How to Throw a Safe Summer Party During COVID
Beth Ann Mayer
Summer has typically been a time for weekend barbecues and pool parties. But is it safe to be throwing a party during COVID? The pandemic isn’t in the rearview mirror just yet, as much as we’re all craving that return to normalcy.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t see family and friends. If you’re going to host a gathering, the CDC recommends hosting it outdoors rather than indoors. Experts agree and say that there are ways to mitigate risks while still having a good time. With the weather warming up, taking the party outside is more fun, anyway. Though you shouldn’t party like it’s 2019, experts shared ways you can host a safe outdoor party with kids this summer.
Seating Arrangements: Sit and Stay a While
Experts suggest seating everyone with their households and socially distanced from others. There are stylish ways to do it that add to the atmosphere. If your party is casual, stick with the laid-back vibe by nixing picnic tables.
“You can have a blanket set out for each family, so each one is socially distanced,” says Dr. Behnaz Behmanesh, D.O., a triple-board certified family physician.
Other fun ideas: Set out hula hoops six feet apart for each household. Bean bags or pillows also make cozy options.
Time to Eat
Food is a huge part of parties. But eating with people from outside your household can be a bit tricky these days. Rest assured: Your kids can still have some birthday cake and other goodies and stay healthy, too.
Make “Lunch Boxes”
Opt for individually boxed meals. If you’re going for a picnic vibe, add to it by putting food and drinks in a basket for guests. Think typical picnic fare like small sandwiches, an apple, and a treat like a cookie or homemade brownie. Bonus: These baskets can also double as party favors.
Bring in a Caterer
Pressed for time and want to make things easier for yourself? Hire help.
“I’ve seen people bring in someone to serve the food,” says Dr. Sharon Nachman, the chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital in New York. “[That way] no one else is touching the food or water.”
A server is also a good option if you’re hoping to offer more upscale choices that you’d typically serve buffet-style. Think options like a fruit board, pasta, and a raw bar.
Sweet (Safe) Treats
Sustainable Party Ideas
Individually wrapped items are safe, but they create trash. Wood recommends ordering from a local restaurant and picking up produce from a nearby farm to reduce your carbon footprint.
“Serve on recycled materials like bamboo,” she says.
Let the Good Times Roll
Times have been stressful, you can still have a good time this summer. There are plenty of safe party activities.
Safe Party Games
“Simon Says and freeze dancing can be fun,” Dr. Behmanesh says.
Other games allow kids to be more mobile.
“Create a treasure or scavenger hunt,” Wood recommends.
For a low maintenance outdoor scavenger hunt:
- Give kids a checklist of items to find in your backyard (i.e., acorn, green leaf, white flower, butterfly, cardinal, raspberry bush, and any other treasures you have in your yard).
- Consider including photos of the items so younger kids can join in.
- Give kids a time frame to find all the items, or let them check the items off their lists throughout the party. Reward the winner with a fun prize, like a nature-themed coloring book.
Host an Outdoor Movie Night
Still not ready to hit up a movie theater? Bring the experience to your backyard.
“You can also have an outdoor movie night with spaced-out pillows, chairs, and blankets,” Wood says.
For a movie night:
- Give guests three options for movies and ask them to vote when they RSVP.
- Surprise them on the day of with the winning movie.
- Serve popcorn and soft drinks, just as a traditional theater would.
Have Fun Masking Up
If you’re throwing a party during COVID, embrace the times by making face coverings part of the fun.
“Think of your theme, and order masks for the guests,” suggests Wood. “For example, for a safari or jungle theme, order animal face masks.”
Just ensure everyone wears them correctly.
“Make sure there are two layers, and you cover above the nose and below the mouth,” Dr. Talal Seddik, MD, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist and clinical assistant professor at Stanford Children’s Health.
Health Experts Advice for Throwing a Party During COVID
Having fun is the name of the game, but getting sick would be a major party foul. If you’re throwing a party during COVID, experts suggest setting a few extra house rules to ensure people stay healthy during and after your party.
- Ask for tests or vaccination status. One of the best ways to make your party safe is for all vaccine-eligible guests to get their shots and wait two weeks. Unvaccinated guests should consider getting tested 48 hours before the party and waiting on a negative result. But it’s not fool-proof. “We’ve had people test negative and then positive two days later,” warns Dr. Seddik.
- Get contact information. Keep a list of all guests and their phone numbers and email addresses. “If you hear they have come down with COVID, you want to keep a log of everyone at the party so you can tell them,” says Nachman.
- Encourage sick guests to stay home, Nachman suggests, even if it means a last-minute change to their RSVP.