Is it time to see other people? Doctors share advice on expanding your quarantine circle

As the coronavirus outbreak continues, many are wondering if and when they’ll be able to open up their quarantine circles to others.

These circles — essentially groups of people who have self-isolated together to avoid becoming infected or infecting others — have become the new normal for most of the United States, and as restrictions begin to loosen in some states, people are looking to ease back into socializing with those outside their own home.

Jen Hartstein, a psychologist and Yahoo Life Mental Health Contributor, shared her thoughts on the types of things to consider when making your decision.

“There are a lot of downsides to opening up our circles too soon,” warns Hartstein. “The mental health risk is that it might amplify our anxiety, and then, the second you have a sniffle, you automatically think you have coronavirus, or you start to really worry that you’re infecting other people so you have to really be grounded and centered and feel like this is a solid decision.”

Despite the risks, there may also be benefits to opening up your circle.

“The good news is it’s helpful for our kind of connectivity and that can help with depression, and we need that connectivity and the physical part of it,” she says. “You’ve gotta weigh out both sides and figure out what’s going to work best for you.”

But it’s not just your mental health that could be impacted — your physical health is also something to consider.

Dr. Kavita Patel, Yahoo Life Medical Contributor, revealed that as local officials start to relax measures there are ways to open up your circle while still taking precautions against spreading or becoming infected by COVID-19.

“Isolation doesn’t need to be staying in the way you have for the next several weeks or months,” says Patel, who offers up some tips for taking the proper precautions before widening your circle.

“Absolutely think about hand hygiene at all times,” advises Patel. “Whether it’s pocket sanitizer, hand wipes, anything you need, so that when you’re either meeting with others or inviting them into your own environment that you give them—in addition to washing their hands—a way to often try to keep their hands clean. That’ll prevent a bulk of the transmission of infection.”

Patel also recommends the use of non-medical masks. “If you’re going to get together with others and you think that either you’re nervous or they’re nervous, a great way to just try that first dinner where you might want to get together and actually share a meal is to say, ‘while we’re eating, we’ll eat. But when we’re just sitting around and talking and relaxing, we’re going to wear the non-medical masks, just to get comfortable with them,’” she says.

Another tip Patel shares: Be honest.

“Be open and honest with yourself about your own symptoms and feelings,” she says. “All of us wake up feeling pretty tired some days and we don’t think anything of it, or we think we just got a bad night of sleep. I would strongly encourage all of us to actually reconsider that, and anything that makes us feel ‘off’ could be an early symptom or sign [to] just stay away from others.”

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.