July 4th typically marks the height of summer
with Independence Day parades, firework displays, patriotic music and family get-togethers.
Americans usually observe tradition with family and friends as we gather in
neighborhood parks, spend the day at the beach or barbecue in our own backyard.
A month ago, it seemed the United States was on the road to
recovery. States and counties started lifting some safer-at-home restrictions,
enabling people to socialize in the community.
Today, we find the road to recovery is longer and more
arduous than any of us realized. Recent data indicates record numbers of new
COVID-19 cases surging across the nation, and many states are reinstating
restrictions on travel and gatherings, leaving families unsure how to celebrate
safely on this great American holiday.
People who love and care for those with intellectual and
developmental disabilities must remain especially cautious. A recent study
revealed that people
with intellectual and developmental disabilities contract the virus and die at
higher rates than the rest of the population.
For safety reasons, not everyone can gather with friends and
family at this time, but for those who can, let’s look at ways to celebrate
while remaining vigilant and protecting our loved ones and ourselves.
Eight Essential Practices for Safe Gatherings
- Limit the number of people with whom you
interact to a small number (check your state’s guidelines) and keep the
duration of your gathering as short as possible. Better yet, celebrate with
people with whom you’ve been sheltering.
- Take it outdoors when possible. It’s
Independence Day, after all. When you can’t remain outside, ensure adequate
ventilation indoors by opening doors and windows.
- Arrange tables and chairs to keep people six
feet apart and avoid sharing objects. People from the same household can
sit together, but everyone should use their own utensils.
- Avoid close contact among visitors and discourage
handshakes, hugs and elbow bumps. Wave, smile and say, “hello” from six
feet away. It’s the greeting of the season.
- Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when
you’re in a group, even outdoors, and avoid others who are not wearing a mask. Children
under two years of age, those with trouble breathing and anyone unable to
remove the mask without assistance should NOT wear a mask.
- Wash your hands (or use hand sanitizer)
upon arrival, when you leave, before serving food or eating, and any time your
hands may be contaminated. Don’t touch common surfaces and clean touched
- Show your American pride by displaying
your American flag; wearing red, white and blue; adding patriotic decorations;
or whipping up a red, white and blue fruit salad with strawberries, bananas and
- Cancel your celebration if you or a visitor
have symptoms of illness or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the
past 14 days. Also, remember that a significant number of virus
transmissions (the CDC
has said 40%) come from asymptomatic (no symptoms) people, unaware they’re
carrying the virus. Err on the side of caution.
The CDC provides additional
guidance on safely gathering during COVID-19.
Gatherings are not appropriate for everyone. If your
loved ones with intellectual or developmental disabilities may be endangered by
congregating or they find these safety precautions challenging, consider
skipping the gathering and explore other options instead. Here
are five ways people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can safely
enjoy the outdoors.
Can’t go out? Check out the Bethesda In-Home Activity Center where you can browse numerous resources that will help you connect with your loved one and enjoy your time together this holiday weekend, and use online meeting tools like Zoom, Skype and FaceTime to gather virtually.
Have a happy Independence Day and celebrate safely. We will get through this, together.