Forming Double Bubbles In Newfoundland And New Brunswick Brings Joy ... And Rejection

Bringing two households together during the COVID-19 pandemic can mean tricky choices for Atlantic Canadians.

If you could spend time with just one other household during the pandemic, who would you choose?

It sounds like one of those “Who would you want on your deserted island?” or “Who would you throw off your life raft?” icebreaker games, but some Canadians faced that very dilemma this week.

New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador just began easing social-distancing restrictions, and households in those provinces can now spend time with one other household, forming a “double bubble,” as N.L. officials called it in their announcement yesterday. New Brunswick’s “two-household bubble” allowance was announced last Friday.

Sounds like a dream, after the isolation of these past several weeks, but some people are already experiencing double-bubble troubles. How do you choose who goes in your bubble?

Kate Gaudet, who lives with her partner in New Brunswick, has a seven-month-old baby, and had to decide between two sets of grandparents.

“How do you choose family members?” said Gaudet, in an interview with HuffPost Canada. ”It’s kind of like vying for the favourite spot!”

Ultimately, the choice was based on babysitting potential — Gaudet’s in-laws are retired and live five minutes away. But the new mom says they’re trying to respect all grandparents’ feelings. The bubbling grandparents aren’t holding the baby or posting pictures, and Gaudet still sees her own parents from a safe distance outside.

But for others, the choice isn’t so clear-cut.

Some people are joking about rejection by prospective bubble-mates, like Elizabeth Haggie, from Lewisporte, N.L., who tweeted that her own father (Health Minister John Haggie) had basically been ghosting her, since she broached the topic:

Chuck Bowie, a novelist living in Fredericton, spent hours worrying and debating with his wife over which of their two adult sons to ask to join households.

“It was very stressful at the time,” Bowie told HuffPost Canada. “The last thing on Earth that we wanted to do was to hurt anybody’s feelings.” He was relieved when the phone rang and it was one son calling to let them know that he needed to bubble with his in-laws.

Figuring out a bubble buddy can feel like asking someone to prom. And if you don’t act fast, your bubbling options might get snatched up by the competition.

“I did get bubble-rejected a couple times,” said Jenna Lyn Albert, who lives with her boyfriend and their cat in Fredericton. Her own family lives too far away to see in person, so they would have to double-bubble with friends.

Albert didn’t want to make it awkward, so she waited for others to “pair up” first. But as friends bubbled-up with family, she watched their options shrink. It’s like “being picked last in dodgeball,” said Albert. At one point she joked with her partner about putting up a personal ad, but eventually they found a bubble buddy after posting on Facebook.

Newfoundland radio host Stephen Lethbridge joked on Twitter about invitations to double-bubble being the next trend in pandemic pick-up lines.

But, expanding your bubble does increase the risk of COVID-19 — and several people are choosing not to choose at all.

“My knee jerk reaction was that I wasn’t going to make that choice,” Liz MacMullin told HuffPost Canada. She has a four-year-old with her husband in New Maryland, N.B. While they would love to see their parents or MacMullin’s sister, they didn’t want to put anybody at risk. Still, they’ve found it hard watching other people’s videos and pics flooding social media.

“Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should,” said Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, Newfoundland and Labrador’s chief medical health officer, on Thursday, at a press conference about the province’s five-stage plan for relaxing public health restrictions.

Seniors and folks with medical conditions should think carefully about expanding their bubble, Fitzgerald said. People working with the public should also be cautious when bubbling, so they don’t put vulnerable folks at risk, prospective double-bubblers have been warned.

But as restrictions ease, some New Brunswickers worry that people are already getting too lax and breaking the rules. It’s nice to be rewarded, Christina Faulkner told HuffPost Canada, but “you wouldn’t want this to backfire.”

Mike Maloney and Sheila Golez and their kids, just reunited with Mike's parents to create a two-household double bubble.
Mike Maloney and Sheila Golez and their kids, just reunited with Mike's parents to create a two-household double bubble.

Mike Maloney, from Rothesay, N.B., was happy to see his parents, he told HuffPost Canada. “But hugging them didn’t feel right anymore,” he added. “In the back of your mind you’re still also thinking, just because they changed the rules doesn’t necessarily change … the danger.”

Dilemmas aside, the #doublebubble hashtag has brought much-needed joy to the quarantine-weary internet. And, it’s given the rest of Canada something to look forward to.