How to stay safe at a cookout, the library, restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic

An outdoor waiting area at a restaurant in Illinois, with seats placed six feet apart.
An outdoor waiting area at a restaurant in Illinois, with seats placed six feet apart. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released additional guidance to help Americans reduce their risk of COVID-19. Long-story short, the basic rules haven't changed — wash your hands, maintain social distancing and cover your face with a mask. But the CDC also provided some of the most detailed instructions yet for how to navigate everyday activities, such as checking out a library book or even hosting a party.

"I know people are eager to return to normal activities and ways of life," Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, said at a press briefing today (June 12). But it's "important that people remember that this situation is unprecedented and the pandemic has not ended."

As such, people need to follow certain rules to stay safe. In general, the more closely you interact with others, the longer the interaction lasts and the greater the number of people you interact with, the higher your risk of getting COVID-19, the CDC says. Indoor activities are riskier than outdoor activities, and people should maintain a distance of at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) between themselves and others, as well as wearing face coverings, to cut the risk of COVID-19 spread, the CDC says.

Here's how CDC recommends that you protect yourself and others during a number of different activities, from dining out to visiting hotels. 

If you're hosting a party or cookout, the CDC says the gathering should take place outdoors when possible, and guests from different households should stay 6 feet away from others families (and wear face coverings when less than 6 feet away.) Hosts should also consider providing hand sanitizer and reminding guests to wash or sanitize their hands when arriving and leaving the gathering. Guests should be encouraged to bring their own food and drinks; but if the host provides food, one person should be designated to dish out the food so that multiple people aren't touching the same serving utensils. Single-use items, such as condiment packs, can also minimize the number of people handling items.

If you want to check out a library book, consider checking out materials online in advance, if possible, and requesting curbside pickup, if available, the guidance says. People should wash or sanitize their hands before and after exchanges.

The CDC also provided separate guidance on larger gatherings, such as concerts, festivals, parades, weddings and sporting events. Organizers of such events should follow local laws when determining the size of the event. Staff at such events should be required to wear face coverings, and guests should be encouraged to use them, especially if they are in settings where people are shouting, chanting or singing, the guidelines say. The CDC also recommends limiting attendance or seating capacity to allow for social distancing, and blocking off rows or sections to keep people at least 6 feet apart.

President Donald Trump is planning to hold political rallies, such as an upcoming rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 19, where masks and social distancing will not be required, The Hill reported. The Republican National Committee also recently announced plans to have a "packed arena" at its national convention in Jacksonville, Florida, in August, according to The Washington Post.

When asked about rallies during the press briefing, Dr. Jay Butler, the CDC's COVID-19 Response Incident Manager, said the guidance is "not intended to endorse" any particular type of event. He added that the guidelines "speak for themselves" and are intended to be suggestions on how people can have gatherings that will keep people as safe as possible.

The guidelines also include tips for staying safe at gyms and fitness centers, restaurants, nail salons and visits to the bank.

Originally published on Live Science.  

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Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.