How to Safely Host Guests During the COVID-19 Pandemic
These days, being outside of your home—and around people outside of your immediate circle—means you have the following three things in mind: wearing a mask, staying a safe distance away from others, and keeping your hands away from your face. But when it comes to welcoming the outside world into your home—say, when you host a guest—the lines become blurred. Here, entertaining experts share how to properly and safely host loved ones during the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Make Health a Main Priority
According to a new study from VCF Designer Looks and OnePoll that surveyed about 2,000 Americans, many hosts are planning to take a more all-encompassing role to limit their chances of spreading germs: Six in 10 respondents noted that they plan to be the chef, server, and the bartender during small gatherings. They are also making greeting lists in case a guest contracts the virus, so they will be able to easily trace who he or she came in contact with. While people are taking a more cautious approach when welcoming loved ones into their homes, Nikki Boyd, a professional organizer and creator of At Home with Nikki, says you can still make this "new normal" fun, engaging, and safe. "Have mini sanitizing pouches as welcome gifts on your entryway table or holiday-themed slippers or socks as a fun way to have guests remove their shoes if you have a shoe-free home," she says. "Placing a welcome refresher beverage on the entryway table will also help to relax guests upon their arrival." Farah Merhi, a style expert at VCF Designer Looks and founder of Inspire Me! Home Décor, shares that you can even prep your family and friends for your safe celebration in advance: "To get your guests excited even before they arrive, you can send out festive COVID-19 kits, complete with a menu and itinerary of all the fun activities you have planned."
In addition to discussing social distancing and masking rules ahead of time, keeping your surfaces germ-free is another key step if you are hosting an intimate gathering. You should also consider other precautions: "Of course, we want to keep our guest list as small as possible this year, but we also want to make our guests feel like they are in a safe zone when in your home," Boyd adds. "You can place sanitizer bottles around the house in beautiful dispensers or you can make the bottles engaging by adding a tag with a fun holiday quote or message." To ensure all of your guests follow your lead, make these touches fun and easy to use. "Providing seasonal scented sanitizer can encourage use, and instead of placing one bottle of sanitizer, put out a hand sanitizer 'sampler' with different fragrances," she adds. You can also try decorating and personalizing masks for each guest during the get-together.
Consider Adding a Virtual Option
If you do decide to host an in-person gathering in your home, give loved ones unable to attend the option to join in virtually; this helps everyone feel included and keeps them safe. And don't count out a virtual-only event: According to the study, 40 percent of respondents are planning to host a video call for the Thanksgiving holiday, instead of hosting guests in their homes. Beth Le Manach of Entertaining with Beth notes that a virtual experience can be just as fun—as long as you plan in advance. She recommends the host send out video conferencing links via email to those who will not be at the party in person. From there, the host can share recipes for people to cook from their own homes, so everyone can still enjoy the same meal together. "Having everyone enjoy the same menu will create a sense of shared experience and allows for fun cocktail chatter about how each of the dishes came out," Le Manach says. "Prizes like digital gift cards can be awarded to the best-looking dishes!"
Still Decorate for the Festivities
Though your get-togethers—whatever form they take—will undoubtedly look different this year, Merhi says to decorate as you usually do. "This year, personally, in my home, I will be decorating and celebrating as we normally do, even though we might not be hosting a large group of family and friends," she says. "This is my way of giving my family and myself a sense of normalcy while dealing with these unprecedented times." Serve meals on the dinnerware you save for special occasions, she says, and prepare your favorite traditional meals, even if your guest count is small (or immediate family only). Boyd agrees, adding that the rest of your traditions should remain the same, as well. "It is important to not change your normal traditions, such as recipes, activities, and décor," she notes. "This is such a difficult time for us all, so start spreading holiday cheer even earlier this year."
To learn more about how to stay safe when hosting and attending gatherings, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.