As COVID-19 cases spike, some forming ‘support bubbles’ to socialize safely

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Description: Caption:
Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV. The spherical viral particles, colorized blue, contain cross-sections through the viral genome, seen as black dots.
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Content Providers(s): CDC/ Hannah A Bullock; Azaibi Tamin
Creation Date: 2020
Photo Credit: Hannah A Bullock; Azaibi Tamin

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A relatively new term we’re hearing to help stop the spread of coronavirus is “support bubble.”

It’s essentially described as a safer way to socialize and support each other. It’s when family members in different houses or close friends agree to socialize in person, but only with each other to limit the risk of infection.

“So, when you join a bubble, you’re taking on additional risk and the amount of risk you’re taking on is that difference between you and the person with the highest risk in the group,” said Cyrus Shahpar, an epidemiologist with Resolve to Save Lives. “So, it’s important to be vigilant and trust those in the bubble.”

Part of a support bubble agreement is that everyone practices the same things outside the bubble, including not forming other bubbles. You should also agree to how long the bubble will last. Obviously, the less people, the lower the risk.

It’s also a good strategy for families that need help with things like childcare or taking care of an aging relative.

Even professional sports teams and other businesses are somewhat following this theory, setting up things like safe hotels and doing things like testing anyone that comes in.

“Then, you tell them they can’t leave the place and inside have to be careful about interaction, then you could theoretically say that’s a safer place than outside the hotel,” said Shahpar.

Support bubbles could also help limit virus spread even if someone inside the group were to get the virus, because you already know who the close contacts are.

“As we navigate through uncharted waters, we don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know how long it’s going to last. So, if this helps us maintain our sanity throughout this pandemic, I think it’s a good idea,” said Shahpar.

Other countries and some U.S. counties using the support bubble model are seeing success in lowering cases.

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