Hosting concerns during COVID

I would love to hear other hosts thoughts on precautions taken during Covid. How are you operationalizing both your direct interaction with your sitters and any safety measures like cleaning you are implementing different during Covid.

My profession is emergency medicine and public health and I have a keen interest in how people are protecting themselves and their community

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Precautions ? Our 2 sitters (a french-irish couple living in France) came without masks last august, there was an hydroalcoholic lotion in the entrance, and our home was cleaned as usual. Not more.
The sitters -like us- had to wear masks in shops but not in town. Rules have changed : now it’s an obligation, Vaucluse area (in Provence) has become a red area with a 77/100 000 rate contamination.

I guess our sitters brought some masks or bought them locally. I had not left any for them. We kept our distances when we met, but we had lunch together (4 around a table) the day after their arrival and on the day of their departure we shared breakfast…
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They did not go out much, stayed mostly at home, near the pool in the garden, as they had to look after a 3 months old puppy who could not be walked outside as he just had got his vaccines and had not enough immunity to be in contact with other dogs

I’m afraid none of us wash our hands as frequently as we did in march when the Covid burst out!
And after their departure, our home has not been cleaned differently. We were not expecting any new sitter. I will think about it in the future.
Being 70 & 75, we are “potentially vulnerable”. We take care, feel concerned but are not obsessed.

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We aren’t owners, so we hope you don’t mind us chiming in. We’ve continued to house sit full time, even with COVID and have experienced different levels of precautions.

On one end of the spectrum, during an initial conversation for a house sit, were were asked to arrive up to 2 days after the owners left and then leave 2 days prior to them arriving back home. This was to be sure that the home had sufficient time to air out any Covid contamination. We’ve also seen a listing that required a negative Covid test, however this immediately excluded us from the sit, because it was US based and getting a Covid test without symptoms in the US isn’t the easiest task to complete.

On the opposite end, we’ve been greeted by an owner without a mask, the reasoning being that we were going to be living in their home and eating a meal with them. So while we kept our distance, in their eyes masks didn’t make sense.

In the middle of the spectrum, where most of our sits end up falling, the owners wear masks for the entirety of us being around and we always keep at least a 6-ft distance apart. Gone are the days of warm welcomes with a hug.

As sitters, we always wear our masks when arriving to a sit and are very cautious to wash our hands and keep our distance. In caring for a home, we do our own pre cautions of wiping surfaces down at the start of a sit and again at the end. Also, when we return from an outing we immediately wash our hands and then go back and sanitize anything we touched on our way to the sink. Plus, we don’t eat out, limit our trips to the grocery store, and don’t spend time in public areas unless necessary.

Our precautions benefit the homeowners, but we have to be honest, we do this for ourselves and would do the same if it was our own home. So, we very much appreciate it when owners address Covid, either in the listing or in conversation (we bring it up in our applications) because it’s good to know that it’s a concern of theirs as well.

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Thanks for chiming in! Your caution is much appreciated. And unfortunately refreshing. It is fascinating seeing how individuals project their own comfort level and caution during these interesting times.

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Thanks for chiming in. If anxious sitters would ask me to make a test it would be impossible here : labs are totally under pressure. It’s free (taken in charge by our social security for ALL) but you wait also for the results.

I’d never read THS guide about Covid. I just printed it

Next time I will be more cautious.

We had a sitter this week, and asked her not to wait for us at home at the end of the sit, given that we were travelling from abroad and didn’t want to expose her to any risk.

Before the sit, we did meet the sitter and showed her around, and all of us were wearing face masks.

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We’ve taken ours and our home owner’s safety very seriously since returning to house sitting in July. We are probably the safest couple we know in many respects, as we have to stay well to keep the continuity of sits running for us and our owners!

Handovers and initial and final cleaning have been the biggest considerations for us and we did write a comprehenive guide about this that THS were using initially of all things to think about.

https://housesittingmagazine.com/house-sitting-during-coronavirus-pandemic/

In reality we have found the process over 6 post covid sits to be mostly about common sense and having found sits where the owners take this as seriously as we do ourselves.

Handovers and handbacks with cats have been totally video based and without meeting in person. Dog sits are a little harder as we think it’s important to spend at least time for a walk together with owners but we’ve managed by staying in the annex of the home, limiting contact and following social distancing and mask recommendations. I do always carry bacterial wipes now and wipe any shared space - light switches, handles etc.

As with everything to do with house sitting, we find that it’s good communication that creates mutual respect for each other’s views on all aspects of the sit… Covid is an addition to that now. It’s good to hear about this from the owner’s perspective - great topic!

One of our homeowners created a simple phone video of her feeding and exercise routine and sent it to us ahead of the sit … we thought that was an excellent idea.

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Shall we ask for sitters if Covid threat is still there ? I’m not sure… I think important to meet sitters physically , to spend some time with them. the video for sure can be helpful but so dehumanized…

The pets feel fine when they see sitters are welcomed at home, share a few hours or a day with us. I wonder what would be their reaction with strangers they have never seen with us !

I want our sitters to feel secure, but I want my pets to feel fine too.

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It’s a good point and one we deliberated over. Should we still be house sitting? Especially as we always much prefer in person handovers… we personally really enjoy the connections we make with home owners and their pets… some have become long time friends. But, we also want house sitting to continue and so if that means some temporary compromises we are happy to consider all options.

Our own experiences with cats for instance is that they quickly become friends with their sitters and often, even before Covid owners have had a preference not to do a physical handover but to leave keys in a key safe. We’ve found this particularly with younger owners.

The lady that did a video did this as an addition to several video chats and emails, so I don’t think any of us felt it to be dehumanized, but I know what you mean. It could sound that way, but I think also so many creative ideas are coming from trying to keep house sitting alive, yet safe at the same time.

It is so much harder with dogs or a mix of pets, and we’ve not ever, even in times of Covid, had a handover without an in person meetup … it has just meant more in the way of safety measures and not socializing quite as much… particularly at the end of a sit. We’ve still been able to have the time with the pets prior to the owners leaving.

I think everyone will find their own comfort point and the solution that works best for their pets. We’ve just been very pleased to see that so far for us, the pets haven’t suffered from the extra precautions and everyone has stayed safe. It’s been encouraging.

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My dogs all accepted sitters nicely in the past, but they had been walked by our sitters the first day in our company. They saw we were sitting all together at a table, they were sleeping in MY room.

I can’t imagine leaving my keys in a key box and the sitters arriving us being away.

Our young puppy would scream : he was totally panicked when we came back last august, the sitters being out for dinner when we arrived from the train station. After a fortnight, he had forgotten us, having left him 2 weeks only after he had been adopted ! He barked, hid himself under a car.

I would be anxious a mature dog could be scared too if not agressive (you never know how an animal reacts when you’re not with him)

We do cuddle often our pets, we don’t wash them with hydroalcoolic lotion (some crazy people have used bleach :scream: and it burnt badly pets, vets published warnings about that, giving the advice to only use soap…)
so how can you be sure it’s safe to cuddle animals ? You keep distances too ? You are anxious to use the brush that might have not been washed properly ? You washed it first ?

I sat in august in a home where the owner was a nurse, she did not leave us masks, or lotion, there were 2 cats. I did not think about any potential risk, virus could be in the air, in their hair, even if they could not be contaminated themselves. I may be wrong…

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