Ahhh, the joys of gathering around the grill with your closest friends, knocking back a few drinks as you enjoy the extra day off from work on a day that finally feels like summer.
The traditions of your Memorial Day barbecues may be tried and true, but in the times of a pandemic, they’re bound to look a bit different this year. At least, they should.
With states across the US starting to ease up on coronavirus restrictions, it may seem tempting to host a big backyard bash, but experts have repeatedly warned that Americans need to remain vigilant to prevent a second wave. Governors have asked Americans dial it back too. “”It is not a weekend to have a big barbecue,” Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said. “Get together in a small group. Enjoy your family. Go for a walk.”
With that in mind, here’s how you can safely enjoy your Memorial Day barbecue.
Bring your own food
You should try to have just your own family (or quarantine bubble) at your Memorial Day gathering, but if you plan on joining with another group, make sure to maintain a physical distance. We’re talking six feet or more.
Also, bring your own food and try to stay outdoors as much as you can.
“As soon as you have a shared bowl of chips… hands go into it, hands go in mouth, hands back into the bowl,” Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota.
“We all have that little bit of an ick factor in general with double-dipping and things like that, but when you have an infectious disease running through the community, we really need to stop that,” he added.
Meat may be more difficult to come by at the grocery store because of the shortage, but if you are grilling, make sure the food goes straight off the grill onto the person’s plate.
Be careful with alcohol
For those who partake, a good barbecue wouldn’t be the same without an ice cold beer, but think twice before chugging down your third or fourth one.
“When we drink a little, we get a little closer, we get a little more touchy, hands can touch shoulders; we just need to be careful with that,” Bromage said.
After you finish your drink or food, make sure that you throw away the cups, plates and cutlery yourself right away. Be kind to the host or hostess – don’t let them do it because that’s a way for them to get infected themselves.
Play sports? Stick to soccer
Instead of playing football, try football.
“Soccer, not with a scrimmage – you don’t want to be bring people close together,” Bromage said. “But kicking a ball on the ground from one side of the yard to the other, there’s not really an issue with that.”
Throwing a football, baseball, or frisbee involves your hands, which you are most likely to use when touching your face or other surfaces, increasing the risk of transmission.
No pool games like Marco Polo
Chlorine is effective in killing the virus so pool water – if properly maintained – should be safe, Bromage said. But if you or your kids decide to jump in with people from different households, you still have to maintain social distancing.
“Be on the other side of the pool while sitting there having a conversation with someone from a different household,” Bromage said.
That means no pool games like Marco Polo or water basketball. And certainly no scrappy chicken fights.
Parks and beaches may be open, but maintain social distancing
If you’re planning on taking your barbecue to the park or a beach, know that there will likely be local officials enforcing social distancing measures and capping parking at a set capacity.
For example, some parks in Connecticut will cap parking at 25% capacity in an effort to control crowds, according to Commissioner Katie Dykes with the state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Public restrooms and concessions will also be closed at Connecticut’s state parks and there will be no lifeguards at the state’s shoreline parks.
At New Jersey’s popular Ocean City, authorities will patrol several beaches to ensure that visitors are maintaining six feet of space between others and that groups are limited to 10 people.
Check with your local park or beach to see what rules they will be enforcing.
Remember to honor our fallen heroes
Don’t forget who we’re honoring. While most Memorial Day parades and public ceremonies have been canceled, there are other ways you can still remember those who died while serving the nation.
All public events at national cemeteries, including the longtime tradition of Boy Scouts and other groups placing American flags on the graves of veterans, have been canceled.
What you need to know about coronavirus
Each national cemetery, however, will still conduct a wreath laying ceremony along with a moment of silence and the playing of Taps, which will be livestreamed on the National Cemetery Administration’s Facebook page.
You can also pay tribute to a service member interred at a national cemetery by leaving a comment online at the Veterans Legacy Memorial.
For the first time in its 31-year history, the National Memorial Day Concert will be held virtually. The concert, hosted by actors Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise, will feature the US Army Chorus, the National Symphony Orchestra, Broadway star Kelli O’Hara among others.
It will be livestreamed on PBS.org, YouTube and Facebook at 8 p.m. ET.
Ancestry is also livestreaming a virtual “Memorial Day Parade of Heroes” on its Facebook page at 11 a.m. ET. The 45-minute production will be hosted by Kathie Lee Gifford and feature musical performances by singer Tori Kelly. ic
CNN’s Amanda Watts contributed to this report.