The COVID-19 pandemic has been forcing Americans to change their way of life. For months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been recommending that Americans stay home whenever possible to slow the spread of the disease.
The only way to be completely safe from COVID-19 is to make sure that nobody in your household has any contact with people from other households. However, sticking to that guideline can be challenging, especially if you are a socially-oriented person or you have children in your household. While the COVID-19 pandemic is raging, can you visit close family and friends? How can you celebrate birthdays and holidays? These are some of the guidelines for safe socializing during COVID-19.
Visiting with Family and Friends
Month after month of being apart from the people you love is, to put it mildly, hard. Grandparents have missed milestones in their young grandchildren’s lives, and aunts and uncles have grown apart from nieces and nephews. During this time when stress levels are so high, friends have been unable to offer a hug or a shoulder to cry on. Is it time to get together again?
If you have been avoiding visiting other people since stay-at-home orders began, now may not be the time to resume visiting since COVID-19 rates are high and increasing in many parts of the country. You or others may have COVID-19 and be infectious without knowing it or having symptoms. Before visiting others, consider how you would feel if you infected them or their family, or if they infected you and you brought COVID-19 home to your family.
Hanging Out with a Friend
It may be possible to maintain social distance if you choose to visit one-on-one with a friend or family member outside your household, instead of with a group. It is still best to wear a mask and stay outdoors, if possible, to lower risk. These are some ideas for spending quality time together while keeping risk relatively low.
- Sitting 6 feet apart on a lawn or porch.
- Eating “together” while maintaining social distance and without sharing food or utensils.
- Hiking or walking in an area that is not crowded.
- Lifting weights, stretching, or doing yoga outdoors and 6 feet apart.
“Safer” Social Gatherings
As you weigh the risks of attending a social event or try to minimize your risk of infection if you have already decided to go, these are some considerations.
- Being outdoors is safer than being indoors.
- Maintain social distance by staying at least 6 feet away from people who are not in your household.
- Bringing your own plates, cups, and utensils means you do not have to touch those that other people have touched.
- Another option is to have one person wear gloves and a mask and serve the food and beverages before guests arrive. Then everyone can grab their own plate and glass.
- It is best to have plenty of sanitizer and disinfecting wipes available so people can sanitize their hands and surfaces before and after using the bathroom.
- The risk of getting more severe cases of COVID-19 increases with age, as well as for people with certain conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and a compromised immune system.
- Risk increases as the number of people in attendance increases.
Socially Distanced Celebrations
Some things cannot stop just because of a pandemic. Birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays keep happening, and you want to celebrate your loved ones! How can you show your love without putting yourself or others at risk?
A video chat hangout, such as on Zoom or another platform, offers all kinds of possibilities. You might:
- Invited old friends as a surprise for the birthday person.
- Plan an activity together, such as making sundaes or a craft, as long as everyone gets the materials in advance.
- Play games such as show-and-tell.
- Have a theme and have everyone order in food to match that theme.
Other ideas include decorating the house with banners and balloons, and using sidewalk chalk and lawn signs to let everyone know that the birthday person lives there! You can send a group e-card that everyone can sign and upload photos to. You can also send gifts and a delivered restaurant meal. If it is just a small group, you can gather a very few people on the lawn, staying 6 feet apart and wearing masks.
“Social Bubbles” or “Pods”
“Social bubbles” or “pods” are an idea that can help you expand your circle to people outside of your household.hat The concept is that everyone in your pod can be free to interact normally with each other instead of maintaining social distance the way you do with everyone who is not in the pod. While having more people to socialize with may be welcome for any household, the idea can be more practical for smaller households or people living alone.
What it entails is making a pact with everyone who will be part of the pod. You will all need to agree on the answers to such questions as:
- Who will be included in the pod?
- Which external people will pod members be able to have contact with?
- Will external encounters, including doctor appointments, haircuts, and family visits, need to be reported to the entire pod?
- May pod members go grocery shopping, or must all pod members receive only grocery deliveries?
Every pod member needs to assume that they will be exposed not only to every member of their pod, but to every person that each member is seeing, and to every person those people are seeing.
Children are among those hardest hit by the COVID-19-imposed isolation. Younger children may need to work on their socialization skills, and teenagers depend on their peers for support and validation. Some parents are turning to playdates as a way to allow their children to socialize, but is it safe?
The truth is, we do not know. Young children do not appear to get severe cases of COVID-19 very often, and they are often symptomless. However, two concerns remain. One is the rare, but devastating, occurrence of COVID-19-related multi sytemic inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). The other is that we do not yet know if apparently healthy children are generally carriers of COVID-19 and can be infectious.
At this time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend against playdates. If you do have one, taking standard precautions, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distance, is best.
Virtual Meetings for Complete Safety
There is a way to “meet” as many people as you want, to see their faces, to talk to them, and to stay safe. Virtual meetings by video chat offer unprecedented opportunities to meet with 1 other person or a small group, or to “attend” classes, congregation-wide religious services, and even international conferences. Platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts, and more offer free services and more complex features with paid plans.
Virtual meetings will never be the same as in-person meetings, with their hugs, handshakes, and ability to share food, but they are certainly worth considering. They are completely safe, which may be the top priority during these times, and they may have some advantages. They may encourage you to catch up with an old acquaintance you have not contacted for years, or give you the chance to meet like-minded people with similar hobbies and interests as you that live across the globe.