A family celebrating the 4th of July with masks on
A family celebrating the 4th of July with masks on
A family celebrating the 4th of July with masks on

Coronavirus: Tips for a Safe and Happy July 4th

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The COVID-19 pandemic is unfortunately still a reality, but with some planning, creativity and a few safety guidelines, you and your family can have a safe, fun and happy Fourth. Here is Jason Farley, an infectious disease expert with the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, with some tips.

Illustrated icons depicting physical distancing, face masks, and handwashing.

Is it safe to have a picnic on July Fourth during the coronavirus pandemic?

Follow these proven safety precautions, on the Fourth of July and every day of the year: physical distancing, mask wearing and hand-washing. These are the three best ways to avoid catching or spreading SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

  1. Physical distancing: Wherever you go for the Fourth of July, make sure you can stay at least 6 feet away from people who aren’t in your household or “bubble.” Avoid crowded parks, beaches and pool areas. Neighborhood green spaces or your own backyard may be the best options.
  2. Wearing a mask: When you’re out among other people, wear your mask, and make sure kids over age 2 are wearing theirs, too. Masks prevent the spread of droplets when you talk, breathe, cough or sneeze. Masks are great at preventing infections, since up to a third of all people infected with coronavirus have no symptoms and don’t know they could spread COVID-19.
  3. Hand-washing: The coronavirus is no match for simple soap and water, or hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol. Teach your kids proper hand-washing techniques and they can be superheroes in the fight against COVID-19.

    To keep everyone’s hands clean, bring hand sanitizer to use before and after eating. If you use a public restroom at a park, wash up carefully afterward, and if you’ve touched the sink or faucet or other areas, use the hand sanitizer when you get back to your family group.

With these precautions in place, you can still enjoy picnics, celebrations and many other aspects of life.

An illustration of a father walking with two children outside.

What can we do to make a Fourth of July picnic safe during coronavirus?

Farley says the safest choice, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is to get together virtually. But if you do get together in person for a holiday picnic, your best bet is to keep the party small, especially if you’re including guests from outside your household.

Is it safe to include friends and family in a picnic?

“It’s best to stick with people who are from the same part of town,” Farley says.

Also, consider how they’re responding to the pandemic and how seriously they’re taking recommendations. “You want to think about each person you are inviting, and what choices they are making on their own to stay safe from the coronavirus,” Farley says.

“If your guests generally follow social distancing and agree to stick with that behavior when they’re gathering with you, then they pose less risk to you and your family than those who don’t observe safeguards and interventions like masks, hand-washing and social distancing.”

Illustration of two people riding bicycles.

Is it safer to be outside during the coronavirus pandemic?

According to infectious disease experts, fresh air can dilute concentrations of the virus when you’re around other people. So enjoy those summer breezes and take your July Fourth celebration outside. It’s still important to practice physical distancing and wear masks though.

Indoor gatherings with people outside your household are still risky. The coronavirus can build up in the air as people talk, especially in a closed room that is not well ventilated.

Illustrations of hot dogs, water bottles, masks, and hand sanitizer.

What should I bring to a picnic during COVID-19?

If you’re going to a public place such as a park, make sure there’s enough room for you and your family to set up and maintain proper distance from other people and families. Here are some ideas on what to bring.

  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Plenty of water.
  • A large blanket.
  • Portable chairs for those who are not able to sit on the ground.
  • Sun protection and bug repellent.
  • Paper plates and napkins.
  • Disposable knives, forks and spoons.
  • Trash bags to take your trash home if public trash cans are full.

What foods are safe to bring to a picnic during the pandemic?

Try individual bags or packets of simple finger foods, prepared in advance with washed hands, that need minimal assembly or handling. These will be safer and easier to deal with than large amounts of food in one container, such as a communal salad, casserole or a whole pie.

Likewise, single serving packets of condiments are preferable to bottles that are passed from person to person. Don’t borrow, use or handle items, silverware, toys, etc. from other households.

Cheese, olives, crackers, nuts and cured meats can be nicely offset by washed berries and grapes. Cookies, brownies or bars work well as desserts. You can also opt for packaged meals-to-go from your favorite restaurant.

Caution: Foodborne illness is not taking a summer vacation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

So far, there’s no evidence that the coronavirus can infect people through food. But during the warm summer months, take extra care to ensure your cold foods stay cold and your hot foods stay hot. With everyone’s mind on the coronavirus, it’s easy to forget about food poisoning, which is still possible to catch from improperly handled food.

How should I serve food at a picnic during the pandemic?

“Think things through ahead of time to reduce the contact between people,” Farley recommends. One “must” is limiting how many people touch communal things such as bowls, coolers, serving utensils and bottles.

If your guests aren’t bringing their own picnic items, Farley says it helps to designate one person with freshly washed or sanitized hands to serve food and put out cups and utensils where individuals can pick them up.

Illustration of a woman watching a child fly a kite from a distance.

What activities are safe for a picnic during COVID-19?

Games should stay on your blanket or space. Throwing objects is risky, since a missed catch can cause a ball or Frisbee to land in someone else’s area. Cards, board games, trivia contests or other fun activities are perfect options for your picnic.

Illustration of a woman wearing a mask and picking up trash outside.

Cleaning Up After a Picnic

Be sure not to leave anything behind so that you don’t expose sanitation or maintenance workers to germs. Dispose of all trash properly when you’re finished eating, and if the park’s trash cans are full, bag your own throwaways and take them, along with your recycling and all your other belongings, home with you.

Scientist carefully insets a pipette into a test tube.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What you need to know from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Published June 30, 2020