Throwing a Party During COVID

two colorful cupcakes with a sea theme

by Stephanie Frank

Two years into the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and you may now be feeling like throwing your hands up in the air and letting loose. Milestones are happening every day that deserve celebrating: birthdays, anniversaries, retirements, promotions, graduations, weddings, and more.

But before you decide to throw a big bash, realize that the pandemic is still an ongoing threat and that there are numerous state and county regulations regarding parties. However with some extra precautions and planning, a safe and stupendous party can still be hosted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Check local and state laws.

If you are planning a party on the island of Oahu, the first step is to check for the latest guidelines regarding maximum indoor and outdoor group sizes for social gatherings. The City and County of Honolulu has frequently changed the laws for indoor and outdoor social gatherings, limiting group sizes at different times from five to 75.

a group of people wearing masks while dining indoors
Check local and state laws to find out about any restrictions on group sizes.

Note that group size numbers include parents and young children. Also note that the City and County of Honolulu says, “Large outdoor gatherings of multiple households in one location are NOT permitted even if the gathering is broken up into smaller groups of ten within the larger group.” This means that if the group size is limited to ten and each group of ten is socially distanced, but in one location, that party might be breaking local laws.

Brainstorm COVID-friendly party formats.

While blowing up the inflatable jumpy house and serving up a smorgasbord of buffet items may not be the safest option during the COVID pandemic, there are a few party formats that can help to keep the fun going – long after the party.

A drive-thru party can be a creative way to include everyone at a safe distance. Check out Pinterest for some gorgeous drive-thru party ideas that include balloon arches, cakes, entertainers, safe outdoor activities like crafts or photo booths, and cute party favors for invitees to remember the event. At a drive-thru, you can invite all your guests on your list but have them show up at different times to limit the number of people at any one time. A fun idea is to treat it like a parade and ask people to join in on the fun by decorating their cars.

two girls playing a game outdoors
Brainstorm possible ways to socially distance.

A physically distanced party is another fun option that often works for neighborhood block parties during the COVID pandemic. Invite your neighbors to gather on their own individualized lawns, with groups not exceeding the social gathering group number at any one time. Have different people perform, deliver food to the individual properties, or even play games – all while keeping a distance.

Consider the invitees.

When planning the invite list for an indoor or outdoor party, think about who you come into contact with each day and who that person may come into contact with. Realize the safest option for parties during COVID is to gather with family members who live in your same house, as these are the people who you have daily close contact with.

Physically distance.

If you are going to invite people from outside your household, it is recommended that you physically distance by at least six feet, according to the CDC and City and County. Keeping fresh air between you and other party goers can also increase the safety of the gathering. Note that an MIT report said that it is likely that less than one percent of documented COVID transmissions occurred in outdoor settings.

Wear a mask.

The City and County of Honolulu requires a face covering to be worn whenever you are with people who are not a part of your household. So if you are indoors and not eating, a mask should be worn to play it safe. Masks are not required outdoors; however, if you are in close contact with people in outdoor settings, it is also advised to wear a mask.

a group of girls in costume celebrating Halloween indoors
Wearing a mask, especially indoors can help reduce the spread.

Do masks really protect us against COVID? There has been a lot of controversy surrounding masks with differing research conclusions. A recent study in Bangladesh conducted by researchers from Stanford, Yale, and Innovations for Poverty Action encompassing around 340,000 people found that people who wore surgical masks had 11% fewer COVID cases than when mask were not worn. Therefore, to keep the fun going at your party, mask wearing is advised in close contact settings.

Sanitize and serve food safely.

Before grabbing that delicious bite to eat, make sure your hands are washed or sanitized. The CDC doesn’t recommend self-serve buffets or drink stations during the pandemic; grab-and-go items, like packaged drinks and individually plated meals, are advised as safer options. Also make sure that tables and other high-touch items are kept clean and sparkly throughout the party.

Test and vaccinate.

If you want to have a party with people from outside your household, it is advised to get tested at least 72 hours before the party if you are not vaccinated to ensure you are not inadvertently carrying COVID to the celebration. If you have not been vaccinated, the CDC and State of Hawaii Department of Health recommend you do so.

While COVID has put a damper on some of the fun that was had pre-pandemic, with some creativity and extra caution a safe and memorable party can be done. Despite COVID, we can continue to celebrate the positive parts of life.

an adult showing a child how to play a game on an iPad
We can still have fun despite the pandemic.
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