Marin County adopts outdoor social bubbles during pandemic

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (orange) — also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIH)

Marin County's health department is adopting outdoor 'social bubbles' during the COVID-19 pandemic as restrictions ease.

Health officials made the announcement Friday that allows up to 12 people from different households to gather as long as it is outdoors, with masks or face coverings, and physical distance, typically understood to be 6-feet apart, should be observed.  

“A lot of effort has gone into finding ways to reopen our local businesses and economy, but the friendships and social lives of our residents are just as crucial to our community’s stability during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin’s Public Health Officer.  

The social groups should remain exclusive for the duration of at least three weeks. Individuals should only belong to one social bubble at a time. However, the health department said children can belong to their parents' social bubble as well as one affiliated with a summer camp or childcare environment. If their parents are separated they should not have to choose and can interact with both, health officials said.  

The social bubble model was introduced in Alameda County earlier this month and has also been implemented in San Francisco and Contra Costa counties. Health officials said New Zealand and other countries have successfully used this approach. 

As of Friday afternoon, Marin County has 861 COVID-19 cases, and a total of 18 deaths.