Having a barbecue? Here's how to do it safely in the age of COVID-19

"When you’re gathering with two or three virtual households, it doesn’t mean 20 to 30 people — it means still a maximum of 10 people," says Dr. Anne Huang, Saskatchewan’s former deputy medical health officer.

Only invite up to 10 people from a maximum of 3 households, former Sask. deputy medical health officer says

When it comes to the potential of transmitting the coronavirus while gathering over a meal, the main worry isn't the food, but the social interactions that come with it, says Dr. Anne Huang. (Cookie Studio/Shutterstock)

People in Saskatchewan are being reminded about how to safely hold backyard barbecues in the age of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, a community outbreak was declared in Saskatoon, after two cases were recorded between May 21 and May 26. The cases have been linked to two large gatherings which are believed to have exceeded the 10-person public health limit.

"They were outdoor events linked to the sharing of food," Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer, said at the province's Thursday COVID-19 update. 

"As we go into Phase 3 [of the province's reopening plan], I think it's a good reminder for us to just be thoughtful about having any indoor or outdoor gatherings, and having them as small as possible."

On June 8, the province will ease gathering restrictions to allow up to 15 people to congregate indoors and 30 outdoors.

Only invite people from 2 to 3 'virtual households'

Dr. Anne Huang, a former deputy medical health officer for Saskatchewan and Health Canada, said people need to remember to keep their social circles small — even into Phase 3. 

"Stick with your usual household members that you've been in contact with. When you're gathering with two or three virtual households, it doesn't mean 20 to 30 people — it means still a maximum of 10 people," she said.

Huang noted she suspects that messaging "hasn't been so clear" from the province, given the recent outbreak.

"It's important to recognize that if you have 10 people coming together who live in [separate] households, the risk is much higher than 10 people who come from two households of five," she said, noting the government should be clarifying that more.

"If we get in the practice of thinking about that right now, it'll really help us as we move forward in the coming weeks and months."

Socialize at a distance, especially while eating

When it comes to transmitting the virus while gathering over a meal, Huang emphasized the worry shouldn't be contaminated food, but rather the social interaction that comes with the food. People should avoid close conversations — especially while eating, she said.

"The COVID-19 virus is looking for new homes, new human cells to colonize in and make more virus babies. That requires people to be in close enough contact to breathe in someone else's respiratory droplets — so spit, essentially," she explained. 

"If we keep that in mind, it becomes more apparent why physical distancing, or staying two metres apart, is important and helpful for reducing the risk of becoming exposed." 

If people aren't able to maintain physical distancing at their gatherings, Huang suggests they wear masks. 

On top of that, she added people should continue to wash their hands well with soap and water before touching any food, and only eat off their own plate.


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