Virtua Health nurse practitioner offers advice for safer socializing during the pandemic
(MARLTON, N.J.) After months of isolation, many of us are craving in-person visits with our friends and family members. And with some lockdown restrictions easing, more people may want to hold such get-togethers.
To be clear, it’s still safest to avoid unnecessary contact with those outside of your household. But if you plan to socialize, do it as carefully as possible, advises Dorothy “Dodi” Iannaco, APN, lead nurse practitioner for Virtua Health’s Urgent Care Centers.
“We all need social interaction,” says Iannaco. “It’s an important part of taking care of yourself.”
In fact, the Waterford Works resident recently got together with a close friend – outside on her deck, six feet apart. But Iannaco declined an invitation to the beach due to safety concerns.
“The shore is pretty busy right now, so it would be hard to always stay six feet away from others. And a lot of people aren’t wearing masks,” she explains.
“We all should follow the government’s COVID-19 guidelines to protect one another,” Iannaco notes. “It’s important to stay informed so we can make good choices for our own situations.”
Here are Iannaco’s tips for hosting summer gatherings as safely as possible:
1) Stay outside, at least 6 feet apart. It’s harder to transmit coronavirus outdoors than indoors, so outside is generally safer – whether in your backyard, driveway, or a park. It’s also tougher to spread the virus if you remain 6 feet away from those who don’t live with you.
Set up separate areas with chairs and tables for you and your guest(s), to ensure you remain far enough apart. For instance, you could sit on opposite sides of a fire pit.
Avoid having people walk through the house to get to the backyard, deck, or patio. And as sad as it is, remember: no hugs!
2) Ask everyone to bring masks. Have people put on a mask if they must come within 6 feet of someone not in their household, or if they must go inside. Guests should only go indoors to use the bathroom. (Children younger than age 2 should not wear masks.)
3) Keep it small. Ideally, limit your guest list to one or two people. That way, you’ll minimize the likelihood of a guest having or catching COVID-19. With fewer guests, it’s also easier for everyone to remain 6 feet apart.
Although N.J. regulations permit larger outdoor gatherings in bigger spaces, Iannaco urges caution. “It’s definitely safer to have fewer people,” she says.
4) Be consistent. Limit the number of people you socialize with by committing to a “pod” of one or two people or one other family. Don't invite a different set of people over every night.
5) Choose guests wisely. Make sure anyone you socialize with is taking the coronavirus seriously and following the government’s safety guidelines in their own life. That includes practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, and cleaning their hands frequently.
6) Watch the kids. Limit the number of child guests, and make sure children play at least 6 feet apart from each other.
7) Take precautions with food. The coronavirus can be spread via surfaces, such as shared serving utensils or food. Ask people to bring their own food and drinks in a cooler. Don’t serve communal foods such as chips and dip, and don’t have a buffet.
If you decide to barbecue, have just one person at the grill. Ask people to bring their own condiments, or provide individual packets – spread out so people can touch just the ones they’ll use.
8) Serve with care. Provide disposable plates and cutlery. Set the tables in advance, or space out items so people can pick them up individually.
9) Focus on the bathroom. Stock the bathroom with disinfecting wipes so everyone can wipe down the surfaces they touch – including the toilet handle, faucets, doorknob, and light switch – before rejoining the gathering. Place a sign on the door or in the room to remind everyone to take these steps. Provide paper towels instead of cloth hand towels. And after the gathering, sanitize the entire bathroom.
10) Play safely. Choose games and activities that allow people to stay apart, such as tossing a ball or frisbee. Similarly, stay 6 feet apart when swimming or playing games in a pool. Make sure everyone sanitizes their hands both before and after these activities.
11) Have a rain plan. If the weather turns bad, don't move the party indoors. Either end the gathering or move it under a tarp, car port, or other open-air shelter where you can stay at least 6 feet apart. Inform your guests of the plan in advance.
To learn more about safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit Virtua’s expert tips and resources page. To make an appointment with a Virtua provider, call 888-847-8823 or 888-VIRTUA-3.
About Virtua Health:
Virtua Health is committed to helping the people of South Jersey be well, get well, and stay well by providing the complete spectrum of advanced, accessible, and trusted health care services. Virtua’s 14,000 colleagues provide tertiary care, including a renowned cardiology program, complemented by a community-based care portfolio. In addition to five hospitals, two satellite emergency departments, and more than 280 other locations, Virtua brings health services directly into communities through home health, rehabilitation, mobile screenings, and its paramedic program. Virtua has 2,850 affiliated doctors and other clinicians, and its specialties include orthopedics, advanced surgery, and maternity. Virtua is affiliated with Penn Medicine for cancer and neuroscience, and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for pediatrics. As a not-for-profit, Virtua is committed to the well-being of the community and provides innovative outreach programs that address social challenges affecting health, from addiction and other behavioral issues to lack of nutritious food and stable housing. A Magnet-recognized health system ranked by U.S. News and World Report, Virtua has received many awards for quality, safety, and its outstanding work environment. For more information, visit ThisIsVirtua.org. To help Virtua make a difference, visit GiveToVirtua.org.