As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into summer, we are faced with canceled trips, camps, and large social gatherings. More than ever, people are craving the return of a few “normal” elements of their daily lives. Now some people are forming “Bubble Families” to protect against the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19 and bring some normalcy back into their day.
What Are Bubble Families?
The idea is to relax social distancing rules to a certain degree. According to CBC Kids News, “The idea is that your family gets to pick one other family from another household that you’re going to interact with. So this could mean you have meals together, play dates, or maybe they’ll look after you every once in a while. This could be your cousins, your grandparents or some friends.”
Both families have to agree that they will only stay in contact with one another for the time being in order to keep the collective group safe from the coronavirus. And the idea has taken off.
Two months into the pandemic, Alberta announced the concept of “cohort families.” In May, New Brunswick and Newfoundland introduced a “bubble family” system, and in late April, Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab discussed the formation of “extended households,” where friends and/or family (with a 10-person limit) could safely spend time together.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Other Canadian provinces are also toying with this idea, but the final decision would be contingent upon a number of factors.
Ontario and Quebec, for example, still advise no contact outside of your own household, and for good reason — they currently have the highest number of COVID cases in the country. This is why health experts agree that a single regulation for all of Canada wouldn’t work for every region. They state that decisions should be based on local conditions and executed with caution to avoid further community spread.
There’s no question that a cohort or “bubble” family unit would be immensely beneficial. “Being alone and vulnerable has been hard on people who are revisiting difficult experiences, struggling with depression or anxiety and trying to manage the additional financial stresses of the pandemic,” Donna-Rae Crooks, founder and CEO of Brain Snacks in Regina, Saskatchewan tells Parentology.
“We have a very family-oriented, connected culture in our province,” she continues. “It was certainly abnormal to be separated from our loved ones during the early days of the pandemic. I would say that people are relieved to be sharing space again.”
What to Consider
Dr. Saverio Stranges, chair of the epidemiology department at Western University in London, Ontario recently told the CBC that in order for two households to connect with each other, certain things have to be taken into consideration.
Bubble families should be chosen carefully, and take into account the cohort family’s value system and sense of responsibility. For example, Stranges said you should know the “mobility patterns” of those you’re going to be in contact with. If a front-line health care worker lives in that household, the risk of contracting COVID-19 will be higher.
“If you know that (the person you’re visiting) has been also extremely careful over the last seven weeks, you can have more confidence that the risk will be rather slim,” he said. In addition, health experts discourage partnering with those who are vulnerable to coronavirus, such as the elderly.
Stranges also reinforced the two households must not have close contact with anyone else. Once you’ve chosen your extended family, they cannot be interchangeable or swapped out for another. However, for some people, those restrictions are acceptable because social connection is a basic human need.
“We all recognize the importance of physical distancing in controlling the spread of the virus, but there is also something to be said for managing our own mental wellness during the pandemic,” says Crooks. “There is nothing that replaces love and connection with the people in our lives.”