Opinion: Track your COVID-19 bubble like you would an STI

There is a growing and alarming complacency about COVID-19 in communities across Canada, including B.C.

Our self-congratulations and comparisons to the worst-case scenarios unfolding in the U.S. is like being a C+ student comparing themselves to the kids who are failing. It’s not the time to stop studying, skip classes and start experimenting with drugs.

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In recent weeks, we’re already seeing a potential second wave in the pandemic and it’s not just because we have opened more businesses and public facilities. Many individuals have forgotten about the effectiveness – and necessity – of social distancing and are just plain confused about “expanding your bubble.”

Birthday celebrations and other house parties, gathering in crowded groups, playing contacts sports and meeting up with friends at restaurants and coffee shops without physical distancing or masks, are contributing to the accelerated spread of COVID-19 infections in the community.

I have spoken to patients who are back to work and although the majority of workplaces are adhering to pandemic safety guidelines to protect the public as well as their employees, I’ve been alarmed with the lack of adequate physical distancing (or the alternative of face masks when this is not possible) behind the scenes in many stores, restaurants and even pharmacies and health-care facilities.

You shouldn’t be working face to face or side by side with coworkers without adequate barriers or face masks. You shouldn’t be taking breaks, chatting or eating with coworkers without physical distancing or wearing face masks.

It’s fine to go to a restaurant that has taken the appropriate measures to protect their patrons.

But with whom should you be meeting?

Eating and talking less than two-metres apart are high-transmission activities, where respiratory droplets may carry the virus. Don’t even think about sharing foods and drinks.

That’s why we should consider COVID-19 the new STI (socially transmitted infection). When you talk, hug and eat with one person – even a trusted friend who doesn’t feel sick - you’re talking, hugging and eating with everyone they have talked, hugged or eaten with in the past two weeks and whomever each of their social contacts have met up with.

You may think you know who is in your expanding bubble, but you really don’t because your bubbles have merged with multiple other bubbles.

Ultimately, if you don’t keep track and consider the logarithmic expansion of your shared bubbles, it’s the opposite of a slow leak - a rapidly expanding bubble that when large enough and risky enough can explode like the Hindenburg.

Mind your bubble. Keep it safe and small.

Don’t let it burst.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a family physician. He was the founding chair and lead physician of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice and continues to serve on the board. His Healthwise Column appears regularly in this paper. For more on achieving your positive potential in life, read his blog at davidicuswong.wordpress.com.


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