer pressure from extended family members who think she’s been overly cautious in limiting her daughter, Mila, 2, who has asthma, to play dates with just one other friend whose family is also being careful.

“There’s one family she’s had two play dates with,” Vargas says. She is worried enough about exposing Mila to any risk because Vargas is a medical device salesperson must be sporadically in the field for her job. “If she’s going to get COVID, it’s going to be because I took a risk to feed my family. If I’m going to take a risk, it’s not going to be because she had a play date that she’s not even going to remember.”

Kylie McCormick, 18, who has an autoimmune disease, says her mom and her grandmother, Lynda Hennig, 73, forming a pod with the Andersons has made the pandemic easier. “I’m a freshman college student. It’s not really any teen’s dream,” she says of curtailing her social life. Going over to the Andersons' gave her a break, she jokes, “from hanging out with the now-starting-to-be-annoying people in your house. It’s kind of a relief to go to another place. It’s a lot easier when you know you’re not alone.”

The McCormick and Anderson families felt comfortable with each other because they have a level of trust. “We’ve gone on vacation together in the past; we know we can trust what they’re doing,” says Amy McCormick, 48, a special-education teacher. “We’re not taking any chances.” The families’ bubble burst, however, at the end of July, when Rebecca, who is in entering her fourth year of medical school, had to return to in-person instruction at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.

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