Safe and Warm Ways to Gather Outside While Social Distancing

February 16, 2021

There’s no substitute for spending quality, in-person time with friends. But when you aren’t part of the same COVID bubble and the safest way to socialize is outdoors, you may assume that get-togethers are off-limits during the chilly winter months.

That doesn’t have to be the case. If you can adjust your attitude about the cold and plan ahead with friends, it can be quite enjoyable to see people during the pandemic, without computer screens between you.

We talked to Yildiz Zorba, M.D., an internal medicine specialist with Hackensack Meridian Medical Group about how to gather outside safely:

Ideas to help you socialize outdoors during the winter

You’ll stay warmer if you meet friends for some physical activity, but it’s also possible to treat the outdoors as an extension of your living room and sit together for a while. Try these ideas:

  • go for a walk in your neighborhood
  • hike through a local park
  • if you have space in your backyard, consider purchasing a fire pit or propane heater; they can provide warmth and ambiance, then invite friends to sit, socially distanced around the fire
  • if you want to hang out in your garage, be sure that everyone can stay 6 feet apart; keep the garage door wide open, and open a window for extra ventilation
  • meet in the courtyard near your building or a community park to sit and chat
  • consider going to a local bar or restaurant, if they have relaxed outdoor seating that allows you to sit 6 feet away from friends, rather than gathering face-to-face around a table, which is too close

Ways to stay warm while socializing outdoors

Don’t expect outdoor winter gatherings to last for more than an hour or two. Try these ideas to make them more comfortable for everyone:

  • consider meeting during daylight hours… or early in the evening, before the temperature drops
  • wear double layers (top and bottom), a jacket, scarf, hat and gloves, plus thick socks and boots
  • wear a mask, it offers protection from COVID and warmth for your face
  • consider putting hand warmers in your pockets or foot warmers in your boots
  • sit on a foldable fabric chair – not a stone, metal or wooden park bench, which will chill you
  • bring a blanket or sleeping bag to sit on, if the only seating available is stone, metal or wood
  • wrap yourself in a blanket or sleeping bag, for extra warmth
  • postpone your get-together if it’s raining, snowing, windy or colder than expected

Proper etiquette while social distancing

To ensure that everyone stays safe when you get together:

  • maintain a 6-foot distance from people outside of your household
  • wear a mask over your nose and mouth the entire time, unless you’re eating or drinking while 6 feet apart from others
  • greet people with waves or fist bumps, not hugs or handshakes
  • limit your get-together to two or three other couples – don’t invite the whole neighborhood
  • if you’ll be eating or drinking, have everyone bring their own food and beverages; don’t host a potluck
  • limit alcohol intake; it may make you feel warmer, but it lowers your core temperature and makes you have to use the bathroom, when you may not have access to one

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.