What is a COVID-19 bubble?

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BOLIVAR, Mo. — The COVID-19 pandemic has put some businesses in desperation mode, from small business owners to even largely successful sports leagues. The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Hockey League (NHL) were forced to think outside the box – to keep their leagues from losing out on a whopping amount of money. The NBA and NHL have been able to continue on with their seasons thanks to what it is called a “COVID-19 bubble.” This prevention method that has resulted in zero positive tests so far.

So, what exactly is a so-called “bubble,” which can also be referred to as a pod, or “quaranteam?” Ozarks First spoke with Citizens Memorial Hospital infection prevention coordinator Joylyn Smith.

“It’s a way to expand your social interaction outside of your immediate family,” Smith said. “So, it’s a concept that should help to flatten the curve and decrease the spread of COVID. But, still allowing social interaction with others.”

Smith says an example of a bubble is two or three families agreeing as a group to not socialize with others.

“I definitely think there’s a value in determining which type of social interactions are okay,” Smith said. “I think we have to consider our current status as our new norm. We know based on research that isolation is not good for mental health. So, we definitely need to look at ways that will reduce risk or make it safe for us to interact with others.”

She adds that often times in social bubbles, people participating won’t use social distancing and masking requirements. Regardless, Smith says having a bubble has been proven to help control the spread and flatten the curve. Smith refers to a recent study that showed the difference in a group with controlled exposures vs. a group that had multiple exposures. The conclusion proved that a bubble helped decrease the spread of COVID-19.

“We recognize that our goal in a lot of these things is to decrease the spread or flatten the curve,” Smith said. “But, we still know people will contract the infection. So, that’s an important difference to remember.”

So, who should be in your “bubble?” Smith says that should be decided as a family. But, a few things to take into consideration are the other people you’re considering interacting with, and who they are also interacting with.

“If they’re not respecting the same guidelines and have a similar risk level of what you and your family have, then it potentially won’t be effective,” Smith said. “If they’re being exposed to other places and you’re not using those normal everyday precautions, then they can bring that exposure into you. All it takes is one person who is spreading the virus to infect you and your family.”

Smith says if you have a high-risk family member in your home or you interact with them frequently, take that into account. Another thing is keeping a close eye on considering someone who works would be considered a high-risk job.

How big can your bubble be? Smith says it depends.

“Everything you have to consider with this is based on risk,” Smith said. “So, you have to make those decisions based on what’s appropriate for your family.”

Burrell Behavioral Health licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Brittany Pratt says in a time of social distancing, there are some things that work well for your mental health, and vice versa.

“What we’ll say around (Burrell), we don’t use the term social distancing,” Pratt said. “We say that we want to be physically distant, and socially connected because what we’re trying to avoid is social isolation.”

Dr. Pratt says a more relatable term is “cabin fever,” or that feeling you get when you’ve been stuck inside for too long after bad weather.

“Again, there can be some good things about (a bubble), keep ourselves safe,” Pratt said. “And some not so great things if we keep ourselves isolated.”

Cabin fever can lead to feeling depressed, anxious, agitated, irritated or having low motivation to do things you normally enjoy. In order to avoid this, Dr. Pratt says people should find a way to be socially connected.

“Humans are social creatures,” Pratt said. “We need that, even the introverts. We need that social connection. So, whether that is finding ways to reach out through video chat, through phone calls.”

Making the most out of social media also helps.

“Truly, if we are using the bubble, you’re home or with a set group of people and that’s it, that’s all you get to know,” Pratt said. “So keeping your virtual bubble big. Making sure that if you have family and friends you can reach out to. Maybe your faith groups.”

Dr. Pratt also recommends knowing the signs and symptoms to look out for in case you need more help. She says Burrell has plenty of mental health resources available to help with coping and resilience skills.

  • Burrell’s main line is 417-761-5000.
  • Crisis line (available 24/7): 800-494-7355.
  • Be Well Community (a live self-care and check-in led by Burrell staff) is available every day on Facebook Live at 12:45 p.m.

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