The pandemic has led to social deprivation causing more Americans to create bubbles or pods of close friends and family to combat the isolation. A July survey found that nearly half the U.S. population had formed their own bubbles with people they trust to follow the rules of minimizing the spread of the virus.
But experts warn that with the colder weather and shorter days, people are extending their pods, according to The Atlantic. While creating a social bubble, or as some call them play pods, can enhance your life both socially and mentally, it is not something to enter into lightly.
“In order to make your play pod as safe as possible, it’s important that your put some boundaries in place,” Dr. Harvey Karp, a pediatrician, told Healthline. “First, the more people who are in your pod, the greater your COVID-19 exposure risk. Pick one other family, maybe two, and invited them into your pod. Ideally, keep your overall pod size to 10 people or fewer.”
Dr. Whitney Robinson, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, said: “I think there’s leakage on a lot of people’s pods.” Recently, a columnist for The New York Times discovered that his actual pod was 10 times larger than he thought it was. Farhad Manjoo thought his bubble was limited to his wife and kids, but when he delved deeper into his contacts, he realized that his children attended learning pods with other children and one of his daughters attended a weekly dance class. He found he was actually connected to over 100 people.
“As soon as you sort of break your bubble, the connections can be infinite,” said Meghan Moran, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, according to The Atlantic. Moran says that bubbles can lead people into a false sense of security that could endanger the other members. Moran says that even the terms “pod” and “bubble” conjure up a sense of safety that can be misleading.
With the number of new cases and hospitalizations in the U.S. rising rapidly, experts are worried that the higher transmission rates will see more infections leaking into pods and bubbles. They recommend talking with fellow pod members about pre-negotiating new rules to make it safer for everyone to interact during the pandemic.
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