If you want to share, grill.
“Chips and dip are a terrible idea,” said Ms. Leininger, of the Tuck School. Ditto for any notions of making a big lasagna and letting people serve themselves. “If someone breathes over the lasagna and gets everyone else sick, you as a hostess would feel terrible,” she said.
Still, “there are gradients of risk,” she said. “Something hot off the grill poses the least of them.” If you want to provide cooked food, the best picks are grilled fish, meat or hot dogs. Have your guests pull their serving off the grill and walk away.
Don’t freak out about the bathroom.
If people spend three hours on your porch, chances are they are going to need to use the restroom. This consideration has dissuaded many potential hosts and guests. “The good news is that the bathroom, with a little bit of care, is not something you need to stress about,” Ms. Leininger said. “Send people in one at a time, have them wear a mask and wash the heck out of their hands.”
Whatever you can do as a host to promote hand washing is more important than anything else. Now is the time to buy lovely pump soaps and fun decorative towels. Lay out the towels and have your guests bring them back and put them in the trash outside. It might feel nerve-racking, “but this is primarily a respiratory disease,” said Ms. Leininger, meaning that it is mostly spread by air, not from surfaces. Between each guest’s use, you might want to clean your bathroom surfaces with disinfectant, just to be safe.
Limit your circle.
Follow local guidelines on gatherings, but know smallest is best.
“The more people you mix with, the greater the problem with mixing transmission histories,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering and the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Not knowing who others have been socializing with is the riskiest component of getting together with people outside of your household.”
Kids are the hardest to keep distanced, so if your gathering includes them, perhaps get together in a park, and plan activities like baseball and kickball where social distance can be better maintained.
Remember that not everyone has the same notions about what it means to socially distance and may have different feelings about get-togethers. “It is important to give everyone grace,” Dr. Marcelin said. “Not everybody has the same attention to risk as you do.” So while biking with a friend might work for some, it may be unacceptable for others. “Just because you have differences does not give us any license to shame or stigmatize others for accepting different levels of risk,” she said.