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Cookouts and Yard Sales: How to Safely Begin to Open Your Home

By Tanya Svoboda
July 2020

Summertime in America is marked by backyard barbeques and neighborhoods full of yard sales. Many of us are anxious to welcome family, friends, and neighbors back into our homes, but ongoing concern over the spread of COVID-19 may have you wondering if it’s safe to open up your home for a barbeque or yard sale?

Consider Your Emotional Health as Well as Your Physical Health

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially recommends people “avoid gatherings of any size outside your household, such as a friend’s house, parks, restaurants, shops, or any other place.” But there are also mental health ramifications that need to be considered due to prolonged social isolation. According to a study conducted by Well Being Trust and The Robert Graham Center “deaths of despair”  are on the rise as a result of unemployment, isolation, and distress from the coronavirus pandemic. The report showed “As many as 75,000 more people will die from drug or alcohol misuse and suicide.”

In Time’s article Is There Any Safe Way to Socialize During the Coronavirus Pandemic? Julia Marcus, an assistant professor of population medicine at Harvard Medical School suggests thinking of social distancing as an all-or-nothing idea may not be the most realistic way to operate. Instead, she purposes a “harm-reduction approach” which gives people the information they need to reduce the risk of in-personal socialization as much as possible.

While there’s much that’s still not known about how COVID-19 spreads, experts like Kelly Michelson, director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, seem to agree that you are less likely to catch or spread the coronavirus if you’re outside, wearing a mask, and following social distancing guidelines.

If you’ve decided your mental well-being needs a boost and you’re prepared to accept some risk, here you’ll find an additional five ideas you can use to keep you and your guests safe if you host a barbeque or yard sale at your home this summer.

5 Safety Ideas for Hosting a Backyard Barbecue
  1. Keep your guest list short: It’s tempting to invite your whole social circle to your home as states gradually open up, but it’s safest to keep your backyard gatherings to 10 people or less. The key here is to allow your guests the space to maintain the minimum six-feet distancing rule. So, if your yard is tight on space, safely hosting even just 10 people may not be possible.
  2. Clean and disinfect before, during, and after the party: Before your guests arrive, plan to clean and disinfect everything. This means wiping down outdoor seating and tables with a CDC approved disinfectant, as well as properly washing serving plates and utensils. Don’t forget to continually disinfect highly touched surfaces like doorknobs, faucets, and cooler handles or lids during the barbeque.

    Once everyone is gone, you’ll need to thoroughly clean and disinfect all the common areas and furniture. Remember to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face until your home has been completely disinfected.

  3. Create a clear and clean path to the bathroom: Keeping your guests outside will help reduce the spread of coronavirus, but party goers will inevitably need to use your bathroom. Hartford HealthCare recommends hosts “Make the path to the bathroom clear and ask guests to use paper towels to turn off faucets, flush the toilet, and reopen the bathroom door.”
  4. Make it a BYO-Everything Party: Serving food right off the grill is a pretty safe way to share food, but anything beyond that opens you and your guests up to the risk of infection. Shared chip bowls and even touching the same serving spoon to dish out potato salad is an opportunity for germs to spread. At this point, sharing a good time is more important than sharing food, so don’t hesitate to ask your guests to bring their own snacks or side dishes and utensils – they may even prefer it.

    Having single-serving beverages on hand is relatively low risk if everyone is comfortable helping themselves. You should avoid pitchers and shared beverage dispensers during this time.

  5. Have your guests clean up after themselves: Serving food with disposable plates, napkins, and cutlery may not be environmentally friendly, but it will decrease the risk of infection between yourself and your guests. If you can’t stomach the thought of all that waste, you can ask your guests to rinse their dishes and place them directly into your dishwasher. It’s ok during this time to put hosting etiquette aside and make safety a priority.
5 Safety Ideas for Hosting a Yard Sale
  1. Clean and disinfect before, during, and after the sale: Before the sale, clean and disinfect anything your shoppers and helpers will touch. That should include all sale items, tables, and chairs. You can keep hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes at the ready to wipe down items as the sale progresses.

    When the shoppers are gone and the sale is done, you’ll need to clean and disinfect all the remaining merchandise, tables, chairs, and even the cash box before you bring them back into your home or garage. Remember to wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face until the disinfecting process is complete.

  2. Limit the number of shoppers: Keeping your yard sale outside will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. But another key factor will be keeping shoppers socially distant from one another. To help, start by setting up your tables at least six feet apart.

    Limiting the number of shoppers at one time may take a little extra work, but people will likely appreciate the extra effort you put into their safety. You may want to set a helper up at the entrance to your yard to keep track and control how many people are coming and going from your home.

  3. Use signage to communicate shopping procedures: To keep order and help people maintain a safe distance, an article in The Kansas City Star suggests, “displaying posters to remind customers about social distancing,” and “us[ing] tape to direct visitors through the sale.”
  4. Consider going cashless: One of the main concerns of hosting a yard sale at your home is the use of cash to purchase items. The process of paying with cash involves close contact and sharing items (money) directly from person to person.

    If possible, use a mobile app to accept payment, and disinfect your phone and wash your hands after each transaction. If you aren’t able or willing to go cashless, Nicholas Rupp, a spokesperson for the Salt Lake County Health Department, recommends “designating a single person to handle transactions – washing their hands after each purchase.”

  5. Set up a sanitizing station:  Masks are still recommended when interacting with individuals outside your immediate household. So, having disposable masks on hand for customers to use will ensure everyone who wants to shop can do so safely.

Having a hand sanitizing station available with hand sanitizer, paper towels, and gloves is another great way to make sure people are able to take the necessary precautions to avoid spreading germs and feel safe while shopping.

States are opening back up and people are yearning for contact after so much isolation. Enjoying your home with friends and family may be possible again with proper precautions to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.


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