The best way to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus is to stay home as much as possible and do our socializing online and over the phone. While virtual gatherings are still the safest, I know that summer is here and that many of you are looking forward to hosting your first barbecue of the season or finally hanging out with friends.
So, since we all know that backyard gatherings are happening more these days, let’s go over 10 ways you can practice risk reduction and make your next social gathering as safe as possible.
1. Keep the guest list small.
Virtual events are still the safest, but if you really need some in-person socializing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consider “smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county)” as less risky than larger gatherings.
2. Send invitations.
Invitations have always set the tone for a party and let your guests know what to expect, but they serve an even more important purpose now. Sending a paper or email invitation is the perfect opportunity to spell out exactly how the gathering will work and what precautions everyone will be expected to follow. This will help invitees know what to expect and to determine if they feel comfortable enough to attend. Invitations are also crucial for a social distancing party where you might be asking folks to bring their own chairs, utensils, or drinks. Give your invitees all of the information they need for your party to be a success and for everyone to feel comfortable and prepared.
3. Host the gathering outdoors.
The risk of airborne transmission is lower outdoors, so that is definitely where you should host your gathering. This does not bring the risk to zero, but it is much better than sharing stagnant air indoors.
4. Designate a single entrance and exit.
One option is to host the gathering in your driveway or in your front yard, which will likely mean no one needs to touch doors or gates to get to the party. If you will be hosting it in your backyard, it is better to have your guests go through an open gate than to go through the house.
5. Prepare your bathroom.
Make a clear line to the bathroom to guide traffic and reduce folks touching things on their way in and out. Make sure you are well stocked on hand soap, and consider disposable guest towels. These are not the greatest option for the environment, but they may reduce the chance of exposure. Equip your bathroom with a trash can with a bag but no lid or with a no-touch trash can, which is a good thing for us all to be considering investing in at this point anyways.
6. Consider making it a BYOP (Bring Your Own Picnic) party.
The less you have multiple people touching surfaces and utensils the better. One way to do this is to have everyone bring their own picnic basket or cooler with their food, drinks, utensils, napkins, and plates. You can even have them bring their own blanket or lawn chairs to set up at least six feet apart from other guests.
Most importantly, do not share food or utensils. Do not serve food buffet style or family style. If you are serving food or drinks, designate one person wearing a mask and gloves to do all of the cooking, grilling, and serving. This will help avoid multiple people touching utensils or bottles.
7. Choose activities that allow for social distancing.
Chatting from your respective picnic blankets is a good way to stay six feet apart at all times, but if you want to include some activities, consider those that still allow for social distancing. Horseshoes, cornhole, and bocce are examples of activities that allow you to be social while keeping your distance. Keep in mind that you will still be touching the same bean bags or horseshoes, so keep hand sanitizer on hand and wash your hands after the game.
8. Make it a theme party to make mask wearing more fun.
It is absolutely essential that you and your guests wear masks at all times when you are not eating or drinking. To make this more fun, consider making it a themed mask party or asking your guests to wear masks that are funny, ugly, or fancy.
9. Have hand sanitizer readily available.
Make sure you have hand sanitizer at the entrance so that your guests can sanitize their hands before entering the party space. If they might be going inside your house to use the restroom, keep hand sanitizer at that entrance as well, and ask your guests to use it before entering.
10. Make the space as safe as possible.
Sanitize all surfaces, doorknobs, chairs, gate latches, handles, faucets, toilets, trash cans, and anything else your guests might touch both before the party and after your guests leave. Make signs to remind your guests to wash their hands often. Have a no-touch trash can or a trash can with a bag and no lid in the party space so that your guests can easily throw things away and you can safely dump the trash after the party.
Remember -- staying home and hanging out with the folks you are isolating with is the best way to reduce transmission. So, use these tips to reduce the risk if have to get together, but stick to virtual gatherings as much as possible.
Find local COVID-19 information and resources here.
AimeeJo Davis-Varela is a member of The Davis Group and a freelance writer specializing in real estate, sustainable home improvement, eco-friendly landscaping, green living and travel writing. She is also the owner of Mind Your Manors, which provides second home management services.
Photo Credit: PhotoMIX Company from Pexels
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