Social Distance

Why quarantine bubbles are ineffective

COVID-19 cases aren’t the only thing growing amid this pandemic — with social distancing guidelines, it’s natural to feel increasingly anxious, lonely and socially deprived. As a result, some might opt for quarantine bubbles, groups of five to 10 people who gather together exclusively and on some occasions, live together. On paper, this sounds like the ideal solution to the lack of social connection during these anxiety-inducing times. Even so, the reality is that the amount of factors that must be accounted for makes this concept virtually impossible to achieve without breaking any safety guidelines. 

The general idea of quarantine bubbles is staying physically connected with people while following somewhat subdued safety policies. Typically, a quarantine bubble will set ground rules to distinguish themselves from a regular group not following social distancing procedures. For example, groups can place limits on the people and places that they can interact with and visit, such as extended family members and going to grocery stores. However, this fails to address certain ambiguities — for instance, are nuclear family members also subject to these guidelines? If so, chances are that implementing restrictions on many people is inevitable without one erring. With the high transmission rate of COVID-19, the entire premise of a quarantine bubble is essentially pointless once family members are accounted for — it is both unsafe and senseless to be negligent of possible consequences. 

Of course, this scenario only applies to groups with members living with their families. Nevertheless, quarantine bubbles beg another relevant question regarding responsibility: How can a bubble ensure that everyone follows the established rules? They can’t. Unless all members are constantly communicating with one another about their daily pursuits, to be assured of the integrity of every single person would be irrational — especially when lives are at risk. 

Most importantly, quarantine bubbles introduce a problematic mindset. For example, a group that does not necessarily identify as a quarantine bubble could be following the exact same procedures as one that does: wearing their masks, exclusively hanging out with each other and following general safety guidelines. The only difference lies in how members of each group perceive their actions. Guilt and moral culpability are likely to be effective social gathering deterrents for the former, as they recognize their wrongdoing. A quarantine bubble creates the illusion of responsibility because of its normalization and formal nature — thereby validating and even promoting this irresponsible outlook on gatherings. In reality, it’s just as unsafe and unpredictable. 

The impracticality of quarantine bubbles is ultimately reflective of how poorly certain areas have handled outbreaks of COVID-19; by imposing a few safety restrictions to justify gatherings, it defeats the entire purpose of quarantine.

By Emily Cao, Feature editor
Photo by GoToVan