Balancing Needs With Personal Responsibility: Post-Lockdown Social Life

We’re in a love-hate relationship with parties right now. We desperately need these social connections but getting together with others is risky. Here are some tips to reduce the risk.

Keep it small.

We need 2 meters of physical distancing, even in a private home or yard. There are not enough physical-distancing-meters in the average home or yard for a big group.

Keep your distance.

Even if everyone we know is being careful, we still need to keep 2 metres from friends or family outside of our Social Circle (that’s only 10 people, and always the same 10). What feels safe in the moment may be a risk. It is also wise to limit alcohol or other drugs as they can make us forget about or misjudge physical distancing.

Have the “COVID Talk.”

It can be even more awkward than that other “Talk”, but it is better than feeling like a killjoy in the moment. Keep in mind the best time for both “Talks” is before the act occurs! So, when friends and family are thinking of getting together, that’s when it’s time for the “COVID Talk.”

Having the “COVID Talk” is not meant to be discouraging. It’s meant to be reassuring so that we all know what to expect and we can avoid situations we later regret. Whether a guest or a host, here are some pointers.

  • What will 2 metres of physical distancing look like? Do we have room to set up our chairs 2 meters apart?
  • What are the options around staying outdoors as much as possible, or wearing masks if we need to head indoors? Making shade or dressing for cooler weather can help make an outdoor visit more comfortable.
  • How can we make sure we are not touching common surfaces? Bring-your-own snacks, beverages, and supplies (like lawn chairs) style gatherings are a great idea.
  • How can we make it easy for everyone to wash or sanitize their hands often? Place hand sanitizer by the door and make sure there are hand soap and towels by the sink.

Hosting? Naming it as a "social-distance hangout" can help set the tone. Or, send an upbeat text — "Can’t wait to see you! I’ll have my tape measure! – silly emoji". Keeping things light helps people laugh instead of getting defensive or setting a negative tone.

Get tested.

The similarities between the “COVID Talk” and the other “Talk” continue. If you have had risky behaviours, get tested! Take breaks between risky behaviours to more easily trace where contraction or spread may have occurred.

Bring-your-own.

What about food? Best not to have a buffet of shared food. Bring-your-own is the way to go and it is much less prep-work too.

If food must be offered, consider individual servings rather than help-yourself buffets where everyone touches the serving utensils. We should all wash our hands before and after we eat. And, avoid the chip bowl that everyone puts their hand into.

Keep in mind that blowing out candles on a shared cake is a sure-fire way of spreading droplets on the cake and beyond. It’s not a good time to be doing that with people outside our Social Circle. It’s a good thing cupcakes and sparklers are making a comeback!

The fun doesn’t end.

Creative ways to play can up the ante. But, in this case we are lowering the risks (instead of upping them) to win! Avoid sharing items like cards, dice, tokens, or pencils. Lots of games can still be played with a little more room than usual between players and each with their own playing items. If you need to touch shared items, sanitize yours hands more frequently and avoid touching your face.

There are also great alternatives like downloadable apps – each player already has their own virtual playing card (i.e. phone) in their pocket. And word to the wise, choosing soccer over frisbee is like choosing the foot-tap over the handshake. Smart!

Smile.

Smiles are contagious! So is COVID-19.

What’s a party without group selfies of smiling faces? Tough to do when we are all distancing! Try different camera positions, or cropping out the foreground of a shot, to create the effect of people appearing closer together. Find creative ways of capturing your physically distanced gathering!

Be respectful.

Even well-intentioned people slip up. If you need to, ask for space in a friendly way. Like, “I’m trying to keep everyone safe, so let’s try to stay a bit farther apart.”

We can’t control the behaviours of others, but we can plan for our own. We should get to know each other’s level of comfort and respect it. If someone finds themself in a situation where they are no longer comfortable, it is ok to have a change-of-mind and leave.

Here is the bottom line.

We are so limited these days. Hanging out with friends is a gratifying taste of something normal we can allow ourselves to have. But, we still need to physically distance (2m) with friends or family outside our Social Circle. That part is a big sacrifice, and it’s awkward, but it’s working to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Additional Resources

Protecting Yourself and Your Family
Gatherings
Physical (Social) Distancing
Masks (Face Coverings)
Guidance for Organized Events and Gatherings

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario