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Thoughts about Gatherings and COVID-19 (Back by Popular Demand)

Risk Considerations for Gatherings: Smaller groups and household contacts only are safer; little to no mingling is safer as well as gatherings that don't require de-masking for eating; short events are safers; virtual and outside events are safer than indoor events (look for proper ventilation); events with that safer that have provisions for safety and regulations are enforced

It’s November and the holiday season is fast approaching, yet COVID-19 remains around us. The safest option is to postpone visits during this risky time. If that’s not possible, then what should you consider to be sure to keep COVID-19 off the guest list?

The risk stratifying table below might help with attending and/or planning an event. It is by no means all-inclusive and as in real life, many factors will fall into gray zones. Use it as a guide to determine how many of your “exposure points” you will be spending and if you are comfortable with the risk.

Questions to Ask as a Guest:

  • Will everyone be asked to wear a face covering? Will distancing reminders be clearly marked?
  • Will masks and sanitizer be readily available? Will attendance be limited?
  • Will anyone from outside the area be attending? Will I be comfortable with my risk in this situation?

Politely decline the invitation if you are ill, have been exposed to someone ill or have recently traveled (long flight, returned from a “hot spot”, international travel or multi-state travel).

Portrait of multigeneration family outdoors on garden barbecue, grilling and talking.

Guidance for Hosting:

  • Open windows and doors or stay outdoors (don’t forget insect and climate control).
  • Clean and disinfect your venue before and after (pay special attention to common touch areas like light switches, doorknobs, faucets, flushers, cabinet pulls, refrigerator and garbage bin handles).
  • Provide adequate space for appropriate distancing (have a seating chart). Limit your guest list.
  • Have masks, sanitizer and disinfectant wipes readily available (at the entryway and strategically placed throughout the venue).
  • Organize entertainment that allows for distancing (charades, distanced dancing, Bingo?).
  • Considerations if a meal is planned (disposable place settings, including drink and flatware, seat households together, adequate spacing between tables, individual servings that are plated or served by a single (solitary, not unmarried!) masked attendant with clean hands. Consider a bring-your-own beach party (food and drink, place settings, chairs, beach blanket) Avoid finger foods or passing trays of hors d’oeuvres, serve individually plated cupcakes or key lime tarts for dessert.
  • Graciously understand and expect some to decline the invitation.

Special Considerations:

  • Bathrooms: Clear the air (use the exhaust fan), Cover (close the lid prior to flushing), Wash (your hands), Wipe (grab a disinfectant wipe to open the door and then wipe the outside knob too).
  • Post the “rules” on a sign on the inside door of the bathroom. Have disinfectant wipes and soap supply replenished regularly. Have a foot pedal operated garbage can outside the door for the used disinfectant wipes.
  • Verbalization: Louder, stronger, more forceful vocalization allows a greater amount of respiratory droplets of all sizes to be propelled into the environment and travel farther distances. Shouting, laughing, yawning, sighing, singing, choking, coughing and sneezing as well as talking and breathing are all thought to aerosolize viral particles.
  • My pet peeve is the statement, “Face coverings are recommended when social distancing is not possible.” Studies have shown that shouting, coughing or laughing without a mask allows aerosolization of droplets 8-12 feet from the source. So, if you are not covering your face, stay at least 12 feet away from others.
  • It is not one or the other; masking, distancing and handwashing together will help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Remember, no activity is zero risk. Our own choices impact others around us; make wise ones. It is important to take everyday precautions to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Stay home if you are sick. Do not participate in holiday activities if you are sick. We can do this safely with thought and innovation. Most importantly, be kind and respect your neighbor!

About the Author

Lauren M. Hana, M.D.

Medical Director
Lauren Hana, M.D.

Dr. Hana serves as the Clinic’s Medical Director, having joined the Clinic in July 2016 as a full-time physician. A graduate of the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Dr. Hana completed her residency at Northwestern University, Evanston and Glenbrook Hospitals. She is board certified in internal medicine and specializes in the treatment of chronic […]

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