In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been using the term “bubbles” to describe the groupings of people who continue close contact.
“Don’t pop the bubble” is a common refrain.
But sooner or later, most of us figure out that bubble maintenance is no simple matter. Some people still face concrete challenges: They have to go to work or share custody of children. Many report squishier quandaries. Should they let a friend’s friend into their bubble? How should bubble-mates set rules and expectations? Can they fight the urge to make exceptions?
The longer this goes on, the harder it will get, said Jonathan Smith, a lecturer in epidemiology at the Yale University School of Public Health.
Staying inside our bubbles is like clearing highly flammable brush, said Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington who studies how infectious diseases spread.
“In a neighborhood where everyone’s house has a big cleared area with no brush in between, that fire can’t spread from one house to another.” When someone ventures beyond their bubble, they are scattering kindling, fueling the blaze.