How to gather safely
The coming months are typically a time for loved ones to gather and celebrate various occasions. Currently, we have a high burden of COVID-19 with substantial transmission in our community. Because of this, this year we may need to adapt our holiday plans in order to decrease potential exposure to the disease. Having clear expectations and discussions is the first step to finding a safe plan that works for you and your loved ones.
As you consider and talk about your plans, it is important to first factor in each individual’s medical condition. While we have seen people of all ages contract COVID-19 and we should all be careful to reduce our risk of the disease, we do know that some people should take extra precautions. For example, people who are older, who have cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, weakened immune systems, or who are obese, are more vulnerable and are at a higher risk of experiencing serious outcomes from COVID-19.
Another factor to take into account is where you work. For example, if you work at a long-term care facility, congregate living facility, or another place where you are likely to be around people who are more vulnerable to COVID-19, you may want to reconsider your plans as a way to protect those you work with and around.
Whether you are planning to host a gathering or simply attend one, think about every party’s risk tolerance level and make sure everyone is on the same page. Plans for gatherings that involve individuals from outside your household unit should include plans for how to maintain social distancing, face coverings, and hand sanitization – including before entering someone else’s home. In addition, have frank conversations about recent potential exposures, how to serve food, whether you will be indoors or outside, bathroom use (including shutting the toilet lid), and expected disinfectant procedures.
Sample questions to ask and think through include:
- Are you currently experiencing any symptoms related to COVID-19?
- Have you been in close contact with anyone who was positive with COVID-19?
- Are you currently in isolation or quarantine for COVID-19?
- Are you waiting to receive COVID-19 test results due to exposure or personal symptoms?
- Have you been to any group gathering or public space in the last 14 days where you did not practice social distancing or wearing a face covering?
- Are you willing to practice good hand hygiene, social distance, and wear a face covering when social distancing cannot be followed at the gathering?
- If you are planning an indoor event, can you open windows to increase air circulation?
If you are hosting, you are in control of creating the atmosphere. Set expectations that meet your risk tolerance. Have a list of things guests must agree upon before deciding if they want to attend. And remember, if circumstances do not allow your guests to attend in-person, gathering “virtually” is an alternative way to connect safely.
If you are a guest and find that the gathering is not meeting the safety expectations that you agreed upon, be confident in excusing yourself. Your safety, and your comfort level, are important. Now is not the time to put yourself in a situation where you are potentially exposed to the virus.
I hope that you have found this information helpful. Being safe when we get together with friends and family is just as important as being safe when we are out in public. And as the holidays approach, let’s do everything that we can protect ourselves and our loved ones by planning ahead!