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  • Katie McCallum

Your COVID-19 Playbook: 6 Tips If You're Hosting a Watch Party

Sports. There's nothing like 'em. Thank goodness they're back.

And while some aspects of sports may look a little different this season (and I'm not just talking about Tom Brady in a Bucs uniform), the most important things, like Deshaun Watson's laser beam passes into the end zone, will still look just as spectacular as ever.

Some of your own game-day rituals and traditions will look a little different, too, right? Most teams and leagues still aren't allowing crowds at stadiums or arenas. Tailgating appears to be taking a hiatus in 2020. Speaking of, are the watch parties you're used to having every season with your friends safe right now?

Unfortunately, social gatherings — even small ones — still come with risks. But if you do decide to take the risk and host one, here's how to make your watch party a little safer.

The best defense is a good offense

There's nothing like watching the game with your friends. But, like everything else during this pandemic, safely executing your watch party will come down to knowing your opponent's strengths and weaknesses, as well as knowing the keys to taking home a win on game day...I mean hosting a winning, but still safe, watch party.

Here are six things you need to know about COVID-19:

  1. It spreads easily from person to person through close contact

  2. The closer or longer you come into contact with other people, the more your risk increases

  3. It can also be spread by touching an infected surface and then touching your face

  4. You can be infected and not know it

  5. Anyone can get sick with this virus, but some people can get seriously ill

  6. Measures such as social distancing, wearing a mask and frequent hand washing can help keep you safe

Now that you know the strengths and weakness of your opponent, here are six defensive plays to add to your watch party playbook during COVID-19.

1. Move your watch party from the bar to your backyard

Here's the deal: If you're thinking you can safely host a watch party at a bar, you may want to think again. And since social distancing means keeping a three-person couch between yourself and others, hosting a watch party in your home isn't a good idea, either.

Instead, move your watch party outside of the bar, outside of your home — and into your backyard. Outdoors, you'll have plenty of room to stay socially distanced while still being able to enjoy the game safely together.

Your game-day strategy should be to keep your guests outdoors as much as possible. So you'll need to think about ways to keep your guests cool and dry, as well as make sure you have literally everything your guests may need available outside, including:

  • Tables and chairs

  • Coolers

  • Plastic plates, cups and utensils

  • Napkins or paper towels

  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer

  • Disinfectant wipes

You may even want to have a few power strips and charging blocks set up for those friends who spend more time checking their fantasy team's score on their phones than they do watching the actual game.

Of course, you'll also need to think about how you're going to show the game, which can be as easy as dragging a TV out to your backyard, or as committed as investing in a projector and projector screen you can set up outside. (This pandemic is going to be around for a while, so probably not a bad investment, right?).

Lastly, think about your plan for when nature calls. To limit the risk of your guests touching potentially contaminated surfaces inside your home, as well as potentially contaminating surfaces themselves, make sure everyone knows exactly how to get to your restroom. In addition, you may want to have paper towels in the bathroom so you and your guests aren't sharing a hand towel.

2. Keep your guest list to your first string only

Okay, calling any of your friends first or second string may be a bit harsh — but the point is that now's not the time to be inviting just anyone to your watch party. Since any social gathering, even a small one that's outside, comes with risks during this pandemic, it's best to limit your guest list altogether.

Ideally, limit your watch party to one or two other households. And while we're on the subject, make it the households that are being just as safe and taking the same level of risk as yours. For instance, if your friend just came back from vacation or is dining at restaurants frequently, he or she likelier has a higher risk of exposure than you if you've been ordering food in or limiting travel.

Plus, you can always ask people to join your watch party virtually.

3. Set up virtual bleachers

In a time when limiting in-person interactions is the key to staying healthy and safe, you may want to be prepared for some virtual watch party attendees.

Maybe you have a friend who's high risk and doesn't feel safe gathering in a group. And maybe another friend works in a place where he or she frequently interacts with people and is looking for ways to cut down on his or her overall risk.

No matter the reason, some of your friends may be excited to watch the game with you — but not with you, with you.

For your virtual attendees, have a video chat set up so you can banter, chant and scream back and forth with ease. While nothing can replace the in person high fives, fist bumps and (let's face it) trash talking, there are plenty of digital tools that can help you enjoy the game with your friends — even if not in person.

4. Avoid illegal formations

There's nothing like a good play, intense fourth quarter or even just one too many beers to tempt you out of those inconvenient social-distancing measures.

First of all, six feet may be further than you think.

For any football fan, six feet is two yards from the end zone. Finding it hard to visualize that imaginary line? Make it easier on yourself.

Arrange chairs six feet apart — you may find a semicircle formation works well. And don't be afraid to set up social-distancing barriers, like cones or pylons, to help remind you just how much distance you need to keep while standing around.

5. BYO wings and drinks

Game-day snacks usually consist of bags of chips, plates of wings, coolers of drinks. While all of these things are still totally safe on occasion during a pandemic, sharing them is not.

Shared food and shared common spaces not only bring you into closer contact with others, they're also an easy way for someone who's sick and doesn't know it to contaminate the serving area. From there, all it takes is touching your face to potentially get sick.

This season, ask your friends to bring their own snacks, wings and drinks (and coolers, if needed).

One relatively safe way to serve your guests food is to serve freshly cooked meat directly off of your grill or barbecue pit. Each guest should still bring his or her own sides and drinks, though.

6. Keep your eye on the game clock

Back in the day, it was totally safe to hang out for hours watching football with your buds. During a pandemic, the longer you gather, the riskier your watch party becomes.

There's no hard-and-fast rule as to how long your gathering should be — any amount of time increases your risk — but avoid letting your watch party drag on beyond the final whistle.

Enjoy the game, each other's company and having someone to celebrate (or lament) with at the end of the game — and then don't be afraid to kindly let your friends know that it's time to say your goodbyes.

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