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How to safely celebrate the 4th of July during a pandemic

Independence Day is looking very different this year

How to safely celebrate the 4th of July during the COVID-19 pandemic Credit: Franck Reporter/Getty Images

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For most Americans, the Fourth of July is going to look a lot different this year. Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many cities and states have decided to cancel their annual parades, festivals, and fireworks displays, along with closing picnic areas and park pavilions to discourage crowds from gathering.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also urging people to take necessary safety precautions this Independence Day. Addressing the recent spike in coronavirus cases, Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, said, "For the Fourth of July, which is a family event, we want to emphasize that it’s really important that we get back to being vigilant as our collective commitment ... to protect vulnerable friends, family, community."

While you may not be able to attend the usual festivities or gather with friends and neighbors to watch fireworks, there are still ways to celebrate the Fourth of July while social distancing and following the CDC's guidelines for preventing the further spread of COVID-19. Whether it's finding a safe way to go see fireworks or hosting a backyard barbecue that doesn't put yourself or others at risk, below are our top tips for enjoying the holiday responsibly this year amid the global pandemic.

How to watch fireworks while social distancing

Fireworks
Credit: Jonathan Mauer/Getty Images

There are still ways to watch fireworks this year.

Many fireworks displays across the country have been cancelled in an attempt to prevent crowds. However, some cities are still setting off fireworks, albeit a bit differently than pre-coronavirus. A few are offering "drive-in" displays—where people are asked to park and remain in their cars for the show—while others are advising people to watch the fireworks from less-crowded, socially-distant spots rather than gathering in one area. If you're in an area with others, stay a safe six feet away and always wear a cloth face cover per the CDC's recommendations. (Our experts have spent the last few months tracking all of the top places to buy face masks online and have even tested the most popular ones to find the 10 best face masks out there.)

If the fireworks in your area have been cancelled—or if you don't feel comfortable going out in public—you can still participate in the festivities virtually from the comfort of your own home. A few displays will be live-streamed on the Fourth, including Macy's annual fireworks in New York (which you can watch on NBC) and the D.C. fireworks (which you can watch on PBS). Some cities have also announced that they will stream their fireworks displays on local news networks for residents who opt to stay home.

How to host a safe celebration at home

Celebration
Credit: Maya/Getty Images

Barbecue smarter this year by taking a few precautions.

If you want to have a backyard barbecue or get-together at home this Fourth of July, the CDC has released guidelines for how to do so safely. The agency recommends staying outside if possible (and if not, using a well-ventilated indoor space) and limiting the number of people at your gathering. Ask that your guests wear a cloth face mask and encourage social distancing by placing tables and chairs a safe six feet apart.

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Additionally, the CDC advises that you and your guests wash or sanitize your hands before and after eating and that you disinfect any commonly touched surfaces—like tables, counters, seat covers, etc.—regularly. If you can, opt for touchless garbage cans and wear disposable gloves when cleaning up or taking out the trash.

As for the food, the CDC suggests having guests bring their own dining ware (plates, cups, napkins, utensils) to avoid potentially spreading the virus. You can also ask guests to bring their own food and drinks or, if you want to provide it, skip the buffet and instead opt for single-serve portions (like individual snack bags and bottles). According to the CDC, you should also have one single person grilling or serving food to prevent multiple people from handling food or shared utensils.

Before your celebration comes to a close, the CDC also recommends writing down all of the guests in attendance in case you need it for contract tracing in the future. And, of course, thoroughly clean and disinfect anything that was used during the party afterwards.

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