As we approach the holiday season, you may be wondering if it’s safe to throw or attend a party. Though many restaurants, businesses, and states as a whole have continued reopening, confirmed coronavirus cases are once again rising across the country, as reported by The New York Times. Our holiday dinners and white elephant parties are going to look much different this year if they take place at all.
Make no mistake: jam-packed parties are contributing to the spread of COVID-19. This summer, photos from packed Memorial Day parties in Lake of the Ozarks and a crowded beach in Florida showed guests much closer than six feet apart with nary a mask in sight. As Erika Lautenbach, the director of the Whatcom County Health Department in Washington State, told NPR’s Morning Edition, these types of gatherings are the primary source of infection.
Earlier this year, there were even rumors of “coronavirus parties” or gatherings organized with the intention of catching and spreading the virus. (However, those rumors have been largely debunked.) Still, large gatherings risk being just that: an occasion for people to catch and spread coronavirus even if unintentional. Here are some things to consider if you’re looking to throw or attend a holiday party amidst the continued coronavirus outbreak.
How Many People Will Be At The Gathering?
If the answer is more than 10 people, you should think twice, Dr. Michael Richardson, M.D., a primary care provider with One Medical, tells Bustle. “Safety will largely be influenced on the current trend in COVID-19 cases in your community,” Richardson adds. “If cases are on the rise, it may not be time to throw a party and instead follow local public health guidelines.” Even if confirmed cases are declining in your community, Richardson recommends asking your doctor whether they think it’s safe to start expanding your social circle.
The CDC gathering guidelines also stress the increased risk associated with gathering in areas where the level of community transmission is high. “The safest parties to attend are ones in which you know and are already in contact with everyone planning to attend,” Richardson says. This is especially important should anyone test positive for COVID-19 afterward, as it’ll make it easier to notify and trace who may have been exposed.
However, even if you’re well-acquainted with everyone in attendance, large gatherings like weddings are still being rescheduled per the recommendation of health experts. For now, a helpful party rule to abide by is “More than 10, think again.”
Where Is The Party Taking Place?
With the winter weather quickly approaching, you may be wondering whether indoor gatherings are safe. Richardson recommends avoiding parties held in enclosed, smaller spaces like bars, basements, and clubs. “The best gatherings are ones that are outdoors and allow people to spread out to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19,” Richardson says.
You can, of course, contract coronavirus outside, though the risk is lower. This is in great part because you are better able to social distance thus reducing the risk of infection. However, all gatherings, regardless of where they are located, come with some risk that increases depending on how crowded the gathering is.
How Do I Keep Myself And Other Party-Goers Safe?
Let’s say the gathering abides by the above guidelines: it’s fewer than 10 people, all of whom you’re well-acquainted with, and taking place in a space where it’s easy to social distance. You should still take some additional precautions if you want to decrease the risk of infection. Richardson says to first and foremost wear a mask in case you are unable to socially distance. “Masks are vital in stopping the spread of COVID-19,” Richardson notes, “and if you are wearing a mask, you are helping protect the health of all your friends and family at the party."
Though potluck-style meals are a holiday staple, this year we need to be extra cautious of things like shared food platters or any areas many people will come into contact with. “Anything that will result in several people touching the same surface will significantly increase your chances of catching COVID-19 and infecting the entire party,” says Richardson. Suggest a BYOB holiday party and consider having as many individually-packaged snacks as possible.
Also, for the love of sanitation, wash your hands.
Dr. Michael Richardson, M.D., One Medical primary care provider
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