Medically reviewed by: Dr. Robert Segal, M.D.
After a full year of dealing with the daily realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, we may finally be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. As the vaccine grows in availability and more Americans begin to be inoculated against the coronavirus, we can finally begin looking forward to a return to some version of normalcy in the foreseeable future. In the waning months of the pandemic, we’ll all be reassessing our risk and comfort level for returning to in-person gatherings, whether for sports or leisure. Here are some things to keep in mind as you ponder a return to in-person events in 2021.
About the Coronavirus Vaccine
First things first: let’s talk about the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccination process is well underway, with vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna already rolling out for qualifying individuals in the United States. A new vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has also just been approved. Look online to see if you meet eligibility requirements where you live, and set up an appointment to get your first dose of the vaccine. Getting everybody vaccinated is one of the biggest steps we can take to get back to once again assembling safely.
Be Aware of CDC Guidelines
Before deciding to attend an in-person gathering, you should make sure you’re up to date on the current safety recommendations from public health experts. The CDC has a list of guidelines available online for event planners to create a less risky environment in light of the pandemic. Be proactive about finding out how COVID protocols are being enforced. Some things to consider include:
What is the venue?
Location matters a lot. Since the coronavirus spreads most readily in poorly-ventilated indoor spaces, the best place to gather is outdoors. If holding the event outside isn’t feasible because of weather or other considerations, the venue should be well-ventilated and large enough to allow appropriate social distancing.
How are guidelines being enforced?
It’s one thing to recommend social distancing and mask-wearing, but these can sometimes be pretty loose guidelines in reality. Find out whether the event is taking precautions such as doing temperature checks at the door or closing off seating to encourage social distancing. Because the situation surrounding coronavirus is often in flux, you should continue to check for updates in the days leading up to the event.
Is it possible to attend virtually?
Many of us have spent a full year doing everything remotely, and in many cases this will continue to be a viable option. For those able to do so, attending events virtually is a good way to keep physical crowds down, not just minimizing your own risk but reducing the likelihood of transmission for everybody involved.
Continue Safe COVID Practices
We can’t always control every risk factor, but we are still in charge of our own habits. As we begin to emerge from the pandemic you should still be following regular health and hygiene practices like wearing a mask, washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water, and covering your mouth when you sneeze. Do your best to maintain social distancing around others and keep up personal precautions like substituting elbow bumps for handshakes.
Get Tested Before Attending
After a year in which many of us were starved for regular social contact, it’s only natural to be eager to return to meeting up in meatspace, but it will continue to be important to take reasonable precautions even as the pandemic wanes. Getting regularly tested for COVID-19 is going to remain important for the foreseeable future, and doubly so if you know you’re going to be in a situation where you may be interacting with a number of people. Labfinder offers PCR testing as well as rapid COVID testing for your convenience. Reliable testing is still critical to keeping transmission rates low.
Use Your Own Best Judgment
Ultimately, much of your decision-making process is going to come down to your own level of comfort. The pandemic will not last forever and moving back towards normalcy is a primary goal, but you shouldn’t feel pressured to rush back into a pre-COVID routine before you feel safe and confident in doing so. Know your own risk and don’t ignore any valid concerns you may have.