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Is it safe to have a Labor Day cookout?

A person puts kebabs on a grill with partygoers in the background.

Sept. 4, 2020—For many people, a Labor Day cookout is the last blast of summer fun. While the safest option during the pandemic is to skip this year's get-together, not everyone will.

If you decide to go ahead with your cookout, here are some things to know about minimizing the risk to yourself and your guests.

What makes a gathering risky?

According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are many factors that can contribute to the spread of the coronavirus at any gathering. They can include, for instance:

  • How many people attend.
  • How closely they interact.
  • How long the gathering lasts.
  • Where it takes place.
  • Whether guests wear masks and safely distance.
  • How widely the virus is spreading in your community.

You also should consider whether you live with someone at high risk for severe illness. That includes older adults and people with underlying medical conditions. Gathering could pose an even higher risk to them.

Also be sure to check with your health department for any orders that may limit the size or type of gatherings allowed in your area.

How to be a safer host

You and others at the cookout can take steps to lessen your risk for spreading the virus while still having a good time. For example:

Keep the guest list short. Limit it to less than 10 people if possible. The more people who are there, the riskier it will be. Keep a list of everyone who attended in case you need that information later for contact tracing.

Keep the action outdoors. Outdoor spaces are less risky than indoor spaces because there's more ventilation. It's also easier to keep a safe distance from other people outside.

Ask everyone to mask up and spread out. Place tables and chairs 6 feet apart to make distancing easier. Family groups can still sit together—but they need to keep their distance from other families. You might also want to have a few extra masks on hand in case anyone forgets.

Make it BYO everything. Ask folks to bring their own food, drinks, plates and utensils. A buffet of shared food is higher risk. If you do share a meal, try to designate just one person to cook and serve it. Limit traffic to the kitchen or grill. And provide single-use condiments and table settings.

Encourage handwashing. Invite people to wash their hands as they arrive, before they eat and as they leave. Or place hand sanitizer on tables throughout the party.

Plan socially distant activities. Think of ways to make staying apart more fun. You might toss a football or a Frisbee. Or break out the sidewalk chalk, for example.

Put a time limit on the party. The longer people are in contact with each other, the higher the risk of the event.

Clean up safely. Toss or sanitize any shared items immediately after the event. Wear gloves when handling trash. And be sure to clean and disinfect any indoor rooms guests may have used, like your restroom.

For more pandemic-friendly tips, visit our Coronavirus health topic center.

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