Communication and honesty: the two things that have made Robin Wallace's cohort experience manageable.
Wallace, her husband and their two children have been a part of a cohort with their neighbours, a family of five, since the spring.
There have been some bumps along the way but Wallace is happy with the modern pandemic family they have formed.
"Suddenly there were four adults and we were all negotiating how to parent," Wallace said. "We really did have to find a way to make sure we were on the same page."
The group of nine will be spending Thanksgiving together and Wallace thinks there is a good chance they will be spending more holidays together.
"What we've agreed, as two families, is that there might be more liberties that you can take right now but it is in fact less safe than it was back in May when we were locked down," she said.
"We need to just stay the course and it is incredibly exhausting."
The cohort was created with a lot of conversations and guidelines for each family to follow. But Wallace says other people's definitions of "bubbles" can be left to interpretation.
"Those terms do get thrown around a lot and I think it can be sort of dangerous."
Wallace notes it can be unclear who may be following what recommendations and how seriously they are being taken.
"I have to find ways to politely and respectfully unpack a bit of what people mean," she said.
Wallace is grateful for the connection they have formed with their neighbours, who she calls family now.
"To be able to have another family, two other adults that we could sit down and have dinner with … just being able to have that kind of connection has been really important."
"That's just getting on with your life"
Kelly Eves has also been a part of a cohort since the spring. The Sherwood Park mother of three formed a group with her sister-in-law's household in the spring.
The families found themselves in similar situations as Eves, her husband and her sister-in-law are continuing to work from home. They both have similar interests, activities and kids close in age.
Things started slow at first with just outdoor activities with the cousins. Eves said after about a month they started sharing indoor spaces and over the summer the families spent lots of time outdoors.
But the start of the school year has already brought about changes to the arrangement.
"Right now there is an outbreak at their school and our kids are sick," Eves said. "So, we won't see each other for at least two weeks."
Eves also said they still are not visiting grandparents or other family members in an attempt to keep their circle as small as possible.
She understands that people are trying their best to find their way through the pandemic but believes that open communication about boundaries and expectations are key to successful cohorts.
"Every single time there has been an invite somewhere or a play date, we always talk about it [with the group] before we commit to something."
The cohort boundaries the Eves have laid out for themselves also mean keeping their three kids out of organized sports this year. Eves said all the overlapping bubbles were too much of a concern.
"So, three different cohort classrooms, plus sports? That's not a cohort. That's just getting on with your life," Eves said.
On Thursday, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, repeated her request for people to limit their cohorts. She recommends exposure to just three groups such as a family group, a school group and then one other group like a sport or other activity.
"Remember that cohort is a group of people who don't have to follow all COVID restrictions at all times to enable an activity such as a team sport to take place," Dr. Hinshaw said.
The Edmonton zone's number of active COVID-19 cases has surged in recent weeks with 1,329 identified on Friday ahead of the Thanksgiving weekend.