Sage Advice: Neighbors Party Creates COVID Risk

By Amy Dickinson | April 29th, 2020

A next-door gathering creates worry for coronavirus-concerned neighbors


Man worries about neighbors having a party because of, you know, COVID-19 Image

Dear Amy: How should I have handled my neighbor having an Easter party, despite a shelter-in-place order in our state?

From my backyard, my husband and I could clearly tell that they had multiple people over.

I emailed the neighbor and asked him to please consider refraining from having guests over, as it’s in violation of the order and increases the risk for COVID in our neighborhood. I asked him at the very minimum to have his guests sit away from our shared property line.

He replied that they are doing their best and that I am violating their privacy by “actively listening in on a private interaction on their property.”

Amy, my son is in an at-risk group. Furthermore, violations of the order are a class C misdemeanor (They know this).

I wrote again to explain my son’s situation and tried to de-escalate the situation, but I got no response.

How should I have handled this? Should I have kept my mouth shut, despite the danger to my child?

Do I need to be uncomfortable every time I’m in my own backyard now? I’m so stressed and upset by this. I have to live adjacent to these people, who obviously only care about themselves.

– Quarantine Nagging Nellie

Dear Nellie: You don’t describe your property and how it relates to your neighbor’s property, but – based on my own (non-official) knowledge of how this virus spreads – the risk to you through sharing an outdoor space from a normal neighborly distance would be minimal, if not nonexistent – unless you are walking, running, or biking too closely (or behind) someone outside who is infected and also exercising.

Mind you, each time people leave their homes and mingle with other households, they risk contracting the virus and then carrying it elsewhere – to the people who bag their groceries, interact with at the gas pump, or who carry their mail. And then these people could become infected and pass the virus back to you and others. Cutting down this casual contact is why shelter-in-place rules work to slow the spread of the virus. Your neighbors’ behavior potentially places many other families at risk.

You have expressed yourself to your neighbors. Leave it at that. If your state continues a shelter-in-place rule and they continue to host large gatherings, you could call your town’s tip line to report them.

You should continue to avoid any contact with your neighbors, which, given their attitude, should be fairly easy to do.


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In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2020 by Amy Dickinson

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