Covid 19 safety during the 4th of July weekendJune 29, 2020 4:11 pm
Traditionally, the fourth of July weekend is a time for Americans to come together and celebrate our nation’s independence and the freedoms this country affords. It’s a time to gather with neighbors, friends and family for hot barbeques, cold drinks and dazzling fireworks. Yet given what we’ve experienced in the first 6 months of 2020, this Independence Day celebration seems more complicated. And it is. After all, how are we to come together and celebrate with restrictions on who we see and how, and with the specter of the coronavirus looming above us at all times?
The hard truth is, yes, this year’s celebrations will have to be different than usual in order to keep everyone as safe as possible and continue the effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. Keeping safe during the 4th of July weekend will require the same precautions you’ve been taking daily during any other weekend and then some, as public areas will be more crowded, and the revelry may distract people from the tough reality at hand. If you are planning on having a party, attending one, or even just getting together with a small group this weekend, consider the following:
Is it safe to get together with friends and family?
Like at any other time during the pandemic, your risk of contracting or spreading the new coronavirus is lower when you stay home and do not come into contacts with others. With that as a baseline, the more people you interact within public or at a gathering, and the longer you spend doing so, the higher your risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 or spreading the virus. In communities with higher transmission and more reported cases there is a higher risk of COVID-19 spreading through a party given that there is a higher percentage chance that someone present has already been exposed to the virus.
How many people can I have?
The fewer people you invite, or the fewer people you are around, the lower the risk of transmission. As a rule of thumb, only invite as many people as space allows with proper social distancing (6 feet per person.) Err on the low side!
Does being outside vs. inside make a difference?
Realizing that for many, Independence Day weekend is not going to be a time of isolation, look at your range of options in the following way. Your safest bet will be to connect with friends and family virtually. If you do not physically interact with anyone new, it’s highly unlikely you will contract the virus. The next safest option is an outdoor gathering with a limited amount of people, where it is easy to remain at least 6 feet apart and proper measures are taken to reduce person-to-person contact. Ideally, all guests will wear masks, come from the same community or general area and not share any items. The more people who attend, the looser the rules, and the less space there is to spread out, the higher the risk of infection! Indoor gatherings of people from different households over a prolonged period of time should continue to be avoided! It’s best to approach this weekend as you have in the months prior, with extreme caution and explicit hygiene practices.
Should I express my expectations and concerns to guests ahead of time?
Gatherings should be kept outside where the virus is less likely to spread and where guests have space to remain at least six feet apart. Speak with all invited parties beforehand, and limit invitations to those who will respect and follow your guidelines. In general, this is a good year to be selective with the guest list. Opt for close friends whom you trust in an effort to keep party sizes to a minimum.
Can I serve food and beverages?
A July 4th gathering just wouldn’t be right without food, but it’s imperative that preventative measures are taken to prevent the potential spread of the virus. Speak to guests prior to the party and designate one person to handle each task—as in one person to barbeque, one person to set up appetizers, sides and salads, etc—to minimize the communal handling of items. If guests are bringing items for the party, ask that they remain covered until your designated person is ready to serve them. All designated servers should wear masks and gloves whenever around or handling food!
Skip out on chips, dips and other items this year that require communal dipping/picking or that can create high-volume touch points. The overall goal is to cut down on areas and surfaces being touched frequently, and prevent gatherings around food or drinks. For instance, consider serving family style portions per table (with guests from each household seated together!), or even individual pre-packaged portions. If you are barbequing, put a plate of fixings on each table. Such steps will eliminate the need for a central “food area” around which many people will congregate. Also, set a specific time for lunch or dinner, to further limit the amount of time people are touching items and their mouths, and not wearing masks.
Similarly, avoid kegs, pitchers and other single source containers. Open coolers or tubs with ice and beverages are best so that people do not have to touch a lid.
Should I be wearing a mask?
Yes, you should wear a mask whenever in public or getting together with others. This goes for all of your guests as well. To eliminate stress and any tension that might arise the day of, explain the rules of your party and ask guests if they are willing and comfortable to abide by them.
Does it matter how long the party is?
The longer the exposure to others outside of your household, the greater the risk of infection becomes. With this in mind, it’s wise to set an end time for your party, perhaps picking one a bit earlier than you normally would to remain on the safer side of things.
Is it safe to go to the beach?
You can bet that New Jersey beaches will be very crowded during the holiday weekend, as will the boardwalks and surrounding blocks. Generally speaking, it is best to avoid these high traffic areas. However, the same rules apply at the beach as they do in your backyard or anywhere else. If you are visiting the beach, avoid touching railings and other high-touch surfaces, wear a mask, and remain 6 feet from those who you do not live with.
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This post was written by CJ Urgent Care of NJ