As restrictions have eased up and families are planning get-togethers and graduation parties, many of us are wondering just how safe it is to host or attend a backyard celebration. Even though we know that socializing outdoors is a lot safer than having a party inside, how much of a risk are we taking by convening with friends and family for some grilled burgers and sprinkler time?
“Even though COVID-19 cases have recently decreased in the New Jersey area, the virus continues to surge around the country and can easily increase very quickly in any geographic area,” says Daniel Hart, MD, Director of Infection Prevention, Summit Medical Group. “As such, it is essential to continue practicing social distancing and to wear face coverings in crowds.”
Keep Get-Togethers Small
If you’re planning a backyard celebration, keep the guest list short, Dr. Hart suggests.
“With summer in full swing, it’s understandable that people will want to barbecue but it’s best to keep the party small–the smaller the better–and in accordance with guidelines outlined by the Governor’s office and state health department,” he says.
If you’re the one hosting, make sure your yard has enough space to keep everyone six feet apart. Consider placing chairs or blankets far away enough from each other before your guests arrive to facilitate social distancing.
And, if a party you’re attending seems too crowded, there’s no shame in leaving early – safety first!
Bringing the party inside where air is recirculated is a riskier idea. Take advantage of the nice weather and keep your celebrations outdoors to minimize the risk.
“Outdoor gatherings are less risky than indoor get togethers because the virus can spread more easily in close quarters with poor ventilation, assuming the windows are closed for air conditioning,” says Dr. Hart.
Since guests will likely need to use the bathroom, designate one bathroom for that purpose and make sure you have disposable hand towels – and plenty of soap – on hand.
Practice Food Safety
Forget the big, buffet-style spreads of summers gone by – this year, it’s smarter to serve individualized portions – think boxed or bagged meals or food on disposable plates, and individual drinks instead of big bowls of punch or pitchers.
If you do opt to serve family-style, make sure you have wipes and hand sanitizer available for guests.
“In terms of food and drink, it’s best to have everyone wash or sanitize their hands before touching common utensils, such as salad tongs,” says Dr. Hart. “Everyone should also try not to touch their face without washing first.”
And that big bowl of pretzels that every guest love to stick their hand into? Opt for individual bags of snacks instead.
Know When to Say “No”
Although it stinks to miss out on the fun, now is not the time to attend a gathering if you’re feeling under the weather. If you’ve got symptoms, skip the family BBQ and join up via video chat instead. Your choice to be safe could potentially help keep someone older or with an underlying health condition from catching the virus.
“If anyone is immune-compromised or in a high-risk category, then it’s best that they don’t host or attend any parties,” says Dr. Hart. “It’s nice to have some summer fun but remember to be safe!”