Are quarantine bubbles safe? This is what the experts say

COVID-19 cases aren’t the only thing on the rise during the pandemic. A recent survey of U.S. adults showed that 13.6% reported symptoms of serious psychological distress. Could forming a quarantine bubble be the key to reducing both? 

Quarantine bubbles are a harm reduction strategy that focuses on limiting risk to virus exposure versus eliminating it completely. By forming a group of 5-10 people who all quarantine together, people are able to continue practicing safety measures, reduce exposure, and protect their mental health. 

Epidemiologist Melissa Hawkins compared this strategy to sex education. 

“Abstinence-only education doesn’t work all that well,” she said. “Safe-sex education, on the other hand, seeks to limit risk, not eliminate it, and is better at reducing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection.”

Here’s how to safely form your own quarantine bubble, according to experts.

Decide who to form your bubble with

It’s important to choose a family or friends to quarantine with who you trust. In order for quarantine bubbles to work, everyone has to be on the same page, follow the rules, and communicate openly and honestly. 

“Individual behavior can put the whole team at risk and the foundation of a quaranteam is trust,” Hawkins said. 

You should also consider quarantining with people who share similar interests with you. You’ll be spending most of your social time with the same group of friends, so having things in common will help things go more smoothly. 

Try to avoid forming a bubble with anyone who may be at high risk of contracting the virus. If one person in your bubble is a high risk, everyone else is too. 

Set ground rules 

Once you’ve found your team, it’s important to have a set of rules. This means discussing who it’s ok to visit with and how often people should wear masks. Will you go out for groceries or have them delivered? Everyone should agree to follow these rules and there should be a protocol in place in the case of a breach. 

“The more communication you have upfront about the various scenarios and how they might play out, the easier it’ll be to navigate those situations as they arise,” infectious disease epidemiologist Julia Marcus said. 

Hawkins agrees that communication is key here. 

“Everyone must decide how much risk is acceptable and establish rules that reflect this decision,” she said. “For example, some people might feel OK about having a close family member visit but others may not.”

Actually follow the rules

This is the most important step. A quarantine bubble can be a very effective way of reducing COVID exposure if everyone follows the rules accordingly. 

If there is a breach or someone is showing symptoms, it is crucial to self isolate for 14 days before resuming the bubble. 

Hawkins said the most important thing is to communicate. 

“Communication should be ongoing and dynamic. The realities of the pandemic are changing at a rapid pace and what may be OK one day might be too risky for some the next,” she said.

It’s important to remember that any additional people in your bubble will increase the chance of contracting coronavirus. Make sure everyone is aware of the risks before forming a bubble and be as safe as possible.