How to socialize safely outside your bubble

It's summer, the weather's beautiful and we've all been cooped up inside for several months. You likely want to be outside with your friends, but how can you do that without putting yourself at risk for contracting COVID-19?

Can you have a barbecue? Sit on a patio? Use someone's bathroom?

Gone are the days of being able to sit at the same table with all of your friends, sharing a meal and chatting. (Getty Images)

It's summer, the weather's beautiful, and we've all been cooped up inside for several months. You likely want to be outside with your friends.

But with a recent surge of COVID-19 cases in Ottawa, how can you do that while still staying safe?

Earl Brown is an emeritus professor of virology at University of Ottawa and gives us a breakdown of the do's and don't's.

Can you have an outdoor barbecue?

That depends on who's in your social circle and who you're planning to invite, Brown said.

Since COVID-19 tends to affect older adults more than younger people, Brown said you'll want to consider whether you or anyone you live with is either over 60 or at higher risk of complications.

If everyone's young and relatively healthy, the next step is to consider who you're going to have over.

How many people are you inviting, and what sort of living situation are they in? How cautious are they? How many people do they interact with?

Barbecue within your social bubble, but if you plan on expanding the invite list, be aware of the risks. (Cookie Studio/Shutterstock)

"If you have one person from 10 households on your street over, you've got all of their history, all of their contacts come into your house," he said. "And how you interact with them may open you up to infection."

While the same applies to inviting 10 people over from the same household, Brown said their extended contacts will form a smaller group. 

Also, gone are the days of shaking hands with or hugging your neighbour.

"You're going to make eye contact and do your hooting and hollering and 'welcome over', but you're going to keep your distance," he said.

Brown also says people shouldn't forget to stand at least two metres apart, and try to make sure the breeze isn't blowing directly from one person to the other.

Should you bring your own plates, cups or cutlery?

Consider it like camping, Brown said: bring your own cutlery, plate, cup, and anything else you might use.

If you have to get something out of a communal pot, use a napkin to handle the communal spoon.

"I think we'll all be more cautious than maybe we really have to be," said Brown.

"Because when you're not cautious enough, the consequences are infections that some of us can't handle."

Brown says to take the same precautions on a patio as you would at a backyard barbecue. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Should you use their bathroom?

So, you've decided to go to a barbecue. You've brought your own dishes. Stayed two metres apart.

But then nature calls. What do you do?

Use the facilities, Brown said, but don't touch your face. Make sure to wash your hands well before you leave. Having paper towels handy doesn't hurt.

"It's a fact of life," said Brown.

Can you socialize on a patio or dine-in at a restaurant?

Friends on a patio should take the same precautions, Brown said, as those at a backyard barbecue.

If you're in an at-risk category, you may want to hold off on dining indoors, Brown said, as being in an enclosed space can increase the risk of infection.

And if you do spend time indoors, you should stay two metres apart from anyone not in your social circle. The key, Brown said, is to have as few interactions with anyone not inside your bubble as possible.

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