Double bubble buddies: How to choose the first household you'll socialize with
TORONTO -- 'Double bubbles,' in which members of two households are allowed to come into close contact, are popping up in two provinces that have started to relax physical distancing measures – but they're also creating a new set of dilemmas.
Extended families may find themselves divided over which branch of the family gets to hug the grandparents, roommates have to choose whose friends or family take priority, and those who aren't invited into a double bubble may feel even more isolated than they were when they had to be on their own.
According to social worker Gary Direnfeld, any decision about forming a double bubble should include thinking about how those who are left out will react.
"If, in choosing this family to live with, does it have a negative repercussion for my relationship with that family?" he said Tuesday on CTV News Channel from Keswick, Ont.
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As things stand, only two provinces have allowed double bubbles. New Brunswick was first on April 24, and Newfoundland and Labrador followed suit last week. It is not a given that other provinces will follow suit; British Columbia is easing up on its pandemic-era socialization restrictions by allowing groups of up to six people to gather, regardless of how many households they come from, but recommending that they still practise physical distancing while together.
In places where the double bubble rule is in effect, though, Direnfeld said there is an obvious path to deciding how to divide up families and who gets to socialize with who: Focusing on those who seem to need it the most.
"The whole idea of the double bubble is to help those folks whose mental health may feel a little shaky. We miss one another, so by having that connection … hopefully it helps allay things like depression and anxiety," he said.
Anyone feeling left out as others pair up should say so, to help preserve their mental health, Direnfeld said – just as it's important for anyone in a double bubble to stay in touch with those outside the bubble and keep them from feeling lonely.
"Don't gloat, don't lord it over others," he said.
"Share the joy. Share the 'I wish you could have been there with us.'"
Other factors may come into play as well. Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador's chief medical officer of health, recommended Monday that anyone known to be more vulnerable to COVID-19 – including those with underlying medical conditions, the immunocompromised and everyone over the age of 60 – may want to stay in their household's single bubble.
"Consider not doubling your bubble if you fall into one of these categories," she said at a press conference.
As for roommate situations, Direnfeld noted that many may resort to a coin toss to avoid having to consciously make a "terrible decision," and suggested that some roommates may be better off keeping to their single bubble instead of allowing only one roommate to get within two metres of their family.
"For goodness sakes, don't toss your roommate to the curb," he said.
Most important of all, though, is not to expand physical connections beyond the double bubble until local authorities OK it, even if it feels like it should be safe to do so – as Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister John Haggie made clear on Wednesday.
"The fastest way to get where we need to go is actually to proceed slowly with caution," he said at a press conference.
"Physical distancing is the key. Stay in your bubble, protect your bubble, and don't burst anybody else's."