The CDC’s COVID-19 Data Tracker shows there’s been an increase in cases since the holiday season began. It’s a time when loved ones want to gather. It’s a time when people finally get enough days off work to potentially fly somewhere to see friends and family, which means more humans crammed into airports and airplanes. It’s also a time when temperatures drop, so those distanced outdoor kickbacks that were so popular during the summer might not be feasible, depending on where you live.
Fortunately, a survey conducted by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center found that most Americans do still plan on taking COVID-19 safety precautions during the holidays. Maybe that data represents your feelings, but you’re still eager to get loved ones together. People crave to gather right now to reflect on the year, exchange gifts, enjoy great food and have some much-needed relaxation after a particularly stressful year. If you plan on hosting a holiday party, here are COVID-19 safety precautions to take.
Ask For Vaccine Cards Or Tests
Though it can be uncomfortable, consider requiring guests to either provide proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test in order to attend your party. You aren’t forcing a vaccination onto guests in this way, but you are doing your part to keep everyone safe. Many guests might not even feel comfortable attending a party unless they know all guests are vaccinated or recently tested negative. The important thing is to communicate this far in advance, to give everyone the time to either arrange for a test or decide how to RSVP depending on their vaccine status.
Separate Tables By Household
In order to prevent the possible spread of COVID-19 between households, honor the concept of the “bubble” that was popular at the start of the pandemic. You can organize tables by household. Get your RVSPs, and then set up tables that are spread apart and have the right amount of seating for each household that is attending. You can also set up food to be buffet style, and have each household take turns getting up to serve themselves. This way, everyone can talk from their separate tables, without spreading germs between households. Do make sure to put ample space between tables.
Get Outdoor Heaters
If the weather isn’t perfect for an outdoor gathering but it’s not brutal either, consider investing in some outdoor heaters. These can give you the option to host an outdoor gathering while keeping guests warm. You can also purchase some wool blankets and quilts to offer guests when sitting outdoors. Sitting outdoors can greatly reduce the chances that COVID-19 spreads, should someone at your party be sick. The Journal of Infectious Diseases reports that a very small percentage of community transmission of the virus happens in outdoor settings. So if you can find a way to keep everyone comfortable outdoors, it might be the safest way to host your party.
Implement Mask Rules
Ask your guests to wear a mask when they will be up and moving about. If you are separating tables by household, then it’s just important that guests put on their mask when getting up to make themselves a plate of food or use the bathroom. At these times, they might get too close to another guest and risk transmission. You can buy a pack of fresh, holiday-themed masks and put one on every table to make it easy for guests to follow the rule. While it can be awkward to ask guests to follow these rules, if you notify them of this protocol in advance of the party, there shouldn’t be anyone present who isn’t willing to abide.
Zoom In Vulnerable Guests
While some people might never want to look at another Zoom screen again, it could be an important tool right now as cases rise. Immunocompromised and other vulnerable loved ones such as elderly relatives or those unable to get the vaccine for medical reasons should sit out the in-person event. Instead, you can set up a laptop at what would have been their seat and have them Zoom in.
Beware Of The Booze Effect
Remember that even guests with the best intentions can accidentally break the rules once they’ve had a few drinks. It might be a good idea to limit alcohol access at your party. Rather than having an open bar where people can take what they want, whenever they want, maybe hire a bartender who will pour appropriately measured beverages and open beer and wine bottles for guests. The extra step of having to involve a third party to get a beverage can often cause people to drink a bit less.
Send A Courtesy Reminder
In the few days leading up to the party, send a courtesy reminder to all who have RSVP’d “yes” about the rules so there are no surprises. This will also be a good time to ask that if anybody is feeling any symptoms or has recently been exposed to someone who was sick, that they politely sit your party out. Sometimes, guests only ask themselves if they feel up to going but don’t ask themselves whether or not it’s fair to others that they’re there with a slight cough. Your email can be a reminder about social responsibility.