A hand squeezes liquid from a tube into an at-home COVID-19 test kit.
Illustration: PGN

Leer en español

What you need to know

  • Use ventilation and filtration tools to reduce indoor COVID-19 transmission.
  • Rapid tests before gathering can help protect you and your guests.
  • Guests who are immunocompromised or at high risk may benefit from extra precautions.

Planning a party can be stressful with all the shopping, cooking, and cleaning. Ensuring that your gathering is safe from COVID-19 and other viruses requires a whole separate to-do list.

The best way to prevent viral transmission in a social setting is to be outdoors. But that isn’t always possible. Not only can it be too cold in the winters, but heat waves and poor air quality can prevent outdoor activities in warmer seasons as well. Below, we’ve compiled some essential tips for how to host a COVID-safe gathering indoors.

Use ventilation and filtration tools to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

Paying attention to your indoor air quality helps protect against not only COVID-19, but also air pollutants like smoke from wildfires and nitrogen dioxide from cooking. The CDC recommends replacing the air in a room at least five times an hour to reduce the amount of germs in a space. You can do this through a combination of ventilation (circulating outdoor air into a closed space) and filtration (removing unwanted particles from the air).

Opening the windows is a simple but powerful way to improve ventilation. You can further increase airflow by setting up a fan in front of the window, facing outward, or by turning on exhaust fans in the house.

In terms of filtration, there are several tools you can use. One of the most cost-effective options is building a Corsi-Rosenthal box for the main gathering room. These DIY air filters can capture about 85 percent of unwanted particles from the air. You can find instructions in English and Spanish here for how to build them.

HEPA air purifiers are another filtration option. They are more expensive than Corsi-Rosenthal boxes but are considered the gold-standard air filter for their ability to remove more than 99 percent of unwanted particles. When choosing a HEPA air purifier, take into consideration whether it is suitable for the size of your main gathering room. This air purifier is a popular option, and this one is recommended for larger rooms.

Encourage everyone to take a rapid test before gathering.

Besides ventilating and filtering the indoor air, you can also ask guests to test for COVID-19 before gathering. Now that the public health emergency is over, free at-home tests are harder to find, but some insurers and health plans may still cover the cost. You can also find free or low-cost tests at community health centers, public health departments, or other local organizations.

Anyone who receives a positive test should stay home, as they are most likely infectious. You may want to ask guests who test negative but are experiencing symptoms to stay home as well since rapid tests do not detect all COVID-19 infections and other viruses, such as flu or RSV, could be the culprit.

Be considerate of guests who are immunocompromised or at high risk.

People who are immunocompromised or at high risk often cannot afford to abandon precautions and risk infection. Infants and young kids are also particularly vulnerable to sickness from flu and RSV, as we saw from the concerning number of kids hospitalized for these two respiratory illnesses last winter.

If you have guests attending who are immunocompromised or vulnerable to severe disease, it’s important to check in with them and see what you can do to ensure that they feel safe and comfortable. You may want to limit the event to people who have received their flu shot and are up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations.

Remember, the goal is for everyone to enjoy the festivities and return home safe and healthy.