Spring is finally here. It’s traditionally a season of travel, graduations, weddings and other family functions. And this year, spring arrived with hope for a return to more normalcy, thanks to the COVID-19 vaccines. Yet, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cautions that it’s still too soon to let down your guard.
Because traveling and large gatherings increase the chance of both getting and spreading COVID-19, the CDC recommends staying home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. If you choose to travel or gather with others, however, the CDC offers some tips to minimize your risks.
See what safety precautions you should take before, during and after traveling.
If you plan to attend or host a get-together, here are some suggestions from the CDC:
Attending Events or Gatherings
If you’re planning to attend an event or gathering, check with the organizer or event venue for updated information about COVID-19 safety guidelines and if they have steps in place to prevent the spread of the virus. Also, the CDC recommends that you:
- Choose outdoor activities over indoor activities if possible, and stay within your local area as much as possible.
- Bring supplies to help you and others stay healthy — for example, masks (bring extra), hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and drinking water.
- Stay home if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 (symptoms of COVID-19), if you are waiting for COVID-19 test results, may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 or you are not feeling well.
- And, of course, remember to wear a mask and practice physical distancing. Be particularly mindful in areas where it may be more difficult to maintain 6 feet of space between you and others, such as check-in areas and entrances and exits. You could also arrive at the event early to avoid crowding and congested areas. Also, avoid using restroom facilities or concession areas at high traffic times, such as intermission, half-time or immediately at the end of the event.
- Remember to limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items. For example, use touchless garbage cans and cashless payment options when possible. Avoid self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars, and condiment or drink stations. Use grab-and-go meal options, if available. Use disposable food service items, including utensils and dishes, if available.
- Don’t forget to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer immediately before eating food or after touching any common surfaces like hand railings, payment kiosks, door handles or toilets.
How to Host a Get-Together
If you’re the one hosting a graduation party, cook-out or other gathering, remind guests to stay home if they’re sick, if they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 in the past 14 days or are showing COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone who has had close contact with a person who has COVID-19 should also stay home and monitor their health. The CDC says invited guests who live with those at higher risk should also consider the potential risk to their loved ones.
Once guests arrive, encourage social distancing in the following ways:
- Host your gathering outdoors, if possible. If this is not feasible, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated — for example, open a window or patio door.
- Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing. People from the same household can be in groups together and don’t need to be 6 feet apart — just 6 feet away from other families.
- If planning activities for adults or kids, consider those where social distancing can be maintained, like sidewalk chalk art or frisbee.
- When guests arrive, minimize gestures that promote close contact. For example, don’t shake hands or give hugs — do elbow bumps or wave and verbally greet your guests.
- And consider keeping a list of guests who attended for potential future contact tracing needs.
Take Steps to Ensure Guests Wear Masks and Clean Their Hands Often
- Consider providing masks for guests or asking them to bring their own.
- Make sure there is adequate soap or hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol available in clearly marked hand washing areas and restrooms and encourage guests not to form a line at the restroom door.
- Remind guests to wash their hands before serving or eating food.
- Provide single-use hand towels or paper towels for drying hands so guests don’t share a towel.
Limit the Number of People Handling or Serving Food
- Encourage guests to bring their own food and drinks.
- Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen or around the grill, if possible.
- If serving any food, consider identifying one person to serve all food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
- Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items, like salad dressings, food containers and condiments, so that multiple people aren’t handling the items.
Limit Contact with Commonly Touched Surfaces or Shared Items
- Use touchless garbage cans or pails.
- Use gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash. Wash hands after removing gloves.
- Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use when feasible.
- If you choose to use any shared items that are reusable (like seating covers, tablecloths or linen napkins), wash, clean and sanitize them after the event.
Although hope for normalcy is on the horizon, the U.S. is far from achieving herd immunity — which occurs when about 85% of people are protected against COVID-19, either through vaccination or previous infection — so it’s as important as ever to stay focused on safety. Please, do your part by continuing to protect yourself — and others.
BJC HealthCare is working hard to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to those who are eligible, according to federal and state guidelines. You can now directly schedule your COVID-19 vaccine, either Pfizer or Moderna, at bjc.org/coronavirus. By getting vaccinated, you’re taking care of your health as well as your family, friends and community. We strongly encourage the vaccine for anybody who is eligible to receive it, and we recommend that you accept the first opportunity provided to receive a vaccine.