Get Out There

Have You Made a COVID-19 Bubble?

Living in the pandemic world is tiring, and we are all sick of staying away from other people. We need contact. That’s how the idea of COVID-19 bubbles started. The “bubble” means only hanging out with a couple of people who all agree to follow the same safety precautions. But, there are steps you must take to remain safe.

For many of us, especially people who are older or live alone, the total isolation we have been living under is too much. That’s why, as well as having more freedom to move around our neighborhoods, the solution to safely reopening your life may be a “COVID-19 Bubble.” A good first step is to look at the health in your area. Knowing how things are in your county allows you to plan what feels safe to you with your medical concerns and common sense.

In theory, a bubble should be safe. If you are in a community that has taken precautions, shut public spaces and you and your family or friends have followed the guidelines, you should be okay to spend time together. But it only works, “so long as the families observe safety guidelines and agree to be exclusive.” That can be a big problem for many of us. Maybe we have two people we are very close with and could very happily only see. But, what happens if one of them has a child or grandchild and interacts with them? Or they have coffee with their neighbor? Suddenly, despite not being present at a get-together, the bubble has become larger than you anticipated.

You’ll want to develop a social contract with the other family,” said Dr. Irene S. Levine, psychologist. “Agree on the rules. Discuss your attitude toward risks and the way you go about your lives. Figure out what to do if someone breaks the rules.”

That might sound like a daunting task. Putting rules in place for someone else’s life is uncomfortable. But, people with medical concerns shouldn’t feel bad for protecting themselves and anyone they come into contact with during the pandemic. Even though we are lonely, Dr. Levine reminded us, “This isn’t forever.”

Scientists are researching every aspect of COVID-19 that they can. That’s not limited to vaccines and treatment. A new study said that, “Clustering contacts outside the household into exclusive social bubbles is an effective strategy of increasing contacts while limiting some of the associated increase in epidemic risk. Social bubbles can be an effective way of extending contacts beyond the household limiting the increase in epidemic risk, if managed appropriately.” They performed the research using social-network and infectious disease models.

In northern California, health guidelines say that people should form groups with up to 12 people to exclusively socialize with in outdoor spaces. They also advise that the same group sticks together for three weeks at a time. According to researchers, “These micro-communities are difficult for a virus to penetrate and — importantly — if the infection is contracted by one contact, it is difficult for the virus to spread much further.”

If you do decide to form a bubble, it might be a good idea to not post it on social media. We want to see friends and family. But, seeing photos of friends together when you cannot join yourself can cause hurt feelings. If someone is ill, they may not be able to join a bubble. If you pick one set of friends over another, it can cause pain to people who may feel left out. You may be able to see grandchildren, but perhaps the other set of grandparents can’t. Enjoy seeing your family or friends, just consider how seeing photos might impact other people in your life. After all, it would be terrible to leave this pandemic with fewer friends because of people falling out over bubbles!

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