Using lessons learned from Memorial Day and Independence Day where social gatherings led to the spread of COVID-19, health officials are offering tips to the public on how to stay safe over Labor Day weekend.
Following celebratory events, contact tracing has shown that many people likely became sick with COVID-19 after attending a party or picnic with friends and family. A common theme found by contact tracers was that people attended these gatherings despite showing symptoms of COVID-19, such as coughing. There were also people who attended gatherings who didn’t know they had COVID-19 because they didn’t have any symptoms, but who later tested positive and infected others at the gathering.
“We all miss spending time with friends and family,” said Dr. Lisa B. Hernandez, the city of Berkeley health officer. “But containing COVID-19 is a collective effort. The choices we make as individuals impact our whole community. We all need to do our part – that includes wearing face coverings, physical distancing, and limiting in-person socializing.”
Health officials discourage social gatherings with people who don’t live in your home because these get-togethers, even small ones, increase the risk of spreading COVID-19. Health officials offer the following tips for a safer celebration:
- Hang out with members of your household: Explore a new trail, picnic at a beautiful park, enjoy the beach early in the day.
- Outdoors is much safer than indoors: The risk of transmitting COVID-19 is higher indoors, especially in confined spaces where people may not be wearing face coverings or keeping their distance from others. At social gatherings, avoid being inside as much as possible, which includes being in the kitchen with others to prepare or get food or drinks. The host should be the only one in the kitchen; having guests in the kitchen increases the risk spreading the virus. So if you’re going to socialize, do it outdoors. Nonetheless, even if you are outside, you should still stay six feet apart and wear face coverings if you are around people you don’t live with.
- Wear a cloth face covering when outside of your home, in public and around others.
- If you’re feeling sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, stay home: You may think that cough or sniffle is just allergies, but it’s not worth the risk of infecting friends and loved ones.
- Communicate beforehand: If you choose to gather with people outside of your household (e.g., members of your social bubble), discuss and agree on what protective measures they will have in place, such as plans for maintaining physical distancing, wearing masks as much as possible, and agreeing to hold each other accountable for the sake of group safety. Most of all, agree that invitees should not come if they feel ill in any way.
- Avoid Crowds: Be flexible with your plans and move to a different location if you cannot easily keep at least 6 feet (or more than three steps) away from others.
- Leave the party or gathering if someone seems sick: Don’t assume that someone coughing or sniffling has allergies and not COVID-19. Politely explain to the host that you are worried about getting infected and need to go. However, remember that people without symptoms can still have COVID-19 and infect others, which is why it’s best to keep on a mask, maintain physical distance, and stay outside as much as possible.
Be extra cautious in the days before gathering with others: If you know you’re going to meet with people from outside your household, stay home as much as possible and limit public activities in the days before in order to reduce the chance of getting sick and infecting others at the gathering.
The Labor Day weekend forecast predicts unseasonably warm temperatures. Smoke and ash from regional wildfires have created unhealthy air quality for many communities. Health officials warn to factor-in your local forecast when planning Labor Day activities. In many areas, the safest place to celebrate will be indoors, at home, among your household unit only.
Limit your activities to lower your risk
Berkeley is also recommending that people limit their activities to lower their risks. For example, if you get your hair cut at a salon this week, you might not eat outdoors or a restaurant but decide to get take out or cook at home. You might not go to the grocery store.
“Each activity adds risk, and by framing your activities in terms of trade offs, you can lower your risk level,” Berkeley posted in a message on its website. “For those over 60 years old or with underlying health conditions, choose fewer activities to more tightly manage your risk.”
“There are now more options at the buffet of activities,” said Dr. Hernandez. “But, in terms of physical proximity with others, COVID-19 still forces us on a distancing diet. Don’t go for everything on the table.”