Depending on where you live, you may already — or soon — be able to gather in groups again. In some states, your groups may be limited to 10 people. In others, you may be able to connect with as many as 50.
While the chance to get together may come with joy and relief, it’s important to continue taking steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Approaching get-togethers thoughtfully and graciously can help you cultivate meaningful relationships while keeping you and your family safe.
Social Activities: Talk With Household Members, First
Before you even begin to consider socializing with others, it’s important to get on the same page with family in your household.
Even couples who have been together for long periods of time may have dramatically different ideas about what’s OK and what isn’t about reopening activities. One person may be more open to contact with others, while the other may prefer to continue staying home and taking the strictest precautions.
Approach these conversations honestly and patiently, with love as a central theme. Remember that you’re both trying to do what’s best for your family, as you understand it. Recognize the shared aspects of your struggle and connect over what you have in common before exploring your differences in opinion.
As new circumstances arise, you may have to talk about your feelings more often than you’re used to. That can prove challenging but can ultimately bring you closer together.
It’s also a prime opportunity to enlist the services of a counselor or mental health practitioner. Our family therapists and other behavioral health specialists offer telemedicine and in-person appointments that can be valuable in navigating your concerns about reopening activities.
How to Gather Safely With Loved Ones
The safest way to approach any type of gathering is to keep it socially — or physically — distanced, according to the CDC. In other words, stay at least 6 feet away from anyone who isn’t a member of your immediate household.
Outdoor gatherings, where airflow prevents the virus from spreading as easily, pose a smaller risk than those held indoors. However, it’s still important to keep your distance from others, even from your close friends. Wearing a cloth face covering can prevent you from spreading the virus to others, in the event that you’re infected but don’t have symptoms, the CDC says.
Avoid sharing items like food, dishes and utensils. Because coronavirus can live on surfaces for a short period of time, if you touch a contaminated surface, then touch your face, it’s possible to get sick. As always, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Most importantly, keep your distance from people who are sick. If you have symptoms of COVID-19 — or any other illness — stay home, avoid any type of get-together or gathering and see your doctor from home. If you don’t have a primary care doctor, or they’re not available after hours or on the weekend, you can easily see a primary care doctor right from your phone, computer or tablet using the AdventHealth app.
How to Decline Social Gatherings Graciously
Whether it’s an invitation to join a social bubble or just to stop by a barbecue, there may be times when you aren’t comfortable accepting.
Saying no can seem difficult. It may help to remember that you aren’t turning away forever. It’s completely OK to wait until you — and those in your household — feel comfortable before making social plans or agreements.
You might choose to give a reason for declining but reassure them that you want to stay connected. For instance, you can explain that you and your family are continuing to practice social distancing, but that you still want to keep in touch over the phone or through video chats.
Or, you can also simply say, “I appreciate the invite, but I can’t.” Remember: It’s your choice, and your friends and relatives must respect your decisions.
Can You Expand Your Social Bubble?
While the safest option is to limit close contact to your immediate household, health officials recognize some families may need additional support. Adding one other individual, couple, or small family to your social circle may help you handle childcare and other situations while minimizing your risk of getting sick.
Adding additional people to your social bubble requires communication and agreement. To do it in the safest way possible:
Agree on ground rules: People within your bubble should avoid getting within 6 feet of anyone outside your household or theirs
Consider everyone’s needs: Neighbors and family members can offer help and support to one another (think about who would mutually benefit from closer contact)
Recognize the risk: People who are 65 or older, or have an underlying health condition, face a greater risk of COVID-19 complications, so if you fit that description, or someone in your household does, it’s safer to keep your bubble tight
Stay consistent: The people in your bubble should remain the same from week to week
Once these conditions are met, you can share meals, take turns caring for children and allow kids within the bubble to play with one another. Everyone will need to watch for and communicate about any symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever and shortness of breath.
If one person in your bubble gets sick, that person should stay in their own space and be cared for separately. Anyone else in the bubble who had close contact with that individual should self-isolate, too. Talk with your health care provider and follow these steps if you or someone in your household is sick.
Do Your Own Contact Tracing in Your Social Bubble
You may also want to keep track of the people you came into contact with, including the date, time and location. This practice, called contact tracing, can help in the event that you or someone in your social circle tests positive for COVID-19. If you can’t remember all the people you’ve been close to for more than 10 minutes, that’s a sign you might want to reduce your activity.
We’re Ready When You’re Ready
We know you’re dedicated to doing what’s best for your family right now, whether you’re staying home or seeing loved ones from a safe distance. We’re committed to caring for you in person and through virtual means whenever you need health care, and you can count on us to keep you protected at every visit. To learn more about new safety measures we’re using to protect you, visit AdventHealth.com.