How to responsibly host summer outdoor gatherings during COVID-19
After being in isolation for months, many people are craving in-person gatherings with friends and family. But if people are going to socialize, they need to do it as carefully and responsibly as possible.
"We all need social interaction," said Dodi Iannaco, lead nurse practitioner at Virtua Health's Urgent Care Centers in New Jersey. She said outdoor gatherings are key. All guests should bring masks and stay six feet apart from each other.
Setting up separate areas with chairs and tables ahead of time will be key to encouraging people to stay apart, Iannaco said. Try not to have people do activities where they are gathering together. So if there are food stations set, have people go up one at a time. They can even bring their own food to avoid people gathering and touching the same items, she added.
Keep the guest list small. With fewer guests, she said, it's easier for everyone to remain six feet apart.
Be consistent with the guest list. Iannaco said limit the number of people you socialize with by committing to a pod of one or two people or even one other family. Don't invite different sets of people over every night.
Make sure guests are also taking the coronavirus seriously and following the same government safety guidelines as their hosts. That includes washing hands, practicing social distancing and wearing masks.
Iannaco also said to limit the number of children at these parties and again, make sure they are playing six feet apart.
Take precautions with food. Ask people to bring their own drinks in a cooler. Don't serve communal foods such as chips and dips. Avoid a buffet if possible. Don't use shared items such as condiments and utensils. Provide individual servings as much as possible.
If there is a barbecue, she suggested only one person work the grill. Everything around food should involve good hand washing as much as possible.
If guests are going to use the restroom, then the host's restroom should be stocked with soap, hand sanitizer, disposable towels and if possible, disinfecting wipes. Each guest should wipe down the bathroom before he or she leaves, especially the toilet handle, faucets, doorknobs and light switches. Then, after all the guests leave, give the bathroom a really good cleaning to be safe.
If it rains, do not move the party indoors, Iannaco said Either end the party or move it under a tarp, tent, car port, gazebo or other open air-shelter where people can still stay six feet apart.
Iannaco said COVID-19 is still new and there is an uncertainty about the future. So being proactive in our own health promotion through healthy foods, exercise, rest and responsible social interaction is key to staying well right now, she said.
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