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Four things to consider before planning a Labor Day get together

Virologists say we could see more spread of COVID-19 after this holiday than we did over Memorial Day and Fourth of July.

TAMPA, Fla. — You may be getting so-called "quarantine fatigue," frustrated that you can't do all the things you used to and missing your friends and family.

That "quarantine fatigue" could be inspiring you to maybe relax a bit and plan a Labor Day outing. Before you do that, epidemiologists say there are some risks to think about first.

"The problem we have now that we didn't have over the summer is that a lot of our kids are in school, so this is another way if we go to a barbecue with friends and family, now you have a greater chance of spreading it [COVID-19] throughout the entire community," said Dr. Michael Teng, an associate professor at the University of South Florida.

Dr. Teng said something like a barbecue is a super spreader event, where a lot of people can get infected after eating and drinking in close proximity. Florida saw a spike in positive coronavirus cases after Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, when people gathered in large and smaller groups. He says Labor Day gatherings pose a threat to an even greater spread of the virus, now that businesses like gyms and salons are back open, people are back in the office and students are back in physical classrooms.

If you do want to plan something for the holiday, keeping it small and keeping it virtual are the best options, but if you want to have a party, here are some things to consider before making your plans:

  • Location: Will there be enough space for people to socially distance? Is it well ventilated? Outdoor events are best because of the open air and the ability to spread out.
  • Masks: Make sure all guests are wearing them while they're not eating or drinking. When taking your mask off, move an appropriate distance away from others.
  • Hygiene: Is there somewhere to wash your hands? Handwashing with soap and warm water is always better than using hand sanitizer. Make sure to clean your hands before and after eating, as well as before you touch any high-traffic surfaces.
  • Food and drinks: Avoid shared items, like bowls of chips and dip or putting your hands into a shared cooler full of drinks. Have everyone use their own serving tools instead of using one pair of shared tongs to plate something like a hot dog. 

Dr. Teng says many families have created safe coronavirus "bubbles" or groups of friends and family that have limited contact with others outside of their gathering circle. He said if you trust that people in your bubble are not infected and have taken physical distancing and health precautions seriously, having a small, safe gathering with them for the holiday will not be a great threat to your health. 

He suggests avoiding big gatherings with people you don't know because there's no way of telling how seriously those other people have taken safety precautions to protect against COVID-19.

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