COVID-19 (coronavirus) and celebrations: Tips for gathering safely
Find out how to limit your risk of infection with the COVID-19 virus and protect others when hosting or attending an in-person gathering.By Mayo Clinic Staff
As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues, so do causes for celebration, such as special occasions. But how can you celebrate safely? Find out how to minimize the risks involved in hosting or attending an event.
If you are fully vaccinated, you can safely celebrate as you would have before the pandemic. You are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after you get a second dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or 2 weeks after you get a single dose of the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.
If you haven’t had a COVID-19 vaccine, consider that celebrating virtually, with others who are fully vaccinated or with members of your own household who are consistently following safety measures poses the lowest risk.
If you are organizing or considering attending a gathering, make sure you check any state or local health and safety laws, rules, and regulations that might apply. It's also important to consider the unique risks posed by each in-person event. To determine the level of risk involved for unvaccinated people, ask these questions:
- What are the current levels of COVID-19? Check the number and rate of COVID-19 cases in your community, in the community where the event is being held and in the community where guests are coming from. The greater the numbers and rates, the greater the risk of infection and spread among unvaccinated guests.
- Where is the event being held? Outdoor gatherings are safest for those who are unvaccinated. If unvaccinated guests will be attending the event and weather permits, celebrate in your backyard or in a park. For indoor gatherings with unvaccinated guests, opening windows and doors can ensure proper ventilation and help lower the risk. Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation pose the greatest risk to those who are unvaccinated.
- How many people will attend? If unvaccinated guests will be attending the event, consider keeping the guest list small and make sure there is enough room to enable guests to stay at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart.
If you plan to host or attend an event, have a conversation ahead of time with those involved to set expectations for how you’ll celebrate together.
In-person events: Who should avoid them?
Don't host or attend an in-person event if you or anyone in your household:
- Has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and hasn't met the criteria for when it's safe to be around others
- Has symptoms of COVID-19
- Is waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test
- May have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days and hasn’t been fully vaccinated
- Is at increased risk of severe illness with COVID-19 and hasn’t been fully vaccinated
If you or someone you live with or work with is at increased risk of severe illness with COVID-19 and you’re not fully vaccinated, avoid in-person events with people outside of your household.
If you or your loved ones aren't able to attend an in-person gathering, you can still celebrate together virtually. Consider setting up a video during your meal or other activities so that you can still see each other and spend time together. Or watch virtual celebrations.
Safety tips for hosts and guests at in-person gatherings with unvaccinated people
If unvaccinated people will be in attendance, hosts of in-person celebrations and guests can take several steps to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Before the celebration
The host can provide or guests can bring supplies to the event to promote safety, such as extra masks, hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and tissues.
During the celebration
During the event, it's important for those who are unvaccinated to continue following safety measures.
- Keep a safe distance. At the event, avoid close contact with others outside of your household, including gathering around one table. If you are the host, you might provide multiple tables or seating areas so that people from different households can be at least 6 feet (2 meters) apart. Consider assigned seating. Also, avoid being in busy eating areas and using the restroom at high-traffic times. Instead of hugging or even bumping elbows, wave or verbally greet others. If you're planning activities for adults or kids, consider options that allow for social distancing, such as playing Frisbee. Avoid indoor areas that have poor air flow.
- Wear a mask. Keep masks on when you are around people, except when eating or drinking. Avoid singing, chanting or shouting, especially when not wearing a mask and within 6 feet (2 meters) of others.
- Encourage proper hygiene. Make sure everyone washes hands or uses hand sanitizer before and after preparing, serving and eating food. If you are hosting a gathering, provide plenty of soap and single-use towels or paper towels in the kitchen and bathroom.
Promote safety around food and drinks. Limit people going in and out of areas where food is being prepared. Encourage guests to bring food and drinks for themselves and members of their households only.
If that's not possible, avoid self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets or drink stations. Consider having one person serve all of the food and sharable items, such as salad dressing or condiments. Or provide single servings of food and condiments. Wear a mask if you're preparing or serving food to people outside of your household. You might consider having guests use disposable plates, utensils and cups. Wash and disinfect any reusable items, such as cloth napkins and tablecloths, after the event.
- Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces. Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and shared items between uses. Provide or use touchless garbage cans, if available. Wear gloves when disposing of trash.
After the celebration
After the event, if you may have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus or have COVID-19 symptoms and haven’t been fully vaccinated, get tested for COVID-19. While you are waiting for the results of a COVID-19 test, stay at home and follow safety measures. Follow guidelines and stay at home for 10 days if you test positive. If you test negative, you need to stay home for 7 days.
If you are fully vaccinated and were exposed to the COVID-19 virus at the event, you don’t need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms of COVID-19.
If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 or you test positive for COVID-19, immediately contact the host and other guests who attended the event. This can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 by ensuring that others get tested or stay home and away from others, if needed.
Celebrations may involve extra planning during the pandemic. But taking safety precautions can allow you and your family and friends to celebrate and minimize the risk of becoming infected with or spreading the COVID-19 virus.
May 18, 2021
See more In-depth
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- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): Small public gatherings. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/coronavirus-disease-covid-19-small-public-gatherings. Accessed Oct. 23, 2020.
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