Wash your hands

Safer Gatherings

Information provided by the Butler County General Health District

What We Know

  • Gathering in groups, even with people we know, may spread COVID-19.
  • The more people we interact with at a gathering and the longer that interactions lasts, the higher the risk of becoming infected.
  • The safest action, especially those at a high-risk, is to avoid gatherings and find different ways to celebrate.

Risk Levels:

  • Lowest Risk – Virtual-only activities, events, and gatherings.
  • More Risk – Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart, wear masks, do not share objects, and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).
  • Higher Risk – Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.
  • Highest Risk – Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least 6 feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area.

Safety Checklist:

If you decide to gather, there’s always a risk of spreading COVID-19 infection. Help lessen this risk through pre-planning, converstations, and some trade-offs.

Before You Gather

  • Talk about it. Get really clear with friends and family about how you will make safety a priority when spending time together. Set some ground rules that will help everyone know what to expect.
  • Review your guest list. Are there people who may be in a high risk category or children? Think about special needs and precautions as part of your planning.
  • Check your space and gather outside of possible. Is there room to spread out, at least 6 feet from people who don’t live with? If no, is there an outdoor space, like a park where you could meet? If outside, will there be restrooms people can use? If inside, be sure your space is well ventilated by opening windows. Remind guests to bring warm clothes!
  • Right-size your guest list. Limit the number of guests based on the number allowed in your county per the Safe Start plan and the outdoor or indoor space available that allows you to be 6-feet apart.
  • Do a health check. Ask if anyone has had symptoms such as cough, fever, or shortness of breath in the last 2 weeks. Ask guests to check their temperature before arriving. Anyone with a fever – or has had other symptoms or knows they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 within the last 2 weeks – should stay home.
  • Consider the children. Kids have trouble playing 6 feet apart, so wearing masks and frequent hand-washing may be the safest plan of action. Remember: kids under 2 should never wear masks!
  • Make a food plan. Talk through details like how food will be shared. The safest option is to have everyone bring their own food. If sharing, separate food ahead of time into individual servings and forgo communal bowls and utensils.
  • Clean, clean, clean. If you’re hosting, frequently disinfect surfaces that people may encounter during their visit.
  • Consider pre-event quarantine. Can all participants (including yourself) self-quarantine for 14 days before the gathering?
  • Get tested. If you have been around many other people or do not regularly wear a mask, get a COVID-19 test to make sure you’re negative. Take into account that it can take a few days to receive results. If you test negative, you still need to wear a mask and keep your distance from others when you socialize.

While you gather:

  • Wash early and often. Ask adults and kids to wash hands on arrival, before and after eating, and before they leave with soap for at least 20 seconds. If there is no access to a sink, provide hand sanitizer.
  • Gather outdoors if at all possible. If indoors, open windows to increase ventilation. Mask up. Wear a face covering at all times when not eating. Consider having extra masks on hand if people forget.
  • Separate servings. Avoid communal food and sharing utensils, even with babies and young children. Don’t share drinks.
  • Avoid close contact. Smiles and air hugs only, and prepare kids ahead of time to do the same.

After you gather:

  • Wash hands (again). Wash for 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • Sanitize. Clean all surfaces that may have been touched by guests such as tabletops, counters, doorknobs and bathroom fixtures, with soap and water first, and then a disinfecting agent.
  • Watch for symptoms. Alert others at the gathering if there’s a positive test among anyone in attendance. Learn more about what to do if you’ve been exposed.

Avoid Gatherings

Even a small family or friend gathering can spread COVID-19. As we approach the winter months, it will be more important than ever to not let our pandemic guard down. COVID-19 does not need a big crowd to spread. A small gathering in a small space can be just as risky.

  • Gathering size doesn’t always matter
    • The best action is to avoid indoor gatherings of any kind, especially in small rooms that make physical distancing hard.
    • Data from Ohio residents tells us that a majority of COVID-19 cases are traced back to family gatherings like birthdays, baby showers, weddings, funerals among others.
  • If you gather, take precautions to protect yourself and others
    • Don’t go out if you are not feeling well – ask others to do the same
    • Keep your group small
    • Wear a mask while gathering, even if it feels awkward around family
    • Keep physical distance
    • Wash your hands
  • Stay home, be smart, be safe
    • Break traditions like a big Thanksgiving meal
    • Consider virtual alternatives or drive-by celebrations
    • Wash hands, wash hands, and wash hands some more


  • Make a Plan
    • Developing a plan, clearly communicating expectations and discussing it with family members now can help alleviate tensions.
    • Have clear guidelines about:
      • Mask wearing,
      • How much distance you’ll require between each person,
      • Safety around eating food and gathering at a table. If you choose to get together, consider meeting before or after a meal.
    • Check in and discuss protocols to see if your guests are comfortable with your proposed plan.
      • For example: What if you had a smoke-free house and a guest started smoking a cigarette inside? You would probably have no qualms about asking them to go outside or leaving yourself. Mask-wearing and social distancing need to be thought of the same way.
  • Avoid Judgment
    • Open up the conversation about your decision in a nonjudgmental way, using “I statements” which focus responsibility on yourself.
    • If you decide to forgo the family holiday this year, you can say something like, “Express how much you’ve enjoyed the gatherings and you’re going to miss it and look forward to future years.”
    • Avoid judgment and be respectful of the choices of others.
  • Create New Traditions
    • Approach this holiday season with the expectation that it will look different than it has in the past.
    • Find ways to celebrate in a shared activity virtually.
    • Be creative and find ways to see your loved ones in safe settings.
      • For example: Drive vs. flying, stay in a hotel vs. a family member’s home, or rent a large space, like a lodge so family can gather in a socially distant way.
  • People who should not attend in-person holiday celebrations

Information provided by the Butler County General Health District