For families desperate to socialize during the summer of COVID-19, the "double bubble" strategy, where parents partner up with another trusted family, can make life much easier.

By Melissa Klurman
June 24, 2020
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How would you like to safely socially distance this summer with your besties? Instead of worrying about who your kids are playing with and how you can all interact while still keeping healthy (and not losing your mind from staying at home or worrying all the time), we've found a way to spend quality time this summer with friends while still following CDC social distancing rules. It's called a "double bubble", and for socially starved parents, it's a summer treat sweeter than any ice cream truck could offer.

Instead of the chewing gum it sounds like, a "double bubble" allows you to "stick" your home bubble of family members with that of another family. The two bubbles, or pods, together create an interconnected and trustworthy social circle. This alleviates the isolation of quarantine and social distancing while still controlling external risks, explains Seema Sarin, M.D., director of lifestyle medicine for EHE Health. For this summer of social distancing, it's a perfect way to celebrate holidays, hang out at the pool, and even vacation with trusted friends or family.

The Perks of the 'Double Bubble'

With the "double bubble" approach, the benefits are, well, double. "You'll gain the social interactions that have been lacking during the quarantine, which has been found to not only boost mental health but morale as well," says Dr. Sarin. To which we say, sign us up!

New Zealand initiated the concept as a way to create safe socializing circles during quarantine (if you're wondering how it worked out, New Zealand is the first country to report zero new cases of COVID-19). Canada adapted the model for post-quarantine, advising each Canadian household to choose one other household with which to exclusively interact. The idea being that households of friends or relatives can pair up for playdates, backyard barbecues, and more social-distanced activities in order to ease some of the sense of isolation and tension the pandemic has brought out in all of us.

As a result, Canada has seen their curve decline instead of starting to grow again as is happening in the United States.

Picking Your Crew and Rules for Staying Safe

Choose people whom you trust, meaning "another family who will implement distancing strategies the same way you do," advises pediatrician Cara Natterson, M.D. Once you've created your group, set some ground rules:

"If you are going to go on vacation with another family, the safest way to do this is to distance yourself from others for the two weeks before your trip so you don't bring unwanted coronavirus along with you on vacation," adds Dr. Natterson. "This means limiting your social interactions to those with at least 6 feet of space between people, outside if possible, and wearing masks." In addition, some families may opt to do coronavirus testing before travel, which is a great idea so long as you can get your results back before you go, she says.

"If anyone in either family starts to feel sick in advance of the trip, you cancel. If anyone gets sick during the trip, you should have a plan in place for how you will handle that; there's nothing more awkward than negotiating what to do when people are sick, stressed, or both," says Dr. Natterson.

When it comes to planning, talk about what kind of vacation you would all enjoy, and where you can travel without adding additional risks to your bubble. Some top options include a home rental at the beach, a cabin in the mountains, or an Airbnb near a favorite national park or attraction.

"Anytime you are going to widen your germ pool, you'll want to do it intentionally," says Dr. Natterson, so you most likely don't want to add a hotel or other crowded spaces to your equation.

Plan on sticking close to base with your extended bubble crew to limit outside exposure; bring in groceries or meals, and stock up on games, crafts, and activities for the kids. And remember when you're on vacation, says Dr. Sarin, "You should still maintain social distancing and a member from one bubble can't enter another bubble. Whether it's your parents, a sibling's family, or close friends, it's essential to remain in your own bubble at all times."

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