New season means new guidelines for gathering

We’ve come a long way since last spring’s shelter-in-place restrictions, when socializing outside your immediate family was pretty much off limits. Now, with Alameda County and other Bay Area counties loosening the reins on what is and isn’t allowed as COVID transmission levels start to decline, it can be confusing to figure out what’s considered safe now.

A recent New York Times article did a good job of summarizing California’s new rules for gathering as we head into holiday season. Top takeaways include much of what we already know — masks are must, indoor parties are still out, food and drink is ok sometimes — but there are some updates around how many people you can safely include in a gathering (up to three households is ok) and recommendations for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos.

– Gatherings with more than three households — including hosts and guests — are prohibited.
– Gatherings should be held outdoors.
– Keep the caroling to a minimum please! Singing and chanting can spread infected airborne droplets.

Read the full NYT summary HERE and read the full California Department of Public Health’s “Guidance for Private Gatherings” HERE.

Local Guidelines

In Piedmont, the city has followed guidelines from Alameda County as it relates to gathering in public parks and other city-owned facilities. While it doesn’t actively police social groups in town, the city has said it will re-impose restrictions if it appears people are flouting safe gathering rules, as it had to do with the Beach playfield several months ago. Last week the city allowed playgrounds to reopenbut trick-or-treating is still off the table.

As the PUSD school board has grappled with how to safely reopen schools, board members and more than a few families have called for some type of “community social contract” wherein students and families agree to take measures to contain COVID transmission in town. While no formal agreement is yet in place, here are some tips for safer socializing for families compiled by school board member and pediatrician Dr. Sarah Pearson that may serve as a useful guide as you plan for the fall and into the holiday season.

  • Wear a mask when around other people. Wearing a mask protects others in case you are infected and can reduce your chance of getting ill.
  • Wear your mask correctly. Be sure your mask covers your nose and mouth and that there is a good seal around the edges of the face covering. Masks sometimes slide off your nose, so don’t be upset if someone points out that your mask has drifted down.
  • Meet outside. Viral particles disperse more readily and respiratory aerosols become diluted quickly when you are outdoors. Indoor socializing presents greater risks of transmission. Being out in nature also brings mental health benefits.
  • Socialize in small groups.  When you see your friends, stay outdoors and socialize in small groups to maintain physical distancing. Alameda County has new guidelines that limit gatherings to people from three households!
  • Stay 6 feet apart (or more) from anyone who does not live in your home, even when you are wearing a mask.
  • Space chairs or lawn blankets at an appropriate distance so you don’t accidentally gravitate toward others during conversation.
  • Bring your own food and drinks when you socialize.
  • Put your mask back on between sips and immediately after finishing your meal.
  • Minimize the number of contacts. You are less likely to get infected and less likely to infect others.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs.  Alcohol and drugs can cause you to drop your guard and can put you at risk.
  • Avoid close contact with people outside of your household. “Close Contact” is defined as being within 6 feet of someone for more than 15 minutes. Avoid taking your mask off when you are in close proximity to people.
  • Avoid large gatherings, because this reduces your chances of interacting with an infected person.
  • Clean your hands after touching anything that may have been touched by someone else, before eating or drinking, and before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available nearby.

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