Staying Connected Safely in Our New Abnormal

Sunny Spring greetings to our OHI community, I offer warm blessings and great optimism as we forge ahead into a constantly changing new world. As the flowers of the season begin to open, we are seeing some relief as the world begins to reopen. On the other hand, the corona virus is still a threat, and we must proceed with caution as we continue to strive for normalcy.


You may recall from our January newsletter, how I mentioned that we are striving for normalcy or, as I like to call it, our new abnormal. We looked at two ways of protecting ourselves during our current circumstances and beyond: Situational Awareness and Self-Care. In this issue I want to expand on how we can remain safe by keeping mentally and physically healthy by examining the importance of staying spiritually and socially connected; and doing so by utilizing Safety Bubbles for two or more people.


For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  Matthew 18:20


I share this Biblical verse because it offers clarity for our confusing times. While isolating from other people may be good for combating Covid19; it is detrimental to our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Over the past year, many people have discovered a method for connecting with a small number of friends and family while limiting vulnerability. The concept is called Safety Bubbles or Pods.


The Importance of Both Spiritual and Human Connection

Some state governments, such as California, have restricted church attendance during surges of Covid19. However, we can be in safe community gatherings of two or more that allows us to stay spiritually connected.


Human connection. We live for it; we are hardwired for it; and we are highly motivated by it. We greatly desire relationships because they make us feel important; they build our confidence; and give us a sense of belonging. But, perhaps more importantly in these times, they improve our overall health.


I’ve written about the importance of belonging and social acceptance in a previous newsletter; both of which are matters of survival that date back to our days of living in caves. In the harsh habitat of early man, giving and receiving support from your family, clan, or tribe meant the difference between life and death. And, today we are finding that this is still true.


Social media simulates a sense of community, but it falls short. There’s nothing like the one-on-one bonding with people that we enjoy in person. Video calls have enabled us to replicate this as much as possible, but we are still left wanting when it comes to seeing and reading body language – a vital part of communication which is hard wired into our systems from our pre-language days.


Human Connection is Vital Because It Prevents Disease

“Isolation is the sum total of wretchedness to a man,” wrote Thomas Carlyle, a 19th Century essayist and historian. And, research bears this out. According to NBC news, measures meant to keep seniors safe are killing them. The confinement meant to protect the most vulnerable is threatening their lives. Joshua Uy, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine said, “The isolation is robbing them of whatever good days they have left – it accelerates the aging process. You see increased falls, decrease in strength and ability to ambulate. You see an acceleration of dementia, because there is no rhythm to your day.” The lack of external stimulation is causing serious weight loss, cognitive decline, and depression; all of which increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.


And, this doesn’t just affect seniors. According to Science Magazine, “A lack of human connection can be more harmful to your health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.” And, Kipling D. Williams, with Scientific American, notes that when social connection is abruptly cut off it can cause sensory distress and social pain which affects the same portion of the brain as physical pain.


During your isolation utilize your time by maintaining current relationships and rebuilding those with whom you’ve fallen out of touch. You will create a much stronger sense of connectivity by talking on the phone than you will by sending a text or an email. Make a contact list of close friends and family to call and check in on daily or every few days. You will want to include friends from your OHI cohort as well. Next start expanding that circle by calling people you have not talked with in a while – former classmates, coworkers, and other long lost friends. So many people are alone with little to do these days that you will very likely brighten their day while uplifting your own.


The desire for closeness, intimacy, and human touch is a fundamental need. Even if social distancing (which ought to be called physical distancing) is good for us, it simply does not feel right. Covid19 has weaponized our innate hunger for personal contact. The good news is that there is a way around this dilemma.


“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2


The solution to satisfying our need for human contact is to form an exclusive gathering of people called a Safety Bubble, Pod, or QuaranTeam. This is where you select a group of people, ideally numbering ten or less, that all agree so follow strict social distancing protocols with anyone outside of the group. When you create a bubble you will be able to interact with the other members without wearing a mask and social distancing.  You will be free to hug, kiss, talk, share food, and use each other’s bathrooms.


Safety Bubbles Are About Managing Risk, Not Eliminating Risk

Gideon Lichfield, editor in chief, of the MIT Technology Review, who has become an expert on safety bubbles stated, “What’s most important is to just be completely on the same page with the people that you’re with so that there are no surprises… it’s important because, all of us have friends, multiple friends, but you can only be in one of these bubbles at a time. It’s really not safe to be, you know, bubbling with multiple families, for instance, where you have no idea what everybody’s really doing.”


The bubble you create should include everyone who lives in the home. You may bring in additional households as long as everyone agrees to abide by the same rules. Then everyone will be allowed to come and go freely from each other’s homes. This works because you are only exposed to one another.


Covid19 testing allows for the elimination of the quarantine phase. If testing isn’t readily available, only introduce a new member once that person has quarantined successfully without symptoms for 14 days. When members must leave the bubble to perform essential tasks such as shopping for necessary goods that cannot be delivered, they must follow strict social distancing and hygiene. If anyone within the bubble shows symptoms, fever, cough, or loss of sense of smell or taste, they must self-isolate or leave the group immediately.


In order to form a safe and cohesive group, you must begin with a number of extensive and somewhat intimate conversations about personal habits. What precautions are they taking? What are their views on social distancing? Do they meet with people from outside their home? Do they eat in restaurants? How often do they leave their home, and for what reasons? Periodically re-evaluate whether or not the bubble is working; there must be ongoing conversations, so that everyone remains in agreement. There can be no secrets in a safe bubble.


The goal is to break transmission chains from the outside world; and no one in the bubble has contact with anyone from outside of it. That way no one within the bubble can become infected. The bubble is designed to increase social interaction while limiting the hazard of exposure. Think of it as a risk management system.


Precautions Will Still be Necessary Even After Getting the Vaccine

Safety bubbles will remain important after the vaccine because the CDC is recommending that after getting both doses you must still: wear a mask over your nose and mouth; stay at least 6 feet away from others; avoid crowds; avoid poorly ventilated spaces; and wash your hands often. They say this is necessary because of the possibility that vaccinated people may continue to spread the disease and cause reinfection of someone who has recovered from Covid19.


OHI’s Covid19 Safety Record

We would love to have you come and visit OHI where you can enjoy a needed break from the isolation of lockdown. We have made our campuses so safe that you can feel comfortable leaving your bubble and entering ours.


We consider it absolutely vital to maintain full precautions especially for our guests with health opportunities. Our comprehensive safety plan includes three pillars: 1) Minimizing infectious diseases from entering the OHI campus; 2) Sterilizing the campus, guest rooms, and public areas to reduce the likelihood of disease transmission; and 3) Conducting Covid-19 testing twice weekly with our on-campus community members: guests, missionaries and staff. We have implemented mandatory testing for our guests, called TestTheTeam which has been shown to be as accurate and as sensitive as the RT-PCR – the gold standard in Covid19 testing, best of all it is easy and non-invasive.


Additionally, we’ve been tracking our safety record since the beginning of the pandemic. Our safety record measures Covid19 virus transmissions between staff-to-staff, staff-to-guest, missionary-to-guest, and guest-to-guest. I am proud to share we have had zero on-campus transmissions at OHI Austin. We did, however, have three instances at OHI San Diego. The three instances where Covid19 was transmitted between guests was a result of guests who did not follow our mask and physical distancing protocols. I am happy to report since January, we have had zero transmissions of Covid19 on our San Diego campus.


Other safety measures that keep our community safe: 1) We have smaller cohorts on campus of guests, staff and missionaries; 2) We installed special oxidizing Molekule air purifiers in all of our guest rooms and common areas; and 3) We use electrostatic spray disinfection systems, and only safe, non-chemical cleaners.


Here in your OHI bubble you can resume and reaffirm your commitment to good holistic healing habits for your body, mind, and spirit. Restore your routine of cleansing and nourishing your body after months in quarantine; quieting and focusing your mind to re-stimulate creativity and mindfulness; and  renewing and awakening your spirit to rediscover your purpose. Plus, you’ll reunite with old friends and new.


OHI is the safest place you can be outside of your own home. Make OHI your home away from home safety bubble. Call us to book your reservation today: (800) 588-0809. Or visit our website at


Wishing you health and wellness in this blessed Spring season.


Yours in prayer,

Robert P. Nees, Jr.,

Senior Pastor and Chairman

Optimum Health Institute of San Diego and Austin