Stop the spread: Considerations for gatherings

illustration of a person and child wearing masks standing six feet apart from a young woman wearing a mask

Malheur County Health Department has linked many COVID-19 cases recently to social gatherings. Malheur County continues to hold the state’s worst case rate and test positivity and tomorrow will be put on Pause. With the COVID-19 situation getting worse in our county and in surrounding counties in both Idaho and Oregon, we need the public to help stop the spread in the following ways as recommended by the CDC. This guidance is relevant and applicable to every state in the USA.

illustration of people wearing masks and celebrating by getting food from a buffet

Assess the risks

  • In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.
  • If you decide to engage in public activities, continue to protect yourself by practicing everyday preventive actions.
  • Keep these items on hand when venturing out: a face mask, tissues, and a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  • Should you go out? Learn what factors to consider before you head out.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have had contact with someone with COVID-19.
  • If you are contacted by contact tracers, follow their instructions to protect you, your family, and your community. Stay home and away from others during quarantine, get tested, and monitor your health.
illustration of a woman wearing a mask arriving for a gathering

Considerations for Small Gatherings of Family and Friends

Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household (who are consistently taking measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19) poses the lowest risk for spread. In-person gatherings that bring together family members or friends from different households, including college students returning home, pose varying levels of risk. Organizers and attendees of larger events should consider the risk of virus spread based on event size (number of attendees and other factors) and take steps to reduce the possibility of infection, as outlined in the Considerations for Events and Gatherings.

There are several factors that contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 at small in-person gatherings. In combination, these factors will create various amounts of risk:

  • Community levels of COVID-19 – High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the gathering location, as well as in the areas where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Family and friends should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate when deciding whether to host or attend a gathering.
  • Exposure during travel – Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces.
  • Location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation (for example, small enclosed spaces with no outside air), pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.
  • Duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires a 14-day quarantine.
  • Number and crowding of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, wear maskswash hands, and follow health rules.
    • During the Pause, Malheur County residents must limit gatherings to only household members or no more than 6 people total. Outside of the Pause, social get-togethers are limited to 10 people. Masks are required.
  • Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – Individuals who did not consistently adhere to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearinghandwashing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than those who consistently practiced these safety measures.
  • Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearingsocial distancing, and handwashing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.
illustration of friends gathering outdoors wearing masks and six feet apart

The following people should not attend in-person gatherings

People at increased risk for severe illness
If you are an older adult or person with certain medical conditions who is at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19, or live or work with someone at increased risk of severe illness, you should avoid in-person gatherings with people who do not live in your household.

illustration of a young family enjoying a virtual meal with an older couple

More CDC recommendations for holiday gatherings here.

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