Labor Day weekend is one of the biggest social gathering holidays in the US, which poses added risk to most celebrations when they coincide with a pandemic. But that doesn't mean you have to stay indoors, either.
In fact, getting outdoors, taking a hike or long bike ride, finding an uncrowded swimming hole or even gardening are safe ways to celebrate a holiday that honors how much we work by taking a break from it.
If you must gather, here are some of the safest ways to do so, according to epidemiologist Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and other experts:
First, avoiding any family or social gatherings outside the people in your "bubble" of trust over Labor Day is the best course of action. But even if you do extend that bubble over the weekend, there are still actions to take to lower the risk of infection:
- Gather with other families or family members outside, not inside.
- Make plans to remain outside if there is bad weather -- "or get in your car and go home," Mokdad said.
- Wear masks at all times when not eating.
- Keep the family units separated by at least 6 feet or more.
- Make sure tables, food, condiments, eating utensils and trash containers are also separated.
- Have each family bring their own food.
- If food is shared, separate it in advance into small containers for individual servings.
Of course, the dangerous times are when people go inside to the bathroom, or to the kitchen to prep or replenish food or drinks. Families must plan for those events in advance, Mokdad said, and communicate the safety protocols to all guests.
"If you're bringing food, make sure you bring it in separately," he said. "Tell your friend or family member, 'When you come, you wait in the car, I will unload and put it in the pot or on the table. Then you can come into the yard.'
"We can grill, but only one of us is grilling the meat," Mokdad said, adding these tips:
- Put the meat in a place where one person can grab it and grill it.
- Don't socialize at the grill.
- Put the grilled meat on separate plates, then move away.
- Ask people to come and get a plate one at a time.
"The only way I can recommend for you to behave is to assume you are in fact infected," he added. "Doing it this way sends a clear message to our children, our teenagers. We have to be role models ourselves in order to survive this virus with less damage and keep our economy going."
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