Small Gatherings During Covid
The pandemic has imposed restrictions on our daily activities, such as how we travel, spend time outside, and interact with others. With the loosening of norms, only small, isolated gatherings are permitted, and they have largely become the norm.
Small gatherings are usually considered "safe" and socially distanced because they only involve a small group of people. However, this may not be entirely accurate. With the resurgence of COVID-19 cases during the holiday season, experts are now warning that even small gatherings can fuel the virus. This is especially important given that we are only a few days away from Diwali, which will see a surge in gatherings.
Are small gatherings really safe?
According to the most recent CDC guidelines, while restrictions in public spaces can be closely monitored, gatherings inside homes can act as the next major source of transmission because people become complacent. Keeping this in mind, Indian authorities have also warned the public not to take COVID lightly and to continue using precautionary measures. While COVID-19 may make festivals look a little different this year, we'll tell you some of the safest, and not-so-safe, ways to socialize in the coming weeks:
What exactly does a "small gathering" mean in the context of COVID-19?
While there is no clear definition of what constitutes a small event, epidemiologists and top medical experts agree that a gathering of 5-6 people (at most) is considered a small get-together. The size and ventilation of the room can also influence the size of the gathering. Depending on these criteria, even 2-3 people present could indicate a small gathering in some cases.
Why it can be problematic
While the public has been encouraged to limit the number of guests at an event, the biggest issue with small gatherings is the location of such events. Indoor spaces combined with poor ventilation can be a dangerous combination that could fuel COVID-19.
If you go to a holiday gathering, there's a good chance you'll catch COVID-19 from the surfaces around you.
Asymptomatic carriers can also act as silent spreaders, allowing the viral infection to spread. Even simple acts like talking or singing have the potential to spread the virus. As a result, it is even more critical to prioritize mask mandate guidelines and adhere to other critical requirements.
Importance of Mask wearing
Attending indoor events, once again, can cause people to be careless. Just because you're in a confined space shouldn't be an excuse to remove your mask. Experts advise people attending events or gatherings to wear masks and maintain social distance whenever possible. If you do not wear a mask, you are at a high risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to others.
There is also a risk factor to consider if you have guests arriving from different locations or cities, as opposed to the same area.
Timing is also an important factor in determining your COVID risk during the festivals. Remember that the more time you spend on the computer, the more likely you are to contract the virus and contribute to its spread.
Avoid contact with anybody having symptoms
It is critical to avoid gatherings if there is someone in your immediate vicinity or in close contact with someone who has active COVID symptoms. Refresh your memory and see if you were likely exposed to the virus or a possible source of infection in the previous 14 days.
Precautionary rules should also be in place for the hosts. If you have recently recovered from COVID or have completed your quarantine, do not allow visitors from outside your bubble, i.e. those who have already been exposed, to enter your home for at least 10 days. Lax precautions right now may increase your risk of reinfection.
The safest way to socialize right now
Prior to the pandemic, the more the merrier seemed to be the rule when it came to celebrating festivals, but this is not the time for any of us to take things lightly. Many Indian cities are in the process of reducing the surge, and any negligence could contribute to a resurgence of a possible second and third wave. We should also keep in mind that colder temperatures, as well as pollutants, can increase the risk of COVID transmission.
While it may be impossible to avoid meet-ups entirely, experts advise that the safest way to gather during the festivals would be outdoors, with a small crowd (everyone wearing a mask), and taking the necessary precautions.
Certain studies have also suggested that good ventilation and sunlight may 'inactivate' the COVID-19 causing virus, so celebrating outside may be the safest option. Furthermore, when in a public space, people are much more likely to be cautious of rules. However, poor air quality levels may exacerbate the situation.
Otherwise, virtual celebrations continue to be the best way to celebrate festivals.
Precautions to take
If you do decide to host a small gathering, keep in mind that space must be safe for both you and your guests. Surfaces should be disinfected and areas should be delineated to avoid close contact. It may appear un festival, but taking temperature readings and sanitizing those coming in from outside can be a good way to ensure safety and hygiene. At all costs, masks and hand hygiene should be worn.