Here's When Can You Hang Out With Friends Again

Spending time with friends amid the coronavirus pandemic might be possible sooner than you think.

With warm weather rolling in and summer holidays approaching, it's never felt quite so tempting to bid a not-so-fond farewell to those social distancing recommendations. And with states beginning to open their beaches and businesses once again, having a barbecue with pals or gathering to watch fireworks with family members might no longer seem like the perilous activity it did just a few weeks ago. However, with coronavirus cases still rising in certain areas, many people are left wondering: When can I safely hang out with my friends again?

Even if your state is reopening, experts say that doesn't necessarily mean it's safe to get together in close quarters with loved ones you don't live with just yet.

According to Leo Nissola, MD, an advisor for Covid Act Now and investigator with the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, once social distancing recommendations do start being lifted, there are still a number of factors people should take into consideration before seeing friends again, including "if new COVID-19 cases in your county are decreasing, if COVID-19 testing is widely available, and if your local ICUs have headroom to handle a new wave or not." If you can't confidently answer yes to all three of those, Nissola cautions against gathering just yet.

Even if those criteria have been met, there are precautions people should take if they're longing for human interaction that doesn't require a Zoom link to access—but your hangouts may look significantly different than they did pre-pandemic.

four friends wearing face masks walking down a city street

"The rules haven't changed when it comes to being in the company of people," explains physician scientist William Li, MD, author of Eat to Beat Disease.

"You must wear a mask, keep a safe six feet away from others at all times, avoid hugging or other physical contact, don't share food, [and] carry hand sanitizer," as well as washing your hands when the visit is over, says Li.

In the initial stages of reopening, experts say that being mindful of who you're visiting with will be just as essential as maintaining physical distance. Brian Fink, PhD, an epidemiologist and professor of population health at The University of Toledo, says that being open about your health status—and encouraging others to do the same—can go a long way in terms of mitigating risk.

"You need to communicate and know if those people you wish to visit may be older, immune-compromised, or have other preexisting health conditions," explains Fink. "Without a vaccine, we just have to be cautious—perhaps extra-cautious—to make sure we do not infect others." And if you want to keep your loved ones safe when you do get together, make sure you know these 6 Precautions You Must Take Before Visiting Family.

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Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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