COVID-19 Recovery: Immunity Bubbles

Brookdale residents were among the first group to receive COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration, and as of March 13, 2021, 90 percent of our residents have participated in on-site community vaccination clinics. While helping protect our residents and associates from Coronavirus (COVID-19) remains a priority, Brookdale’s vaccination rate, enhanced cleaning protocols and infection-control measures mean that we’re looking forward to a recovery phase. We’re also working closely with state and local public health officials to advocate on behalf of our residents and provide education about their mental health needs and the benefits of engagement and connection in our communities. In this blog series, we’ll look at different aspects of life in Brookdale communities during the COVID-19 recovery. Visits may be subject to health screening, face coverings, social distancing, proof of COVID-19 vaccination and/or proof of negative COVID-19 test. Requirements vary by community in accordance with state or local directives or recommendations by the CDC. Please contact us for details.

What Is an Immunity Bubble?

Remember at the start of quarantine, when “quarantine pods” were all the rage? A pod was a small group of people, typically just immediate family or close friends, who agreed to limit social interactions outside of the pod and follow certain restrictions in order to more safely spend time together.

Much like a quarantine pod, an immunity bubble involves keeping your inner circle limited for the purpose of being able to feel safe while engaging in activities.

In Facebook Live interview with NBC NewsDr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease physician at UCSF Health, explained that an immunity bubble is an “intimate group of folks who have been vaccinated and can get together without protection.”

Your immunity bubble should only include people who are fully vaccinated  —which means they have received both doses of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccination or one-dose of a single-dose vaccine, and waited the proper amount of time as recommended by the CDC.

“The risk of contracting COVID-19 in that situation is not zero, but the risk is markedly decreased,” Dr. Bill Moss, a pediatrician and professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told Today. “That would be a group of people who are at very, very low risk of getting severe disease … I think that’s a reasonable thing for people to be doing.”

What Can an Immunity Bubble Do?

The key to remember when planning your “immunity bubble” activities is not to put others at risk who may not yet have been vaccinated. That means instead of going out to a restaurant, gather at the home of someone in your bubble.

Dr. Peter Chin-Hong told NBC News he plans to invite several colleagues who have also been fully vaccinated to his house for dinner, with the following guidelines: “we would wear masks before entering my home or dinner space, but once in there, I think I’d feel comfortable with everyone taking the masks off, sitting around the table, watching a football game or listening to music.”

When Can We Socialize Outside Our Immunity Bubbles?

Experts are asking Americans to continue to exercise caution, even after receiving the vaccine, to protect the entire population until the US reaches herd immunity. Herd immunity, or “population immunity,” according to the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, occurs when a substantial proportion of the population is vaccinated, “lowering the overall amount of virus able to spread in the whole population.”

We don’t yet know exactly how much of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity, but infectious disease experts theorize it’s anywhere between 65% and 85%. Until then, continue to wear masks and practice social distancing outside of your immunity bubble. 

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