bbq

Barbecues can be risky. (Photo from High Speed Training blog, The Hub)

First, remember that any such gathering needs to be small. Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive order on July 20 that only allows for gatherings of 10 or fewer people. 

 
The order also calls for such gatherings to adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to the greatest extent possible, which includes social distancing, wearing masks indoors and outdoors if guest are unable to stay six feet apart, ample access to hand sanitation, and reminders for guests to stay home if they are sick.  
 
The Los Angeles Times reported 42 ways to minimize the risk of entertaining during the pandemic, with suggestions from disease specialists and caterers. 
 
First and foremost, the Post and others say it's important to keep everyone outside, where the virus is less likely to spread --and to only invite the number of people your outdoor space can safely handle. For example, if your outdoor space can only accommodate six people, six feet apart, then that's as many people as you should include. And if the weather is bad, cancel the event, don't take it indoors.  
 
The Times stresses the importance of limiting the number of people who touch items that are commonly shared, such as serving spoons, condiments and even the food, especially if it is a pot-luck event. One way to minimize this is to assign servers, who should be wearing both face masks and gloves, or to provide individual servings of "fixings," chips, dessert and drinks for each of your guest, while one person serves the main dish. And while disposable dishes and utensils are not the greenest options, they are the safest choices. 
 
Another suggestion: Consider each guest's level of risk before inviting them, and reveal the guest list to everyone invited so that they can make their own decisions about risk. 
 
In the bathroom, provide paper towels and liquid soap instead of shared cloth towels and bar soap. 
 
And most importantly, the Times says to make sure your guests understand your expectations before they arrive, and to be clear about what is non-negotiable.  
 
The Washington Post offers tips on how to navigate several outdoor activities. 
 
Public restrooms: Gretchen Snoeyenbos Newman, an infectious-disease physician at the University of Washington, told the Post that "public restrooms are already gross" and many have poor ventilation. Her advice: wear a mask, wash your hands when you go in, close the lid before you flush (flushing aerosolizes dirty water), wash your hands again; don't touch your phone or your face in the restroom; and as soon as you are out, use a hand sanitizer. And as with all indoor spaces, don't go into a crowded bathroom. 
 
Restaurants: While takeout continues to pose the lowest risk, if you decide to eat in a restaurant, make sure your server and other employees are wearing masks, and ideally, all of the other patrons if they are not eating; eat outside if at all possible; make sure appropriate social distancing is practiced; and don't linger too long after your meal.
 
Bike paths and other outdoor exercise: "Infectious-disease experts say that if you are outside and keeping a proper distance, the risk is actually pretty low," says the Post. 
 
Farmers' markets: Everyone should be wearing a mask and social distancing. It's also important to pay attention to crowd control and to wash your produce when you get home. 
 
Road trips with someone outside your household: This is a high-risk activity, Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious-disease physician, told the Post. You can reduce the risk by opening the windows, wearing mask and spacing yourself. However, she advises that if you or someone you live with is in a high-risk category, you should drive separately. 
 
Hotels and other lodging: Bhadelia called these a moderate risk, as long as linens are clean and the surfaces have been disinfected. That said, avoid the common areas and keep your hands washed. 
 
Barbecues: The Post says experts consider these "a pretty high-risk activity" because it is hard to wear a mask while socializing with food. The risk at barbecues also increases because people often drink alcohol at them and when people drink they stand closer to each other and talk louder, both of which increases the risk of transmission.
 
Camping: If you are camping with people you live with, that is fine. If you are camping with others, then make sure you maintain the six-foot distance rule. 
 
Swimming: The Post reports that there is no evidence to suggest the virus is transmitted through water, so any risk comes from other people, especially in close, confined spaces like locker rooms or indoor showers. Pools and public beaches should provide some kind of crowd control to help people stay six-feet apart. 
 
Playgrounds: The Post reports there is still not much consensus on how to manage playgrounds, which has caused many to remain closed. The CDC and other groups of experts have found that transmission of the virus from contaminated surfaces is low, so the biggest risk is likely from interactions with other children. If your child does go to a playground, experts advise making sure they can sanitize or wash their hands afterward. 
 
Recreational games: Experts tell the Post that as long as you are maintaining social distancing and not touching shared objects, the risk is low. Think tennis, pickle ball or bocce ball, not volleyball or basketball.
 
Ice cream shops: While there is some evidence that the coronavirus survives better in low temperatures, experts again say the biggest risk here is the other people in the store, so masks and social distancing remain key measures of prevention. 

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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