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Is a Backyard Gathering Safe During COVID-19?

June 25, 2021 - Katie McCallum

We're all ready to start spending quality time with our friends and families again.

If you're fully vaccinated, you're more protected from COVID-19 — which provides some flexibility in regard to what you can feel safe doing again, including that backyard BBQ you host every year and had to skip last summer. However, you should continue to be cautious about gathering in large groups and take extra precaution if any attendees are unvaccinated — especially if he or she is high risk for severe disease.

If you're not yet vaccinated, continue to approach any social gatherings with caution, although an outdoor gathering is less risky than an indoor one. In addition, consider getting vaccinated as soon as possible.

If you're hosting a backyard gathering sometime soon, here's how to make it as safe as possible for everyone involved. Or, if you're attending one, make sure whoever is hosting the gathering is taking these precautions.

Know the risk of everyone involved in the gathering

For those who are fully vaccinated, a small outdoor gathering is likely low risk.

We're still learning how effective the COVID-19 vaccines are in people who are immunocompromised, so those with weakened immune systems may choose to continue to be more cautious. Your doctor can help you understand what's risky and what's not.

If there will be a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated guests, consider the precautions below. While breakthrough cases in vaccinated individuals are rare, they're still possible. In particular, take special caution to protect unvaccinated attendees who are high risk. And, keep in mind, while young children are generally less likely to get very sick from COVID-19, this doesn’t mean they’re immune.

If you're not yet vaccinated, continue to approach any social gathering with caution, especially if you are high risk for developing severe COVID-19. And know that you can easily spread COVID-19 even if you don't know you have it. Take extra precaution if you are unvaccinated and live or care for someone who is at higher risk.

Lastly, vaccinated or not, be sure everyone attending is comfortable with the setup of the gathering.

Keep the gathering small

Even if you're entire guest list isn't fully vaccinated, you can feel safe gathering as a small group in your backyard.

However, unvaccinated attendees will want to continue to take precautions such as:

  • Wearing a mask
  • Social distancing
  • Limiting time spent indoors
  • Avoid sharing food

Additionally, gathering in large group — even if you're outdoors — is still somewhat risky, especially for those who are unvaccinated.

Keep unvaccinated guests outside as much as possible

An important part of setting up your backyard gathering is having everything your unvaccinated guests may need readily available and accessible outdoors. This means giving your guests easy access to seating in the shade, separate coolers with ice for food and drinks, alcohol-based hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

Give your unvaccinated guests plenty of space to spread out and feel comfortable. If you're unvaccinated, remember that six feet is probably further than you think — about two arm's lengths. You can also set up social-distancing reminders on the ground, so that guests can easily identify what a safe distance apart looks like.

And keep in mind, while young children are generally less likely to get very sick from COVID-19, this doesn’t mean they’re immune.

If kids will be present, make sure there are plenty of outdoor activities so that they're not tempted to sneak inside to play video games. Remind kids not to share electronic devices or food, and you'll also want to avoid letting kids play contact sports. Kids can safely enjoy pool time if you have one in your backyard — as long as social distancing is still happening.

Avoid sharing food

While there's always a star of the show at a backyard gathering — some delicious BBQ, for instance — you'll otherwise want to avoid sharing other food items whenever possible. We're still learning about COVID-19 vaccines, including how effective they are against COVID-19 variants, so it's important to continue to take precautions where you can.

When it comes time to serving your BBQ or whatever it may be, consider serving straight off the heat — having just one person from each family fill a platter to serve his or her entire table.

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