The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Forming a Pod During a Pandemic

A framework for making decisions from parents working in public health

Kristi McClamroch, PhD, MPH
Published in
10 min readAug 21, 2020


Photo: Juanmonino/Getty Images

Co-authored with Alison L. Drake, PhD, MPH, Theresa Chapple, Ifeoma Udoh, PhD, and Maria Pyra, MPH PhD

The 2020–2021 school year promises to be unlike any other. As Covid-19 is forcing families across the nation to make decisions about how they will take care of their children during the pandemic, some families are choosing to join “pods.” However, these families need guidance on how to join a pod in a way that will reduce the risk of Covid-19 for their children and families.

We are a group of three infectious disease epidemiologists, a pediatric epidemiologist, and a medical anthropologist who are also working parents. We have developed a framework to help your family make decisions about forming a pod, as well as an in-depth discussion guide to help you and your pod mates develop your own pod agreement.

What are pods?

Pods (also referred to as bubbles) are partnerships between groups of families during the Covid-19 pandemic. Pods are being created to:

  • Provide childcare for children who are not attending school in person or are not receiving their usual childcare.
  • Improve socialization for children and families who feel isolated.
  • Support children who need more educational assistance.

Families sometimes hire a trained teacher or tutor to teach or supervise children in a pod. Sometimes one or more family members in the pod supervise or teach the children in the pod.

Families in pods can make different decisions on how to protect their families from Covid-19. For example, some pods limit all socialization to members of the pod and decide to not wear masks or practice physical distancing with other pod members. Other pods interact with multiple groups of people, so the members wear masks within the pod as a way to protect themselves and others. Some pods include children of similar ages, whereas others include children of mixed age. Children of any age, including high school students, can participate in a pod.

How to set up your pod



Kristi McClamroch, PhD, MPH

Kristi McClamroch, PhD, MPH is an infectious disease epidemiologist who is identifying ways to provide credible COVID-19 info to the public.