Safer Gatherings

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This time of year, families and friends will be making choices about whether or not to gather for celebrations, game days, or other seasonal events.

Gathering in groups - even with people we know - may spread COVID-19. The more people we interact with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the risk of becoming infected.

The safest action, especially if you’re in a high-risk category, is to avoid gatherings and find different ways to celebrate. On Sunday, November 15 Governor Jay Inslee announced tighter COVID-19 restrictions, including stricter guidance on in-home gatherings. The new guidance is included below.

The Washington DOH and the CDC have plenty of ideas for how to have a safe holiday season, even if that means gathering virtually.

Celebrations During COVID

This year, our game days, family gatherings and holidays will be a little different. And that’s hard. But there are lots of ways to be a little more together, even when we’re apart. Click here for more.

If You Gather: A Safety Checklist

If you decide to gather, there’s always a risk of spreading COVID-19 infection. Help lessen this risk through pre-planning, conversations and some trade-offs.

On Sunday, November 15, Governor Jay Inslee instituted new restrictions on social gatherings, including:

  • Indoor gatherings with people outside the household will be prohibited unless participants:
    • Quarantine for fourteen days (14) prior to the social gathering; or
    • Quarantine for the seven (7) days prior to the gathering, and receive a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 48-hours prior to the gathering.
  • Outdoor gatherings are limited to no more than five people.

Before you gather

  • Have “the conversation.” Get really clear with friends and family about how you will make safety a priority when spending time together. Set some ground rules that will help everyone know what to expect. View a sample conversation guide.
  • Review your guest list. Are there people who may be in a high risk category or children? Think about special needs and precautions as part of your planning.
  • Check your space and gather outside if possible. Is there room to spread out, at least 6 feet (2m) from people you don’t live with? If no, is there an outdoor space, like a park where you could meet? If outside, will there be restrooms people can use? If inside, be sure your space is well ventilated by opening windows. Remind guests to wear warm clothes!
  • Right-size your guest list. Limit the number of guests based on the number allowed in your county per the Safe Start Plan, and the outdoor or indoor space available that allows you to be 6-feet apart.
  • Do a health check. Ask if anyone has had symptoms such as cough, fever or shortness of breath, in the last 2 weeks. Ask guests to check their temperature before arriving. Anyone with a fever—or who has had other symptoms, or knows they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last two weeks—should stay home.
  • Consider the children. Kids have trouble playing 6 feet apart, so wearing masks and frequent hand-washing may be the safest plan of action. Remember: kids under 2 should never wear masks!
  • Make a food plan. Talk through details like how food will be shared. The safest option is to have everyone bring their own food. If sharing, separate food ahead of time into individual servings and forgo communal bowls and utensils. Find more tips about food prep in the FAQs.
  • Clean, clean, clean. If you’re hosting, frequently disinfect surfaces that people may encounter during their visit.
  • Consider pre-event quarantine. Can all participants (including yourself) self-quarantine for 14 days before the gathering?
  • Get tested. If you have been around many other people or do not regularly wear a mask, get a COVID-19 test to make sure you're negative. Take into account that it can take a few days to receive test results. If you test negative, you still need to wear a mask and keep your distance from others when you socialize.

While you gather

  • Wash early and often. Ask adults and kids to wash hands on arrival, before and after eating, and before they leave with soap for at least 20 seconds. If there is no access to a sink, provide hand sanitizer.
  • Gather outdoors if at all possible. If indoors, open windows to increase ventilation.
  • Mask up. Wear a face covering at all times when not eating. Consider having extra masks on hand if people forget.
  • Separate servings. Avoid communal food and sharing utensils, even with babies and young children. Don’t share drinks.
    • Bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups, and utensils.
    • Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates, and utensils.
  • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
  • Avoid close contact. Smiles and air hugs only, and prepare kids ahead of time to do the same.

After you gather

  • Wash hands (again).Wash for 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • Sanitize. Clean all surfaces that may have been touched by guests such as tabletops, counters, doorknobs and bathroom fixtures, with soap and water first, and then a disinfecting agent.
  • Watch for symptoms. Alert others at the gathering if there’s a positive test among anyone in attendance. Learn more about what to do if you’ve been exposed.

Travel Safely

On Friday, November 13, Governor Jay Inslee issued a travel advisory for Washingtonians, recommending a 14-day quarantine for interstate and international travel and asks residents to stay close to home.

  • Stay home if at all possible.
  • Persons arriving in Washington from other states or countries, including returning Washington residents, should practice self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival.
    • These persons should limit their interactions to their immediate household.
    • This recommendation does not apply to individuals who cross state or country borders for essential travel.

Host a Virtual Gathering

  • Host a virtual Thanksgiving meal with friends and family who don’t live with you.
  • Schedule a time to share a meal together virtually.
  • Have people share recipes and show their turkey, dressing, or other dishes they prepared.
  • Watch television and play games with people in your household.
  • Watch Thanksgiving Day parades, sports, and movies at home.
  • Find a fun game to play.
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