Expanding Social Circles Safely During COVID-19

Safety Tips For Seeing Family and Friends During Re-Opening Phases of COVID-19 Pandemic

As local businesses and resources begin to re-open in phases after the initial shutdown due to the global coronavirus pandemic, you are likely considering expanding your social circle to see family and friends. Wondering to how to safely start to socialize? Dr. Jeannie Kenkare, our Chief Medical Officer and Co-founder reviews how to safely assess the risks and benefits to socializing in “Phase II” of COVID-19 pandemic re-opening.

    1. Select your expanded circle carefully. Make sure you understand each other’s risk and risk threshold and make sure your philosophies are aligned. Take time to understand how careful each person has been, and if they have risk factors from exposures such as trips to the grocery store, doctor’s office, workplace, etc. Set some ground rules regarding how combining the social circle will work. For example, keep an open dialogue and don’t be afraid of taking a pause or a break in socializing in the event of an unexpected exposure which might require a member of the circle to quarantine for 14 days. 
    2. Be aware of underlying health conditions or high-risk friends or family members. Be mindful of what you may be exposing them to if you decide to see them.
      • Be meticulous about everything when you are with this vulnerable group – keep 6 feet apart, wear face coverings, wash your hands after touching any surfaces and stay outdoors 
    3. Plan outside gatherings
      • You are at higher-risk when you are indoors with less air exchange
      • Outdoors it is still important to keep at least 6 feet from each other and wear face coverings 
    4. What about eating together? Here’s how to do this safely:
      • Keep it outside, keep it small
      • Ideally, don’t share food – each household should supply their own food
      • If sharing food is necessary, then whoever prepares the food should do so while wearing a mask, without talking while prepping the food
      • Every household should bring their own plates, serving utensils and eating utensils and there should be no sharing of these items in-between
      • Food should be served at a distance from where everyone is eating
      • Eating and drinking should occur at least 6 feet away from each household group
      • Each household group should provide their own chairs to sit on, so that these items do not need to be touched by others 
    5. Keep gatherings small.
      • Each additional person adds in more risk for everyone
      • It’s much easier to trust and have all the information you need with a smaller group 
    6. Consider getting tested.
      • CDC has recently reported that up to 1/3 of infected individuals could be asymptomatic and transmit the illness without ever showing symptoms. Before spending time with higher-risk friends and family, consider getting tested for COVID-19. All PhysicianOne Urgent Care locations offer COVID-19 virus testing and antibody testing every day. Visit our Coronavirus page to learn more about what testing options are appropriate for each individual. 

Many people have been isolated since local governments issued guidelines regarding isolation to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. The mental health benefits to spending time with those we love are important, especially after an extended period of isolation. Following the above recommendations will help keep everyone in your social circle safe, while allowing for valuable time spent together.

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