As the province starts leaking its scheme to slowly reopen businesses, there's been tons of talk around seeing our friends again. According to the top doctor, "pandemic bubbles" in B.C. might just be the answer. That means keeping our interactions to just a tight group of friends but still being able to hang out with them.

A "pandemic bubble" means forming a small group (or bubble) of friends that live outside your household and keeping your socializing to just them.

As long as we keep these bubbles small, said B.C. provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, on Tuesday, May 5, we can still keep cases low while getting our fill of social interaction.

"The idea is that folks who are relatively healthy and in homes without seriously immunosuppressant folk can, in fact, get together ...carefully," wrote Tom Koch, an expert in medical geography and professor at UBC, to Narcity.

He said it works well, as long as people keep at least two metres apart. Your friends should be safe, as long as they've been following guidelines, he said — "They are very low risk--having been nowhere."

Dr. Ken Denike, expert on COVID-19 epidemiology and professor with UBC Geography, isn't so sure. "I question how safe it is," he wrote to Narcity.

They've been used successfully in South Korea and Hong Kong, for example, but these countries have different guidelines than us, Denike continued — they use masks more, for example.

Koch agreed these bubbles aren't without risks. For example, if you get together with an unknowingly COVID-19 positive friend and they touch a surface, they could contaminate it. Same with coughing or sneezing.

For Denike, he's more concerned about the mental health of people who are single without any strong social networks.

If everyone around them is able to hang out again but they're left out, that could lead to lots of stress and alienation, he said.

But in the end, both agree being able to see your friends again has huge benefits. For Denike, the improvements to mental health, general society, and the economy outweigh the risk of a spike in cases.

Koch added that easing restrictions would lead more people to follow the rules too.

And both wrote that it's an overall good idea for B.C. to test out for now, especially since the curve has flattened.

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