COVID and Holidays & Special Events
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Planning a large event (50-250 people indoors, 50-500 people outdoors)? Fill out this event packet and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org 10 days prior to event. For now, print, fill out by hand, and scan the packet. A fillable PDF that can be emailed is coming soon.
Several factors can contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 at small in-person gatherings. In combination, these factors will create various amounts of risk:
- Community levels of COVID-19 – High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the gathering location, as well as in the areas where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Family and friends should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate when deciding whether to host or attend a gathering. Information on the number of cases in an area can often be found on the local health department website or on CDC’s COVID Data Tracker County View.
- Exposure during travel – Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces.
- Location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation (for example, small enclosed spaces with no outside air), pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.
- Duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires quarantine.
- Number and crowding of people at the gathering – Gatherings with more people pose more risk than gatherings with fewer people. CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, wear masks, wash hands, and follow state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations.
- Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – Individuals who did not consistently adhere to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, handwashing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than those who consistently practiced these safety measures.
- Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and handwashing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.
From Montana State Department of Public Health and Human Services Frequently Asked Questions:
**Please note that the Governor's directives can be supplemented by more restrictive local measures put into place by county authorities.**
Are there limitations on public gathering sizes?
Any public gatherings or events where it is not possible to practice social distancing or where social distancing is not being practiced must be strictly limited to include 25 people or fewer. If you are planning an event with more than 25 people you should consult with your local public health office on a plan to implement adequate social distancing.
Though the group size limit applies only to public gatherings and events involving more than 25 people where social distancing is not possible or observed, Montanans are urged in the strongest terms to limit their involvement in any in-person gatherings of 15 or more people—including private gatherings inside a home. Such gatherings are a significant contributor to the spread of the virus.
Montanans are urged to practice social distancing in any gathering of any size outside their own household.
Does the 25 person limit to public gatherings include houses of worship?
No. The guidance taking effect November 20 to limit group sizes to 25 does not apply to houses of worship which remain subject to the 50 person limit provided in Phase Two and only where social distancing cannot be observed. Faith leaders are urged to continue to ensure that social distancing is possible and practiced for all in-person services, and to encourage the use of virtual services where possible.
Are private holiday parties exempt from the Governor's directives?
No. The jurisdiction of state and local public health agencies extends to both public and private property. Gathering in groups of more than 25 is not advised. If you are nonetheless planning an event with more than 25 people you should consult with your local public health office on a plan to implement adequate social distancing. Event cutoff threshold is at the discretion of community leadership based on current circumstances in that community. The face covering directive applies to indoor spaces that are open to the public, or and to outdoor gatherings of more than 25 people where social distancing is not possible or is not being practiced regardless of whether the gathering occurs on public or private property.
I am getting married and have more than 25 people invited to my wedding. Do I need to reduce the number/cancel it?
As of June 1, groups greater than 25 are not advised. However, if you are planning an event with more than 50 people you should consult with your local public health office on a plan to implement adequate social distancing. Event cutoff threshold is at the discretion of community leadership based on current circumstances in that community (see Phase 2 Directive, page 4)
Do events that take place using bar/restaurant outdoor facilities such as patios, volleyball courts, etc. but not within the bar/restaurant count against the capacity limit of the venues?
Yes. Patrons using outdoor facilities will count against the 50% capacity limits of the venue during Phase 2. Venues that wish to expand their outdoor capacity for special events such as tournaments, celebrations and other functions should consult with their local health office to work out a plan for how to maintain social distancing and enhanced cleaning procedures.
What is the guidance for dance floors?
Events over 25 people should consult with their local health department to make a plan to promote social distancing. In all group settings, individuals should follow the best practices available to prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently or using hand sanitizer, and staying 6 feet apart when possible. This answer does not apply to bars where all patrons should have a place to sit and no standing and mingling is allowed at the bar or elsewhere.
Are there guidelines and recommendations for how to celebrate the holidays?
Montanans are strongly encouraged to follow guidelines and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) while celebrating the holidays this year. For Thanksgiving activities, the CDC recommends celebrating with people in your household. If however, Montanans choose to spend the holiday with non-household members, the CDC recommends:
- Wearing a face covering with two or more layers, which covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly against the sides of your face;
- Staying at least 6 feet away from individuals who do not live with you;
- Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
- Using hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol when you are unable to regularly wash your hands;
- Eating outdoors if possible; opening the windows if eating outdoors is not possible
- Limiting the number of guests to the greatest extent possible
- Planning in advance to set celebration expectations;
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and items between uses;
- Bringing your own utensils, dishes, and food to any gathering;
- Using single-use and disposable items;
- Limiting travel to the greatest extent possible
- Please refer to the CDC website for additional guidance
What activities are recommended/not recommended for the holidays?
Information is available on the CDC website specific to upcoming holiday gatherings here. However, please note that the Governor’s directives can be supplemented by more restrictive local measures put into place by county authorities. For this reason, additional questions should be directed to local county health departments.