As the Labor Day approaches some six months into the pandemic, it is natural to want to find ways to connect with family and friends during the long weekend. As we discussed in The Social Challenges of Distancing, we are hardwired to be social.
We have worked hard to make progress in the fight against COVID here in Massachusetts. So we need to be careful that the pent up desire to connect with others in person and return to some semblance of normalcy doesn’t lead us to engage in behaviors that put ourselves and others at risk.
Dr. Fauci and other experts are warning against a repeat of past holiday weekend behavior as Labor Day approaches. This is especially important with fall return to school and workplaces ahead, not to mention the flu season.
With the need to balance safety and social connection in mind, here is our list of tips on how to stay safe while staying connected.
1) Prioritize Staying Connected: As a starting point, make it a priority to reach out to family and friends to stay connected. Even a quick five minute call to an old friend can make a big difference. Trying to connect with at least one person outside of your home each day to reduce isolation.
2) Stay outdoors if you can: A growing body of evidence suggests that the coronavirus is less likely to spread outdoors. As this article from Johns Hopkins Medicine notes, “Fresh air can dilute concentrations of the virus when you’re around other people… Indoor gatherings with people outside your household are still risky.”
3) Remember to still take precautions when spending time outdoors with others — we cover some of those below. While the risks are definitely lower outside, I see some people acting as if if being outside provides 100% protection–gathering or walking with others, without masks or six feet of separation. This article covers some of the benefits of outdoor activities along with reminders of the need to continue observing safety precautions.
4) Communicate clearly in advance: When planning to gather outdoors with people from outside your home, it’s very important to have clear communication about what each of us is comfortable with doing to avoid awkward or unsafe situations. When we were invited to our first outdoor meal at the home of friends, they clearly stated “Please come around to the patio out back. We will all wear masks until we are seated at separate tables.” Those tables were well over six feet apart.
5) Be prepared: Leaving the house to go out and about, get in the habit of always having your mask and sanitizer with you! Pre-pandemic I would check for my keys, wallet and phone going out the door, now I have a couple more items. Having a mask at the ready is a good idea in case you come across someone you might want to chat with while you are out doing errands or exercising.
6) Bring your own everything (BYOE): If you are planning a small gathering this weekend or some time soon, BYOE is a great way to go these days. The CDC and other experts caution against the use of shared objects to prevent virus transmission. Bringing your own food, drink, chairs, utensils and anything else you may need helps make gatherings safe. Keep the total number of people low, and don’t forget the masks and distancing!
7) Maintain at least 6 feet of separation: We hear a lot about maintaining six feet of separation to safely distance, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the coronavirus can potentially spread further than that. This spread of over six feet might be a greater risk indoors, but even outside it doesn’t hurt to err on the side of setting up your chairs a bit further than six feet away from others.
8) Plan ahead and use caution: Summer is a great time to get out and enjoy nature. But during the pandemic, we need to do more advanced planning for outings. Many places used timed entrances to limit the number of people using a park or trail at one time. For instance, when we visited one of our favorite Massachusetts Audubon properties for a hike this summer, we had to book a specific time slot to go. We’ve also forgotten to check before heading for a walk other places, to find that the limited capacity in the lot was already full. Consider going to public parks or trails at off times when they are less likely to be crowded, to make it easier to safely distance from others.
At SCI, we appreciate how important it is to connect with others. We hope our list might provide some helpful ideas so you can safely enjoy time with family and friends.
Stay tuned for upcoming articles on creative ways you can connect with others during these challenging times.
Article written by SCI President David Crowley in collaboration with Melissa Fitzgerald, who conducted research for the article and helped with the framing of the piece. Melissa is a volunteer with SCI and has an English and Media Studies degree from Northeastern University