After over three months of total self-isolation in which I went without any IRL social interaction at all, I understand the importance of spending time with friends and loved ones. In the last month or so I’ve hosted and attended several outdoor dinner parties, from a low-key meal with takeout dumplings on paper plates (I hosted) to a multi-course home-cooked extravaganza with cloth tablecloths and fresh floral centerpieces (my friend hosted), and each gathering has felt deeply soul-restoring and even essential.
That said, COVID is as deadly as ever, and this pandemic is far from over. We simply can’t afford to go back to sharing meals or spending time with friends and family in the same ways we used to.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the choices we make about socializing this summer have life-and-death stakes, not just for us but for everyone we come into contact with. It’s extremely important to get it right.
Just don’t let the mere fact of being outside lure you into a false sense of safety. It’s still essential to keep your face out of droplet range of others. If you’re not socially distanced from someone, wear a mask. This can be hard for kids to remember, and it’s hard for some adults too.
Some options for socially distant outdoor dinner parties in yards, courtyards, driveways, or parks:
➤ Each person or household can sit at separate tables that are at least six feet apart. It’s possible to carry on a shared conversation this way, especially if everyone sits so that they are facing the people at the other table(s). I have a couple different friends who host gatherings like this once or twice a week, and after a while it seems almost normal.
➤ Everyone can bring individual camp chairs and/or picnic blankets and position them within conversational range (but out of COVID range) of each other. You can also use individual folding tray tables to pair with folding chairs.
➤ Bathrooms are an issue. At the social gatherings I’ve hosted and at some I’ve attended, people have briefly gone inside one at a time while masked to use the facilities. It’s not riskless, but it’s relatively low-risk. If you are not planning to provide bathroom access, be sure to let people know in advance so they can plan accordingly.