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Infectious disease expert warns how easy it is to burst your social bubble

Click to play video 'Viability of social bubbles in question' Viability of social bubbles in question
Health units across Ontario are urging people to keep social circles limited to stop the spread of the virus but are they realistic? Experts say it's challenging to keep a social bubble pure. – Aug 24, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it many terms and phrases that were uncommon previously, such as community transmission, contact tracing — and social bubbles.

With regards to a social bubble, in Ontario, it means a grouping of up to 10 people whom you regularly connect with, such as family, friends or work colleagues.

Yet a Queen’s University infectious disease expert says social bubbles are only effective if they remain pure.

“If two or three people within that 10-person bubble have another bubble that has 10 people in it, you are immediately looking at social bubbles that could be as many as 20 and 30,” says Dr. Gerald Evans, who is also medical director of infection control at Kingston Health Sciences Centre.

Read more: Canada’s coronavirus patients getting younger as pandemic moves west

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In recent months, some health units across the province have taken matters into their own hands, such as painting circles places like Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park to help people keep the appropriate distance and avoid puncturing their neighbour’s social bubbles.

But with the school year around the corner, Dr. Evans says additional challenges will require students to be extra vigilant.

“Maintaining those social bubbles requires a great deal of discipline and when you’re young, and you’re really trying to enjoy life, and frankly, you feel like you’re immortal,” Dr. Evans says.

Read more: Ontario’s COVID-19 cases have been on the decline. What can we expect if there’s a 2nd wave?

There are currently two active COVID-19 cases in the Kingston region — an area that has seen a limited number of infections since the nail salon outbreak in June.

On Monday, Global News spoke to several residents and many said that their social bubbles are intact.

“We’ve constructed a social bubble mostly around immediate family and cousins, but we stay in that social circle; we don’t usually extend beyond that,” said Kingston resident Richard Allen.

“I’ve mostly been with the six people in my family because I’m working in a grocery store,” added resident Thea Santyr.

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Even with the low number of infections in Eastern Ontario, Dr. Evans advises people to follow health guidelines, especially in the Kingston-area.

“Because we’ve had so few infections here (in Kingston), it also means potentially that a large section of the population has not seen this virus and therefore may be susceptible.”