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How To Create A Low-Risk Quarantine Bubble

After three months of lockdowns, many people in the U.S. and around the world are turning to quarantine bubbles, pandemic pods or guarantees in an effort to balance the risks of the pandemic with the emotional and social needs of life.

I am an epidemiologist and a mother of four, three of whom are teenagers in the throes of their risk-taking years. As the country grapples with how to navigate new risks in the world, my kids and I are doing the same.

When done carefully, the research shows that quarantine bubbles can effectively limit the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 while allowing people to have much needed social interactions with their friends and family.

Reduce risk if you can’t eliminate it

A quaranteam is a small group of people who form their own social circle to quarantine together — and a perfect example of a harm reduction strategy.

Harm reduction is a pragmatic public health concept that explicitly acknowledges that all risk cannot be eliminated, so it encourages the reduction of risk. Harm reduction approaches also take into consideration the intersection of biological, psychological and social factors that influence both health and behavior.

For example, abstinence-only education doesn’t work all that well. Safe-sex education, on the other hand, seeks to limit risk, not eliminate it, and is better at reducing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection.

Quarantine bubbles are a way to limit the risk of getting or transmitting SARS-CoV-2 while expanding social interaction.

Mental health matters too

Staying indoors, avoiding all contact with friends or family and having food and groceries delivered would be the best way to limit your risk of catching SARS-CoV-2. But the risks of the pandemic extend beyond the harm from infection. Health encompasses mental as well as physical well-being.

The negative mental health impacts of the pandemic are already starting to become evident. A recent survey of U.S. adults found that 13.6% reported symptoms of serious psychological distress, up from 3.9% in 2018. A quarter of people 18 to 29 years old reported serious psychological distress, the highest levels of all ages groups. Many people are experiencing anxiety and depression due to the pandemic or were already living with these challenges. Loneliness certainly doesn’t help.

Loneliness and social isolation increase the risk for depression and anxiety and can also lead to increases in the risk for serious physical diseases like coronary heart disease, stroke and premature death.

Quaranteams, therefore, are not simply a convenient idea because they let people see their friends and family. Isolation poses serious health risks — both physically and mentally — that social bubbles can help alleviate while improving social well-being and quality of life.

SWNS Digital, posted on SouthFloridaReporter.comJuly 4, 2020

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