Dear Christine, Confused in Clawson

Dear Christine,

I’m a single gay man living in Ferndale with 2 gay roommates. During this pandemic, we’ve all been on unemployment income and have been riding it out safely at home. Lots of games, drinking, experimenting with new recipes and zooming with friends. It was fun, for a while.

Last weekend, my roommates decided the quarantine was over and they went out partying all over Royal Oak without masks! I have asthma and also type 2 diabetes. When I knew how unsafe they chose to be, I packed a bag and went to my sister’s house.

I don’t plan to go back until this is over or they decide to take it seriously. I’m so depressed, alone and my roommates and friends are mad at me. They want me to continue paying my portion of the rent. My sister, however, asked me if I could help her because she’s been struggling financially. I can’t do both! I don’t know what to do. I don’t even think I’ll have a job when this is over and if unemployment runs out, I don’t know what I’ll do. I feel overwhelmed.

I don’t even know what my question is.

Confused in Clawson

Dear Confused,

I’m sorry you are going through upheaval in your home as well as everything else!  This is a very scary time for so many people.  Unemployment is running out, Congress in on vacation, not having passed a bill to help those who are out of jobs from COVID.  Also, the virus is rising exponentially in some places (Texas, Florida) and leveling off in others.  In Michigan, we are about to go back to Phase 3 of the 5 Phases Gov. Whitmer is using to reopen and re-close our economy.

Your first job is to take care of yourself.  You have 2 conditions that put you at risk for COVID19.  If your living situation is not safe, it is fine to move.  It is not fine for your roommates to up and decide that it is safe to end mask wearing and go partying all over Royal Oak.  Bars have been proven to be an easy mark for the virus.  No mask when eating and drinking, and alcohol lowering inhibitions, so people get too close, yell and sing, laugh and tell jokes.  We all miss that!  However, the virus is just as dangerous as ever.

I don’t know if you signed a lease or had an informal arrangement with your roommates.  They may be mad at you for moving out, but they made a choice that put you at risk to live there after they partied.  And you are mad at them for putting your health at risk.

So stay with your sister and stay safe.  Your friends did not act caring towards you, but put their desire for fun over everyone’s safety.  I get this staying at home is boring.  I’m tired of it too.  But I also value protecting my life and the lives of those I come into contact with.

One of the main causes of COVID transmission is airborne:  the virus is on droplets of moisture that move out of the mouth and throat when we speak, yell or sing.  And eat, and drink.  The heavier droplets fall to the ground in about 6′ from the speaker.  Thus, the need for social distancing.  However, there are aerosols with virus that are so tiny that they linger in the air for at least an hour, and hours and even days.  We can’t tell who is infected by looking at someone.  They may always feel fine and have no symptoms but still spread the virus through their speaking without a mask.  An infected person who is asymptomatic will show symptoms after about 2 weeks.  If your friends were in contact with COVID in partying, they will know in about 2 weeks.  If anyone had contact with them in those 2 weeks, they will need to quarantine, to make sure that they don’t spread the virus.

What to do about your roommates?  Are they willing to quarantine for 2 weeks and forgo partying till we have a vaccine  and/or an effective treatment?  That could be a long time.  But that’s the commitment that is needed.  If they don’t care to protect your health, I don’t see that you owe them for rent when you aren’t living there.  But if you signed a lease, you may have some legal options.  This is when you need to talk to a lawyer about your rights and responsibilities.

Always remember that our freedom gives us the ability to do what’s right.  And your one job as an adult is to take care of yourself.  Next to that is to not harm anyone else.  It takes caring and thoughtfulness to protect yourself and others as well.  Take care and stay safe.

Christine Cantrell, PhD, LP

Licensed Psychologist

Christine C. Cantrell, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Prism of Possibilities Psychotherapy
1026 W. Eleven Mile Road, Suite C
Royal Oak, Michigan 48067

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