Although it’s now summertime in Chicagoland, that season many look forward to, it will doubtless look different this year. Yes, it will still be hot (maybe hotter), with long, sunny days. And we can once more experience many simple pleasures, like walking barefoot through the cool grass and sipping water out of a hose. But what will change this year is who we will and who we won’t be able to share those moments with due to Covid-19 — and what kind of precautions we will take while hosting guests during coronavirus.
Of course, this is one of the biggest pleasures of the year — inviting friends and family over for picnics, games or just hanging out. But with a pandemic on the rise, it begs the questions: Can you still host guests during coronavirus? And if so, how do you host them safely?
The good news is that hosting outside seems to be a go with experts across the board, and hosting inside really depends on the precautions you’re willing to take. “In general, being outside is better than being inside, being farther apart is better than being close together, smaller numbers of people are better than larger numbers of people, and being sure that nobody who is getting together is not feeling well,” says Dr. Hilary Babcock, a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases and medical director of the Infection Prevention and Epidemiology Consortium for BJC HealthCare.
How to Safely Host People Outdoors During Quarantine
While being outside with friends and family is safer, there are further safety steps you can take while enjoying one another’s company, including wearing a mask and providing hand sanitizer. (Note: Each time you interact with someone outside of your household, you put yourself at risk of COVID-19 exposure. The following are not guidelines and you may want to use more caution based on your own comfort level, age, location, and the health status of yourself and those around you.)
Sharing a bottle of wine
Doing so with a friend on your front porch, six feet apart, socially distanced, is a great idea. You can chat and have a lovely time. But doing so inside a bar with loads of other people who are not wearing masks is not.
Having a backyard get-together/bonfire
Staying outdoors and maintaining distance with a small group made up of those you know who have all been practicing social distancing is safer than a larger gathering indoors. Most yards have plenty of room to set chairs six feet apart.
Ryan Malosh, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, says, “Any shared food will increase the likelihood of a person who was exposed handling your food. With good hand hygiene, the risk of transmission this way can be reduced. Anyone who is sick or who has been around someone who is sick should not be sharing food.” Having your guests bring their own goodies or only serving individual serving size snacks might be best.
Throwing a pool party
While there doesn’t seem to be any evidence showing that being in the water with others will likely lead to infection, the hazardous part is the nearness to others in the pool, where wearing a mask is difficult. A safer activity for kids might be playing in the sprinkler – or having water balloon fights!
Games like corn hole, where you can easily keep six feet apart are the safest. But since the bean bags are being shared, you might want to either wear gloves or wipe your hands down often with a hand sanitizer. Sports such as volleyball where you’re likely to have close contact with others should only be played with masks or avoided altogether.
Hiking and biking
Even though COVID-19 remains a concern in public spaces, some parks and hiking trails in the Chicago area may still be open during this time. If possible, pick a less-used trail or go during a less popular time. If each family member and friend has access to a bicycle, you can ride local bike trails or just take an evening ride around the neighborhood. You should bring masks along with you and be able to easily keep far enough apart for safety.
How to Safely Host People Indoors During Quarantine
But what if you’re forced inside due to weather, allergies, insects, etc.? What steps can you take beforehand to ensure you and your guests are as safe as possible?
Since it’s hard to socially distance inside, be sure to wear a mask. Have extras ready in case a guest doesn’t have one. Also, while person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 through the air poses a much greater risk than conveying it via surfaces, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends cleaning and disinfecting surfaces that are often touched at least once a day, even if you’re staying home. That’s because when objects or people come in and out of your home, there are increased opportunities for exposure.
A recent study found that the novel coronavirus can remain in the air for up to three hours and live on surfaces such as cardboard for up to 24 hours, and plastic and stainless steel for up to three days. So, it may be possible that a person could contract COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
Here are a few ways to make sure you are properly cleaning and disinfecting your home and keeping your household as germ-free as possible in order to keep your family and guests safe.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Before Hosting Guests
A key way to entertain guests safely during coronavirus is to be sure you’re keeping up with your cleaning and disinfection processes. By disinfecting high-touch surfaces and keeping the home clean after potential exposure, you’ll ensure that guests are safe from the virus when they visit your home.
It’s important to note that cleaning a surface – just removing dirt and particles – isn’t the same as disinfecting it to kill viruses and bacteria. (See our article, “The Difference Between Cleaning and Disinfecting”.)
There are many products you can use to clean hard surfaces in your home, like soapy water and vinegar. And while cleaning high-traffic surfaces to remove contaminants, dust and dirt is a necessary step of cleaning your home, you still need to disinfect those surfaces from the novel coronavirus.
Note that not all cleaning products kill all types of germs, so you should know exactly which products kill COVID-19. The EPA has established a list of disinfectants that meet their criteria for use against novel coronavirus. You might already have some of these products in your home, such as:
- Disinfecting wipes, including Clorox, Lysol or store brand wipes
- Disinfectant sprays, such as Purell, Clorox or Lysol
- Isopropyl alcohol
- Hydrogen peroxide
And while using effective virus-killing products is important, you also need to follow the proper techniques to thoroughly disinfect surfaces. The EPA advises that you let the product sit and remain wet on surfaces or objects for 10 minutes, and that will kill 99.9 percent of germs.
If you don’t have any disinfecting products on hand and can’t find any in stores, the CDC offers instructions about how to create a homemade bleach disinfectant spray. If you use this product, be sure to wear gloves, open windows and be careful since bleach can damage or discolor sensitive surfaces.
While you don’t need to clean your entire house every day, you should concentrate on disinfecting daily these areas that attract the most germs and your guests are most likely to touch:
- Cabinet and drawer knobs
- Water Faucets
- Kitchen and bathroom counters
- Toilets seats and flush levers
- Kitchen appliance handles
- TV remotes and game controllers
- Cell phones, tablets, and other mobile devices
- Stair railings
- Light switches/switch plates
If you can, wear disposable gloves and toss them after disinfecting. If you wear reusable gloves, disinfect them when you’re done. And always wash your hands before and after you clean and disinfect your home.
And of course, protecting your guests and safely hosting them at home requires that both you and them keep up with good hand washing practices. That’s one of the best ways to lower the risk of contracting COVID-19. The CDC recommends an intense 20-second scrub with soap and water up to the wrists, between the fingers and under the fingernails. To encourage hand washing while hosting people during coronavirus, be sure your guests have easy access to soap and water.
Hosting Guests Safely This Summer
Although Illinois averaged about half as many new Covid-19 cases and deaths each day in June compared to May, when the state hit its apparent coronavirus peak, this is no time to relax your cleaning standards as in many parts of the country cases are still on the rise. But if you have a busy schedule, giving your property a good deep clean might seem impossible. Let ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons take on that challenge for you. ServiceMaster By Simons has provided Specialty Cleaning Services for Chicago’s homes and businesses for over 65 years.
So, although this summer will be different from all past ones, Chicagoans can still enjoy it by being vigilant about cleaning, mask wearing and social distancing. We will get through this together and have a heck of a story to tell our grandchildren.
ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons is an MBE/WBE certified firm and family-run company serving Chicago, Oak Park/River Forest, and the North Shore. ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons provides Disaster Restoration Services including COVID-19 Cleaning Services, Water & Flood Damage Restoration, Fire & Smoke Damage Restoration, Mold Remediation, and a wide range of interior specialty cleaning including Hoarder & Clutter Cleaning, Post-Construction Cleaning, Carpet Cleaning, and Upholstery Cleaning to residential and commercial customers. ServiceMaster Cleaning By Simons provides Specialty Cleaning Services For Chicago, Oak Park-River Forest, and the North Shore. For more information, give us a call at 773-376-1110 or visit servicemasterbysimons.com.