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What to consider when dining out with your ‘COVID bubble’

An infectious disease experts weighs in on what to consider when deciding whether to order takeout or dine out.

No one wants to see our local restaurants struggling.

Now that the statewide curfew has been lifted, you may consider going out to eat this weekend with what we now refer to as your “COVID bubble.”

We all may have different ways we decide who’s in our “bubble.”

“Basically in my mind, [a bubble is] a small group of household members who you are taking the proper precautions with and who are exposing yourself to,” said Ashley Lipps, Ph.D., from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Overall the term has been relatively stable. Early on it was a little difficult for people to process what someone in your COVID bubble [meant].”

How did we get this term in the first place

Over the summer, researchers found an effective strategy to reduce the spread of COVID-19 was to create “social bubbles.” To do so, you limit your contact to very few others and then limit repeated interactions to those people, only.

But health experts warn, your bubble is bigger than you think. Your risk for COVID-19 depends on whoever the people in your bubble have also been in contact with.

“Although you may think you’re only seeing members of your household, you have to sort of remember those members of your household may be going to work, they’re going to the store, are they seeing somebody else? Are they in someone else’s COVID bubble? And when you look at that you’re starting to look at a much bigger bubble than you understood,” Lipps explained.

In wanting to help support local restaurants, people are making reservations with their own bubbles.

#DineSafeOhio is a new effort from the Ohio Restaurant Association to help struggling restaurants by encouraging people to pick up takeout or dine out with their bubble.

In a statement, the Ohio Restaurant Association said restaurants are operating at 60% capacity or less and barely breaking even. The full statement reads:

“Even with the statewide curfew lifted, restaurants are operating at 60% capacity or less due to social distancing guidelines and more than half do not anticipate breaking even. That’s why the Ohio Restaurant Association is launching a new #DineSafeOhio campaign to encourage consumers to “Take Your Bubble Out to Eat” at your favorite local restaurants that are going above and beyond to operate safely for both their employees and guests."

When it comes to deciding on whether to dine out or pick up food with your bubble, Lipps said there are some things to consider.

“You have to be aware of how close other people are around you. So if you can be spread out and there’s good ventilation that lowers the risk but if you’re in a more crowded restaurant where people outside of your bubble are eating closer by then it can be a little bit more risk,” she said.

Evaluating that risk, Lipps said, should be done together so there’s no trouble within your bubble.

You can check out the CDC’s guidelines for restaurant and bar owners to keep customers safe, here