How to Create a Safe Social Bubble – Now and for the Holidays

December 8, 2020

If you haven’t already formed a social “bubble” – or “quaranteam” – now’s the time. As the weather gets colder and holidays draw near, more people will want to gather indoors to enjoy the warmth and much-needed company.

With the next "wave” of COVID-19 well underway, however, in-person festivities are still advised against by experts – that is with the exception of small groups that follow strict safety measures, otherwise known as the “bubble.”

While the name may sound silly, research has shown that social bubbles can work to help slow the spread, but they must be taken seriously, explains Jefferson Health – New Jersey Family Nurse Practitioner Molly Hammond.

“The ideal social bubble is made up of less than 10 people, from a couple different households,” says Hammond. “Not only should members limit their contact with others outside of the bubble and adhere to safety precautions, but they should also be open and honest and have a mutual goal of keeping one another safe.”

How to Form Your Bubble:

When it comes to whom you should let in your bubble, there are several questions you should ask, says Hammond. They include:

  • What type of work do you do/how many people do you typically come into contact with during the workday?
  • Do you use public transportation?
  • How often do you go to the store/go out to eat/shopping?
  • When in public, do you keep yourself (and others) safe by wearing a mask properly, washing your hands, and social distancing?
  • Do you have medical issues, such as obesity, cardiac or lung disease, that place you at higher risk for a more severe infection?
  • Are you willing to only stay within 1 bubble?

Careful consideration of members – and what they do – is incredibly important; for example, it may not be appropriate to include an immunocompromised individual and an essential worker, who is more exposed, within the same bubble.

“You should create a purposeful, planned-out agreement. Don’t be afraid to type it up and have people sign it. This way, if there are any issues with following guidelines, you have something to refer back to,” explains Hammond.

What to Do About Tension:

The biggest challenge of the social bubble is finding individuals that are all on the same page and using the same precautions, adds Hammond. As difficult as the conversation may be, the rules defined by the group must be followed for the bubble to continue.

Remind others of the ultimate rationale of the group – to keep each other safe and still enjoy each other’s company. If a member of the group is not willing or able to follow the guidelines of the group, it is recommended to respectively ask them to leave the bubble and offer to continue to socialize with them over the phone/computer instead.

Creating a Temporary Holiday Bubble:

If you and your current bubble wish to disband before the holidays to set-up a new, temporary bubble with family or friends you haven’t seen in a while, continues Hammond, there are ways to safely do so, such as:

  • All members should try to quarantine as best as possible for at least two weeks before getting together.
  • Purchase food in advance, so you’re not in a crowded grocery store at the last minute.
  • Plan to have a COVID-19 test done the week beforehand, and also pay attention to any possible signs or symptoms of infection that may pop up.
  • Drive, if possible. If you must fly, limit your trips to public bathrooms; bring your own food; follow all necessary safety measures; and remain vigilant.
  • When you come home – depending on your state’s mandates – you may be required to quarantine for another two weeks.

If Someone in Your Bubble Gets Sick:

“Always have a game plan,” suggested Hammond. “Communicate it as soon as possible, so that everyone who’s been in recent contact with the infected individual can also get tested and quarantine.”

Try not to let your bubble give you a false sense of security – remember that it may be infiltrated with the virus at any time. This is why it’s important to still practice safety measures when hanging out together.

This may seem like a lot of work, but it can be well worth it, continues Hammond. In-person interactions can lead to increased feel-good hormones being released (such as dopamine and serotonin) allowing you to feel better during this pandemic.

Having a social bubble comes with a lot of responsibility, but if you can keep each other safe and comfortable while seeing missed friends and loved ones, these efforts will surely be beneficial.