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Event Safety in the age of COVID-19

It's summertime and everyone, EVERYONE, is OVER COVID-19. Since March, 2020, this pandemic has changed socializing, as we knew it, and has made social gatherings equivalent to playing Russian Roulette. Unfortunately, each time we leave our homes to enter spaces with other people or to convene with friends and family, we risk putting our own and the lives of those closest to us, in jeopardy... but what is life in complete isolation?

Humans were not created to be alone. In isolation, mental dis-ease has the potential to wreak havoc on even the most sane, balanced, namaste individuals. Despite the emergence of social media, studies conducted in 2018, showed that feelings of loneliness were at historic highs. According to a national study conducted by Cigna, 40% of respondents expressed feeling that their relationships were not meaningful and that they felt isolated. That was two years prior to COVID-19 shutdowns...

Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., notes that impaired social engagement can heighten the likelihood of other, self-harming health behaviors including suicide, alcoholism, and substance abuse. Well, we can assume as much, but additional studies show that social isolation increases the risk of early death. Holt-Lunstad states "the magnitude of these risks exceeds that of many leading health indicators." So, what's a millennial to do to keep sane and social in the age of social distancing?!?

Knowledge is key!

COVID-19 is NOT going anywhere, anytime soon. Each day, scientists are learning more about the virus and its characteristics. If you have a general understanding of the virus and how it spreads, you can implement some strategies to practice as much safety as possible. The other part is that you can only control so much, so after you've done all that you can, you better pray about it!

Some of what we know:

  1. The virus spreads through droplets and can be aerosolized, up to twelve feet without a mask.

  2. In closed space environments, the virus can be recirculated through air conditioning units.

  3. In public restrooms, the virus can be spread through the air from toilet flushes and hand air dryers (those things are disgusting and should be banned anyway! Did you know they pick up and redistribute fecal matter back onto your hands? Studies show hand air dryers contaminate the air with up to 1,300 times more viral particles than paper towels!)

  4. The virus can be spread through touching unclean surfaces and then touching your face... through kissing, touching, close physical contact, talking, breathing in tight spaces... you know just doing human stuff!

So, why on earth, after knowing this, would I recommend a social gathering during a pandemic? Well, hear me loud and clearly, I DON'T! Since COVID shutdowns, in early March, I have not, personally, been in close, closed spaces with more than two people at a time (sans the grocery store and a virtual art exhibit with timed appointments and roughly 20 people in a 2000 square foot space), and one of them is my quarantine friend.*

Since I've been seeing people partying (yes, literally at enclosed parties and nightclubs) on social media, I figured I would do my part to share some tips on how you may consider doing this safely. So, without further ado...

Plan, plan, plan, and get ready to spend some money, my love

In order to practice social responsibility, please do not host an endeavor if you cannot afford to safely implement some responsible practices. Knowing what we know, you need to consider the logistics of every detail of your event before inviting people to celebrate. As previously mentioned, people are risking their lives to socialize with you. The least you can do is ensure they remain as safe as possible. If that takes a few extra dollars or extra time, factor that into your planning or decide if now is the best time to be hosting. Also, refrain from inviting more people than can move around with at least a six feet bubble around them, should they choose to keep distant.

Have a safety plan

Plan to have a system in place for contactless temperature checks. Provide guests with high quality masks if they do not have their own, and ask them to wear them in closed spaces. Hire a home cleaner (average about $25-75 per hour with 2 hour minimum) to sanitize counters and high touch areas throughout the event, taking extra care for the restrooms. Purchase a UV Light wand for extra cleaning, as UV Light wands are proven effective in killing 97-99% of viruses and bacteria. Also, ask guests to close the toilet lid when flushing and to remove shoes upon entering. Provide them with slippers if you are hosting indoors.

In addition, you may ask your guests to sign a statement that they had not knowingly come into contact with someone who has tested positive prior to attending your event, also providing their contact details in the event that they or anyone from the event becomes infected.

Host your event OUTSIDE and have a backup plan for poor weather

If you can, please host your event outside. It's just safer as the virus tends to be heavy enough to drop to the ground quickly. Due to the vastness of outdoor spaces, as long as people are not tightly compacted, the virus is not as likely to be picked up and circulated as it is with air conditioning units that are not specially designed to filter viruses.

If hosting outside, keep your guest tables at least 6-12 feet apart. Only invite 25-50% of your normal capacity, and create a system for restroom use so people are not idling near the door, in your establishment. In the event of poor weather, host under an open flow tent (rain) or around a fire pit (cold weather). Do not blow fans.

If you must host inside, follow these rules

  1. Purchase a UV Light/HEPA certified Air Purifier/Filter (DO NOT look directly into a UV Light as it could cause blindness). Keep it running throughout the event and make sure that it is large enough to manage the square footage of your event space.

  2. Keep a window or door open to allow people space to breathe and exit if they feel overwhelmed

  3. Do not blow a fan

  4. Keep capacity at 25-40% less than your usual attendance

  5. Keep music low so people do not have to yell (spitting and spraying) to talk!

Give each guest an individualized party kit

Here's where it gets pricey, but quality is much better than quantity, especially in life or death situations. In your kit, please include the following:

  1. An individualized utensil set with a holding bag so guests do not get theirs mixed with anyone else's, neither will they leave it in open space for others to breathe and talk all over it, misting it with their germs :/

  2. A personal bottle of whatever wine, champagne, liquor, or liqueur they prefer. This is to reduce frequent touching of shared bottles

  3. A personal bottle of chaser, juice, etc.

  4. A personal bottle of water

  5. Hand sanitizer

  6. Hand wipes

  7. Face mask

Due to the expenses you may incur to provide a safe social engagement, your friends may need to pay to part-ay! This will help you with costs and take the stress of planning for the unknown out of the equation.

Individualized Meals

No, hosting in the age of COVID is NOT for the faint of heart, and if you cannot put aside enough money or time to host responsibly, this is not the time for your to be hosting at all. Prior to your event, send out meal inquiries. Offer three options: meat, seafood, vegetarian. Period! This will limit confusion of your behalf.

When guests arrive, have their meals packaged and sealed, with their names on it. Offer them the option to purchase more than one meal or to add appetizers and desserts. Please, I beg you, DO NOT have buffet style parties. These are Petri dishes for viruses and bacteria. Everyone does not wash their hands properly, and people touch their faces far more then the recognize, so please make these safety decisions for them.

Be clear about behavior and safety expectations in advance

We all know someone is going to get too close to a stranger, pull their mask down to talk, touch their face and then touch everything around them, touch their mask and then touch other things, try to touch, hug, and be all up in your personal space... ask for a bite, ask for a swig, pick up someone else's cup... you know, party behaviors, but it is your responsibility to be clear about behavioral expectations in advance. Remind guests not to touch their faces and to wash their hands frequently, and all that other good stuff.

Keep your guest list super exclusive and super private

It feels kind of good to know you're at an exclusive event, right? It feels good to know the host took his/her time planning and making sure you are as safe as possible. Because of which, when creating your guest experience, consider limiting your guest list to just a few, very special people. Limit their company to just one, and keep a digital guest check in. If you are charging for this event (which you may consider due to the high costs of keeping guests safe), give participants a month or more to plan for your soirée.

Friends, I barely scratched the surface with this one, but I hope you can apply this thinking to your next event. While this list is long, costly, and requires significant planning, it's worth the life you may save while exchanging much needed social energy with other humans!

If there's any tips you may want to add, comment below...

Stay tuned for more tips, including outside hacks for an enjoyable summer/fall.

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