Social Bubbles

Bishop Michael Rinehart

There are literally hundreds of articles on social bubbles out there right now. Check out Google. 

The NBA has successfully employed them, as has Tyler Perry with his production crew. 

There has been a lot of conversation on the use of social bubbles, or support bubbles, to provide community and safety during the pandemic. Bubbles can work, according to this Click2Houston article. Experts say don’t do it unless everyone agrees to follow social distancing guidelines while outside the bubble.

We know that bubbles/cohorts/quaranteams work. If someone is infected but not yet showing symptoms, and she goes to church with 100 people, 100 people could potentially be exposes. If, on the other hand, she attends a small group with 10 people, only nine others have potentially been exposed. We may not be able to stop a virus from spreading, but we can limit the number of people infected, and keep the most vulnerable safe.  

This How-To Guide on Social Bubbles suggests bubbles of 10 or less are most effective. They can be as small as two families. Everyone just needs to agree that this will be a primary group. The more interactions outside the group, the greater the risk. The group agrees that in necessary interactions outside the group, like the grocery, masks and social distancing will be taken seriously. If you can’t do that, then a social bubble probably isn’t for you. It won’t be much help. 

This article from Oxford University shows why social-based networking is effective, as a non-pharmaceutical alternative between complete shut down, and complete reopening. In a system without cohorts or small groups, one infected person (the square in the graphic below), in stages (represented by different colors). Eventually everyone becomes infected. 

In the next graphic, you see small groups or cohorts. In A, below, those groups have multiple interactions, with people who are part of multiple groups, and may travel cross country. The infection rate is slowed, but still can move from group to group. Group B shows less cross-country or cross-group interaction. This lowers the total number of people infected. Group C has all but independent groups. Group D has no interaction outside the group. With each successive group, the infection rate drops. 

From this we can see that socially distanced groups can be safe if there is no interaction outside the group. They can be moderately safe if there is minimal interaction outside the group, with social distancing. The bubbles can be quite unsafe if there is substantial interaction outside the group.

This plan can be employed by small groups, Bible study groups or small bubble church groups, if people can agree to limit outside interactions as much as possible in order to be as safe as possible. I have spun out this idea in a blog post called Bubble Church. Bubble Church is a way people could have in-person worship, even with communion, almost immediately. All that would be required is a group leader and a covenant that everyone is willing to follow.  

If you’re interested in this, read the blog post and give it a shot. I’d be happy to chat about it with you and even coordinate with interested churches in provide any needed resources.