The Gustavian Weekly

How safe are “COVID bubbles”? - The Gustavian Weekly

By Tori Smith - Opinion Columnist | October 30, 2020 | Opinion

COVID-19 has made everything in life exponentially more difficult, especially socialization. One of the hardest obstacles I’ve had to face this year is figuring out how to enjoy my time alone. It is a new challenge, but it has given me time to reflect on my situation, which has brought out a lot of positive change.
While self-reflection is nice, I can’t help but miss spending time with friends like normal. Before the pandemic, I could walk over to my friends’ rooms at any hour of the day but now I can’t visit anyone without a mask and a plan on how to remain socially distanced.
I know I’m not the only student on campus who feels similarly frustrated. In fact, some students have started to form “COVID bubbles” in order to feel a bit more back to normal.
These bubbles describe a group of students who are not necessarily living together, but decide not to social distance. The idea is that the group of students are only contacts with each other, therefore if they all take safety precautions when outside of the bubble then the bubble itself and its members will be able to avoid the virus.

“If everyone in the bubble commits to only being in close contact with each other, there is evidence that they can be effective in slowing the spread of infection,” Director of Health Services Heather Dale said.

The problem with COVID bubbles on campus, however, is the fact that we are all living in such close proximity.
“The challenge is that if I have three people in my bubble but each of those three people have one or more roommates with their own bubbles, now my bubble has grown from three to many more that I may not even realize are part of my risk,” Dale said.
The best way to make sure COVID bubbles are effective in preventing the virus is to make sure members are all living together or live alone. It’s nearly impossible to social distance with a roommate; therefore any established bubble automatically affects any roommates the members might have. If a roommate doesn’t know or trust the other members of a bubble to stay socially distant elsewhere, that can put them in a very difficult position. The actions of one roommate directly affects the other.
Another challenge with COVID bubbles on campus is the fact that Gustavus only tests on a self-reporting basis. This means that the only way to tell if someone in my hypothetical bubble (or the many other bubbles that may be overlapping with mine) has the virus is if they report to Health Services that they have symptoms. If someone contracts the virus and happens to be asymptomatic, that case would likely go unreported and the virus would continue to spread through the many bubbles.
According to Dale, we know that COVID-19 is primarily spreading through social settings on campus. We all have a responsibility to protect ourselves and others from this virus, and the best way we can do that is by social distancing. “If you avoid being physically close to others, you will significantly decrease your risk of getting infected with COVID-19,” Dale said.
COVID bubbles, if implemented well, can be effective in slowing the spread of the virus while also allowing students to socialize and stay close with friends. Some students on campus are far from home, meaning they don’t have family or close contacts anywhere near campus. Not having family or close friends can be an extraordinary burden for many students, so having a COVID bubble to be able to keep close contact with friends on campus can be extremely beneficial.
Despite all the benefits of COVID bubbles, it is still important to be aware of the risks.
Do you trust everyone in your bubble to make safe choices? Are your roommates a part of the bubble? Are they okay with your participation in a COVID bubble knowing they may be at risk as well? Are there any bubbles that could potentially overlap with yours? These questions are important to consider in order to effectively and safely participate in a bubble.
“I recommend that students limit the number of people they have close contact with. The less close contacts you have, the less people impacted by COVID-19 and the more we will continue to slow the spread on our campus,” Dale said.
It is important to be mindful of our actions and make the best decisions we possibly can for ourselves and others, whether that be to participate in a COVID bubble or not.

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