6 Ways To Have A Safe, Socially Distanced BBQ Or Summer Party During Coronavirus

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How To Have A Safe BBQ, Cookout Or Summer Party During Coronavirus
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Summer barbecues and cookouts are some of the best parts of the warm weather and vacation time. But even as the country begins to slowly reopen from shelter-in-place lockdown, everything is looking very different.

What was once a classic backyard social activity is now feeling ulikely due to social distancing considerations.

Can we, at a time where we can't have parties or group get-togethers, even consider throwing any sort of house party?

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Well, the short answer is yes. But there are a few conditions to keep in mind, including having a small guest list, enough outdoor space, and being serious about safety and sanitation.

It goes without saying, but bears repeating, that social distancing is still the name of the game. "I would encourage and actively enforce social distancing at the BBQ," says Dr. Giuseppe Aragona, general practitioner and family doctor at Prescription Doctor M.D.

Easier said than done, right? What do you do about friends and relatives who are high risk? Can they still come? Can you still feed everyone?

Here's how to have a safe BBQ during coronavirus, according to experts.

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1. Keep the guest list small.

Vandana A. Patel, M.D., F.C.C.P., clinical advisor for medicine and health essentials startup Cabinet, thinks it’s best to invite family and friends who you know well, and who have been healthy without any sickness for the past 14 days. “Trust is important so consider that when making your guest list,” Dr. Patel says.

However, making your guest list may mean not inviting people with medical issues.

Dr. Patel adds, “Avoid elderly, pregnant persons, and those with high-risk conditions such as chronic lung disease, diabetes, liver and kidney problems, and those on treatment for cancer.” Also be cautious with health care workers or individuals who have been exposed to COVID-19, even if they've tested negative.

Keep in mind that this is literally a life or death matter (yes, it’s that serious) to consider. Hosting guests means being aware of the unique situation of each of your guests.

“Are there people who are considered at higher risk of more severe complications from COVID-19, such as people who are elderly or have moderate to severe asthma?” questions Dr. Natasha Bhuyan of One Medical. These are essential questions to ask yourself before inviting people over.

Also, the larger the crowd, the harder it will be to maintain a safe distance between people. That's just basic math.

“If you have a small home, I would suggest inviting a maximum of 7-10 people. And this number can rise depending on how large the space in your backyard is,” Dr. Aragona adds.

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2. Stay outdoors.

Consider hosting your barbecue in an outdoor location, like a backyard or patio, rather than a closed indoor space.

“Although COVID-19 is transmitted via droplets from one person to another, open air locations slightly minimize the risk. Remember that droplets can transfer with even laughing or talking,” Dr. Bhuyan informs.

If you can have it at a house with the largest garden, this will help with the space, too. As Dr. Aragona suggests, “You can share and make food together, but I would suggest you have designated cooks and plates, so that there is no issue with cross-contamination.”

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3. Stay sanitary and disinfect all areas.

Offer each guest hand sanitizer upon entry into your home, and don't be afraid to encourage them to use it. It may even be helpful to set up a few hand-washing stations.

“Encourage regular hand hygiene by modeling it yourself, and have plenty of soap and water for guests,” recommends Dr. Bhuyan. 

Also be sure to regularly disinfect commonly used surfaces, such as door knobs, counters, and refrigerator handles. Do so before everyone arrives, after they leave, and throughout the event.

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4. Wear a mask, and pass them out.

Masks are still considered a key component of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Even though many restrictions have been lifted to encourage economic growth, it's important to be aware that there's more work to do.

Ensure that your guests not only practice social distancing, but wear their masks for the entirety of the party. Certainly, if your guests are eating or drinking, they will need to remove their masks. During these times, it’s even more important to practice physical social distancing and stay vigilant.

It's also a good idea to have additional face masks on hand. Single use, disposable masks are usually available in stores, or you can even order them online. “Be sure to have extra masks on hand for your guests,” suggests Dr. Bhuyan. 

5. Avoid buffet style for food.

This is because buffet style set-ups include serving utensils that are touched multiple times by everyone. Simply, that;s a breeding ground for germs being passed around.

“Prepare individual dishes that can be served as single portions — pizza, individual pre-packaged salads, single serving cups of appetizers, desserts. Get creative with the menu,” Dr. Patel advises.

Single serving tapas, sandwiches and subs all would work well. Also keep drinks to individual cans and bottles if you can, and use pre-packed disposable plates and silverware.

6. Be mindful of seating.

Seating must be arranged keeping distance in mind, of course.

Everyone wants to get together — that's the point. But they can't be too close together. We're still in a pandemic, and even though we want to see our closest friends and loved ones, we need to be wary of physical closeness.

“Arrange any seating to reflect physical distancing, keeping everyone 6 feet away from each other,” Bhuyan says.

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Aly Walansky is a NY-based lifestyles writer who focuses on health, wellness, and relationships. Her work appears in dozens of digital and print publications regularly. Visit her on Twitter or email her.

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