Guidance for Private Social Gatherings

Screen Shot 2021-03-25 at 2.58.03 PMMany cases of COVID-19 have been linked to small gatherings. This video is about how to gather in a safer way in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.

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Safer socializing during the pandemic:
COVID-19 Q&A with Emily Sickbert-Bennett

How safe are small study groups during the pandemic? What about dining indoors at a restaurant? Is it safe to run outside without a mask?

Watch the video:

Guidance for the Gathering


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While we all miss a time when families and others gather together, you should be careful, particularly if gatherings include individuals at higher risk for severe illness (e.g., people over the age of 65 or who have underlying health conditions), and if there is an increasing or high number of cases in the community. If you have been recently diagnosed with COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19, or have been around a person with COVID-19, then do not host or participate in any in-person gatherings until you complete your isolation or quarantine period.

Guidance for Watching Your Favorite Sports Teams

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidelines on attending sporting events or watch parties. Attending large gatherings increases your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. The safest way to watch your favorite sports teams is at home with your household members. 

  1. Risk Levels
  2. Decreasing Risk
  3. Travel and Gathering
  4. Planning In-person Holiday Gatherings

virtual_meal Low Risk Level Activities:

  • Having a dinner with only people who live in your household.
  • Preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others.
  • Having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family.
  • Watching sports events, parades, and movies from home.

 Moderate Risk Activities:

  • Having a small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community.
  • Attending a small outdoor sports event with safety precautions in place
  • Attending a reverse parade, where spectators remain in their car and drive by floats or performers 
  • Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing

Higher Risk Activities:

Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household or with people who do not practice the 3 W’s (wear, wait, and wash)
  • Attending parades- under the current Executive Order traditional parades are prohibited mass gatherings and limited in size
  • Participating or being a spectator at a crowded race. Reminder that mass gatherings of groups
    • Remember that any gathering of more than 10 people indoors or 50 people outdoors are prohibited statewide

Guidance for Shopping

mask As retailers prepare for the holiday season, it is important that customers also take the necessary precautions to shop safely and avoid crowded shopping opportunities that can arise. It is strongly recommended that individuals do not participate in any traditional shopping where customers gather in large groups waiting for the store to open or are in crowded stores for extended times. It is also recommended that people who are at high risk for COVID-19 complications (e.g., people over 65 years of age or with underlying chronic conditions) limit in-person shopping if possible. If you have been recently diagnosed with COVID-19, have symptoms of COVID-19, or have been around a person with COVID-19, do not conduct in-person shopping until you complete your isolation or quarantine period. 

NCDHHS encourages individuals to follow the recommended actions below and to begin shopping earlier in the season:

  1. Before You Go Shopping
  2. When You Are Out Shopping
  • Check to see if the store offers online shopping or curbside pick-up that can be used instead of in-person shopping.
  • Check to see the store hours and consider going at off-times, so there are fewer people in the store.
  • Check to see if the stores offer special hours for people with high risk for severe illness.
  • Wear a cloth face mask and bring hand sanitizer with you to the store.

Guidance for Private Social Gatherings

Any scenario in which people gather together poses a risk for COVID-19 transmission. This includes private social gatherings in North Carolina such as cookouts or holiday gatherings. This guidance is intended for hosts and guests of private gatherings. The guidance below will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in communities.


  1. The Basics
  2. Hosting a Social Gathering
  3. Attending a Social Gathering

The Basics

  • Do not host or attend a gathering if:
    • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • You are waiting for COVID-19 test results
    • You are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
    • You have been told by the local health department to quarantine or isolate, or
    • You may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19
  • No gathering should exceed current Mass Gathering Limits (10 people indoors and 50 people outdoors). Gatherings above these limits are currently prohibited statewide to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, the virus can be spread in smaller gatherings as well.
  • When deciding how many people to invite to your gathering, consider the amount of space you have and the ability to maintain social distancing during the event.
  • People at high risk of complications for COVID-19 (e.g., people over 65 years of age or with underlying chronic conditions) should avoid social gatherings. If they do attend, ensure the 3Ws are practiced.
  • Consider hosting virtual events or having a virtual option for individuals that are higher risk to join safely from their home.
  • Outdoor activities are preferred over indoor because it is easier to stay apart and there is more wind and air to help reduce the spread of the virus. However, even in outdoor settings, the more people that interact increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
  • Practice the 3 Ws (Wear, Wait, Wash) during the event: Wear a face covering, Wait six feet apart from others, and Wash your hands regularly.
  • Anyone who develops COVID-19 within 48 hours after attending a gathering should notify other attendees as soon as possible regarding the potential exposure.