A Guide to Social-Distance Picnicking
Here’s the thing: There’s a pandemic on. There’s no end in sight. With so much still unknown about the virus—and so little policy consensus on the risks of easing social restrictions—it’s hard to know what to think or what’s the right thing to do. In the absence of clearer guidance on charting a middle course between strict lockdown and full-on denial, what else can we do but follow our instincts to a place that balances caution and risk?
For us, we not only prefer to err on the side of caution, we believe it’s everyone’s responsibility to follow reasonable social-distancing guidelines when out in public. As much as we look forward to the day when we can go back to our favorite restaurants and bars, it’s gonna take time.
In the meantime, we’re going to stick with outdoor dining. According to epidemiologists and other smart people, the risks of contracting or transmitting the virus decreases in open air—provided we wear face coverings and maintain physical distance. This bit from the New York Times story is especially encouraging:
Pandemic life is safer outdoors, in part, because even a light wind will quickly dilute the virus. If a person nearby is sick, the wind will scatter the virus, potentially exposing nearby people but in far smaller quantities, which are less likely to be harmful.
“The virus load is important,” said Eugene Chudnovsky, a physicist at Lehman College and the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. “A single virus will not make anyone sick; it will be immediately destroyed by the immune system. The belief is that one needs a few hundred to a few thousand of SARS-CoV-2 viruses to overwhelm the immune response.”“What We Know About Your Chances of Catching the Virus Outdoors,” The New York Times, May 15, 2020
The Times also published some guidelines for safe social-distance picnicking, which has some practical, common-sense suggestions. And we loved seeing this free design template for a sew-your-own social-distance picnic blanket from the Paul Cocksedge Studio.
With all this in mind, we’ve been dipping our toes back into picnicking with some small gatherings in the park, by the riverside, and other locations en plein air. To ensure we’re doing it safely and responsibly, here’s our Pandemic Picnic Checklist:
1. Mask Up
Unless you find wearing a mask to be suffocatingly uncomfortable (or you’re philosophically opposed to the idea of shared sacrifice and civic responsibility—in which case, what are you doing here anyway?), this should be an easy one. And fun, too! So many different styles and patterns and ways to express your personality. (Check out some of our favorite maskers here, here, and here.
Bottom line: Cover your cake hole until it’s time to cram it.
2. Pod Up & Back Off
This one’s not so easy. Actually, it’s really hard and awkward. It means being strict about staying in your own pods (i.e., the people you’ve been sheltering with). As tempting as it might be to rationalize the idea of combining pods within a “social bubble” or “quaranteam,” the truth is we just don’t know how much risk we’re inviting. But we really need to get used to a degree of distancing: Even if infections decline enough for people to go back to hugging and close-talking, the virus won’t go away. When the time comes again, we’re gonna need to have that muscle memory and spatial awareness to social distance on demand.
3. BYOB #1…Bring Your Own Blanket
Unless you’ve got a blanket with enough surface area—or you’ve stitched up your own “Here Comes the Sun” orbital ring—stick to separate blankets for separate pods.
4. BYOB #2…Bring Your Own Basket
This is not the time for sharing plates or family-style spreads. Pack your own food, drink, flatware, dishes, and cups. If you want to share safely, you can pre-pack individual servings or prepare separate boards of assorted appetizers for your co-picnickers.
5. Safety Signifiers
Disinfectant wipes and liquid hand sanitizer are standard picnic paraphernalia even when there isn’t a global health crisis. Displaying them prominently on your blanket—perhaps alongside your tape measure for a smart centerpiece—signals to those nearby that you take everyone’s safety seriously.
So, get out there and enjoy. Comment and share your stories, pics, recipes, and ideas for pandemic picnicking. And please let us know how we can make this more helpful so we can update it with more suggestions and reliable information.