No hugs or handshakes: Advice for safely getting together this Memorial Day Weekend

No hugs or handshakes: Advice for safely getting together this Memorial Day Weekend

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina’s stay-at-home order will be lifted Friday at 5 p.m., ahead of Memorial Day Weekend. For many North Carolinians, that means reunions with family members and friends will be able to happen in person instead of virtually for the first time in weeks.

Despite the long absence in seeing each other, state Health Director Dr. Betsey Tilson is advising to ditch the handshake or hug.

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“It’s probably better to stay 6 feet away from people and not hug or fist-bump,” Tilson said. “But if you’re going to do a very brief elbow bump and back out, that’s probably OK.”

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Phase 2 allows gatherings to resume in higher numbers. Indoor parties can have up to 10 people. Outdoor parties can have up to 25. Tilson is recommending outdoor parties if people choose to have a get-together.

“We know the spread of the disease is more likely in an indoor setting versus an outdoor setting,” Tilson said. “In an outdoor setting you are having an increase in air circulation. People can distance more, so an outdoor setting would be less risky than an indoor setting.”

Dr. Keith Griffin also said staying outside is the key to staying healthy. He said if people are cooking out or do have to go inside someone else’s house, try to have as little contact as possible.

“Have disposable utensils. Try to minimize serving out of a buffet line where people are sort of mixing things together and if you have to go to the bathroom, wash your hands really well afterward,” Griffin said.

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In Phase 2, youth sports are allowed to resume as long as the group doesn’t violate the mass gathering limit. As for activities outside, Tilson said some are safer than others.

“Let’s say you are on the beach, and you are going to play paddleball or bocce or Frisbee, and you are far apart. That’s much more safer than playing tackle football on the beach where people are intentionally in contact with touching,” she said. “That would be higher risk.”

Indoor and outdoor pools are also allowed to reopen in Phase 2. Swimmers should not wear face coverings. But while it is not a requirement, Tilson still recommends wearing a face covering if lounging by the pool.

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"This virus is spread by respiratory droplets when you are breathing or talking," she said. "So by you wearing a face covering, that is preventing some of those respiratory droplets from coming out and exposing other people. So when you are on the side of the pool lounging, it would be better for the people around you to be wearing that cloth face covering."

While clearly you can’t eat and wear a mask or face covering, Tilson does recommend wearing face coverings if dining inside a restaurant. Restaurants are permitted to reopen at 50% capacity in Phase 2.

"As much as possible, wear it for as long as you can when you are ordering, when you are waiting on your food, and then take it off when you're eating," she said. "But then put it back on when you're not actively eating."

It may not seem ideal. But if you are going on a first date, Tilson is also recommending you wear a face covering if it is with a stranger.

“Certainly, if that person is sick, you can ask them, ‘Do you have a fever? Do you have any symptoms of COVID-19?’ And I would recommend not going on a date with someone who is actively sick,” she said. “But the tricky part is what we are learning more and more is that people can spread the virus and not have any symptoms. So even if somebody doesn’t seem to be sick, it doesn’t mean they can’t be spreading the virus. So if it is someone you haven’t met before, I would say stay as much as possible 6 feet away from them and have that cloth face covering.”

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