Social Gatherings and Public Spaces

When making decisions about going to public spaces or attending social events, it's important to think about the risk of spreading COVID-19. Factors to consider include your own ability to wear a mask or vaccination status, your risk for developing severe COVID-19, and whether you live with someone at higher risk for developing severe illness. Additionally, factors about the risk of spreading COVID-19 at the particular social events should also be considered:

Unvaccinated individuals should consider the following before attending a social gathering:

  • Level of COVID-19 spread in the community: Higher levels of COVID-19 in the community where the gathering will be held or where the attendees are coming from mean that there is a higher risk that someone could be infected with COVID-19. VDH has developed a dashboard to help make decisions based on data.
  • The number of people at the gathering: If there are many people in a space, it may be harder to stay at least 6 feet from others. The risk of COVID-19 spread also increases if there are more people at the event or if they come from many different places.
  • Location: Outdoor gatherings are safer than indoor gatherings. Gatherings in large, well-ventilated spaces are safer than gatherings in smaller spaces that are not well-ventilated. 
  • Duration: Spending less time with people outside your household is safer than spending longer time.
  • Behavior of people attending the gathering: If other guests have not been following social distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene, and mask recommendations before the event, then there is a greater risk of one of them having COVID-19. If guests at the event are not practicing safe behaviors at the event, then COVID-19 could spread at that event. Certain activities, including cheering or singing, are known to increase the risk of spreading COVID-19. If people are drinking alcohol, they may be less likely to practice safe behaviors like keeping at least 6 feet from others, wearing a mask, or not shouting. 

See the tabs below for information about specific public or social settings.

CDC's Guidance for Families with Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Members can be found here

Recommendations for the safe operation of libraries can be found here.

Both small gatherings, such as dinner parties and birthday parties, and large gatherings, such as weddings and funerals, pose a risk of spreading COVID-19 among communities. This is especially true if there is a high level of community transmission. More information about Social Gatherings can be found on the CDC webpage: Considerations for Events and Gatherings.   

Low Risk Activities

  • Virtual-only activities, events, or gatherings

Medium Risk Activities

  • Smaller in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least 6 feet apart
  • Outdoor gatherings.
  • Guests wear masks, do not share objects
  • Guests come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city, or county).

Higher Risk Activities:

  • Large-sized in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to be spaced at least 6 feet apart.
  • Events where participants are from outside the community, county, or town.
  • Indoor gatherings in small, poorly-ventilated spaces.
  • Activities that increase respiration, such as singing, shouting/cheering, or exercising.

 Recommendations for Hosting Gatherings

  • Remind invited guests to stay home if they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days or have COVID-19 symptoms --even if they only have very mild symptoms. People who are waiting for a COVID-19 test result should also stay home.  
  • Host your gathering outdoors whenever possible. If this is not feasible, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated (for example, open a window).
  • When guests arrive, minimize gestures that promote close contact. For example, don’t shake hands, do elbow bumps, or give hugs. Instead wave or give an “air hug” and verbally greet them.
  • Provide masks for guests or ask them to bring their own.
  • Wear a mask if not fully vaccinated, especially when less than 6 feet apart from people (indoors or outdoors) and when indoors.
  • Provide hand sanitizer in addition to clearly marked hand washing areas.
  • Remind guests to wash their hands before serving or eating food.
  • Use single-use hand towels or paper towels for drying hands so guests do not share a towel.
  • Encourage guests to bring their own food and drinks.
  • Make sure everyone uses their own cup and dishes and uses utensils to grab shared foods like chips.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use when feasible.

Recommendations for Attending Gatherings

  • Stay home if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 (even if you do not have symptoms of COVID-19), if you are waiting for COVID-19 test results, or if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet or more from people who don’t live in your household. Be particularly mindful in areas where it may be harder to keep this distance, such as check-in areas, parking lots, and routes of entry and exit.
  • Wear a mask if not fully vaccinated when interacting with other people to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus.

Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer immediately before eating food or after touching any common surfaces like hand railings, payment kiosks, door handles, and toilets.