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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other health experts cite small household and private gatherings as opportunities to spread COVID-19. Public health officials are particularly concerned about family and friend gatherings combined with quarantine fatigue. Quarantine fatigue refers to a diminishing motivation to do or follow quarantine guidelines, including masking and social distancing.

Connecting with People

Because of the loneliness and distress caused by the pandemic, many individuals have decided to reconnect with family, friends, and colleagues. If you are one of those planning on having a face-to-face gathering, be sure to follow the local, state, and national guidelines. Officials in some states have also placed size restrictions on gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Below are some strategies to consider doing before, during, and after attending or hosting a gathering. Together with these strategies, remember to always wear a mask, stay at least six feet apart, and to wash your hands often.

Before a Gathering

While the CDC offers guidelines, there are additional steps individuals can take to decrease the risk of spreading the virus.

  • Check infection rates. Check the infection rates in your area and where guests may be coming before hosting or attending a gathering. Use this information to decide if it will be safe to have or to attend a gathering. Remember to also check your local, county, or state regulations for any travel restrictions.
  • Limit the number of guests. Keep in mind that the larger the group size, the greater the risk of spreading the virus. Also, try to limit the number of households. Make and keep a list of all guests who attend.
  • Get tested beforehand. While not a requirement, hosts could ask attending guests to get tested before the gathering. Be sure to allow enough time for test results to come back. Individuals who test positive, or who have been around someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days, should be advised not to attend. Don’t forget, you should also get tested. After getting a negative result, you and your guests should avoid being around individuals outside your household as much as possible. Between a negative test result and the gathering, hosts may encourage attending individuals to avoid nail and hair appointments, religious gatherings, shopping, traveling, or eating out. This is not a required practice but may be beneficial depending on the size of your gathering.
  • Decide on the location and the amount of time for a gathering. Consider hosting the gathering outside to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Due to the weather, you may be unable to have it outside, so make sure the inside space is well ventilated. The CDC recommends opening windows and doors to help with the circulation of air if weather permits. Homeowners can set heating or cooling systems on a continuous circulation cycle to increase ventilation. Also, make sure the space is large enough to allow each family group or household to remain six feet from other groupings. Don’t forget that the longer the time of the gathering, the greater the risk.

During a Gathering

  • Wear a mask. The CDC recommends wearing masks for indoor gatherings and in situations where 6-foot spacing is difficult—even outdoors. Everyone (except for children under two years) should wear a mask at all times. Except when eating or drinking, the mask should cover both the mouth and nose. As host, ask guests to come wearing a mask. However, have extra masks available for those individuals who forgot their masks. To be sure your guests’ masks meet the CDC’s guidelines, you may want to send them copies of the guidelines in advance.
  • Practice social distancing. Keep a distance of six feet or more between you and your guests. Although you may have a strong desire to give family members and friends a hug, handshake, or fist-bump, refrain from doing so. As host, seat members of the same household together, but make sure that each household is at least six feet apart. Encourage guests to limit their movement between other households or groups.

Extra Precautions

  • Use a server. Limit the number of people moving in and around the area where food is being prepared. Select one person to serve the food. Be sure the server thoroughly washes his hands and keeps his mask over his mouth and nose at all times. Don’t allow guests to handle serving utensils or other shared items (i.e. salad dressing, condiments, beverage containers, etc.). Use disposable plates, cups, and cutlery. When discarding items, be sure to use a touchless trash can.
  • Encourage guests to wash their hands often. Remember to remind guests to wash their hands with soap and water before eating. If possible, place a decorative note beside the soap dispenser requesting guests to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to have paper towels available for guests to dry their hands. Also, have available in various locations hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Place disinfectant wipes in the bathrooms. When hosting gatherings, hosts could take extra steps to prevent spread of the virus by providing disinfectant wipes in restrooms. In all bathrooms, place disinfecting wipes together with a sign asking guests to wipe the toilet seat before and after use, the sink area after use, and the doorknob when leaving the room. Be sure to also place a hands-free trash bin outside of the bathroom. This will allow for the disposal of wipes.
  • Discourage singing or yelling. Although gatherings are a time for joyous and sometimes loud conversations, activities, and lots of singing, encourage your guests not to sing or shout. If activities are planned, be sure to have activities that will promote social distancing and possibly being outside.

After a Gathering

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces. This includes surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, buttons on the stereo system, tables, hard-surface chairs, toilets, sink handles, countertops, railings, and handles on kitchen appliances and cabinets.
  • Get tested again. While not required, if attendees of a gathering would like to take precautions, they could get tested again after attending the gathering. Hosts may ask each guest to get tested after returning home and to isolate as much as possible. Be sure to ask them to check their local regulations or restrictions regarding how long they should isolate after attending a gathering. The CDC recommends only seven days if you have a negative test result and no symptoms. For those not getting tested, they should isolate themselves for ten days if no symptoms. Don’t forget, you should also get tested and distance yourself from others for the specified period of time corresponding with your test status.

In conclusion, reconnecting with family and friends through gatherings is a way to reduce quarantine fatigue. However, it can also be a significant spreader of COVID-19. While gatherings may benefit people mentally, it is most important that you implement strategies that will help prevent the spread of COVID-19. By encouraging and following these strategies, you are not only doing your part to protect your loved ones, but you are also protecting others.

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