Why It’s Important To Prevent The Spread Of Infection
No matter how successful your event is at the time, its memory could be quickly tarnished if your guests contract an illness while attending. It’s in the best interest of public safety and your event’s success to stop the spread of germs by taking simple, practical steps to ensure the health and safety of your guests.
Even if none of your guests are showing symptoms, it’s possible to be an asymptomatic carrier; that is, someone who can spread infection without knowing it. Therefore, it’s best practice to proceed as though one or more of your guests may be sick, and act accordingly.
How Can Germs Spread?
In simplest terms, most germs are spread by people! Germs typically travel from person to person, through direct physical contact or secondary contact (think sharing food with an infected person or touching a doorknob recently used by a sick person.)
Germs can also be spread through the air, though usually, their travel is aided by humans, too. Read more about how germs spread via direct contact, air, and other means below.
How are germs spread by hands? Simple: Hands get gross! Our hands are how we explore the world via touch, and they’re also how we tend to some of our less-pleasant bodily functions, like sneezing and coughing. Without proper hand washing to eliminate germs, sickness transfers easily from person to person via our hands.
Think about any networking event you’ve been to, and how many hands you’ve shaken there. For each person you’ve come into physical contact with, you’ve also come into contact with all the types of germs on their hands since the last time they washed them. Those germs could include strains that cause strep throat, MRSA, candida, rotavirus, norovirus and, yes, even coronavirus. And if you touch your eyes, nose or mouth after that handshake . . . Well, suffice it to say, you may not feel too great afterward!
Typically, food becomes contaminated by dirty hands. After an infected food preparer neglects to wash their hands, their germs are then spread to whoever eats the food. This type of person-to-food-to-person transmission can also happen when an infected person comes into contact with food shared by others. For example, a sick person may sneeze without covering their nose and mouth at a buffet line, or double dip into a shared dish.
Germs can also be transmitted in a food-to-person-to-food chain. Germs from a raw piece of meat, for example, could be transferred to a food prep worker’s hands. That worker may not observe proper food hygiene practices and cross-contaminate other uncooked foods, like a salad, which would then go on to potentially make diners sick.
Animals, including family pets, can sometimes carry germs that can be harmful to humans. Even very well-cared-for animals can carry germs like viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi, often without showing any detectable symptoms. When a person pets an animal, those germs can be transferred from animal to human. Proper hand washing before and after handling an animal keeps both man and man’s best friend safe.
Kids, while cute, are not known for their personal hygiene skills when left to their own devices. Germs can be passed from child to parent if, for example, the infected child has a bout of diarrhea with which the parent comes into contact during diaper changing. If that parent doesn’t immediately wash their hands, they could also transfer those germs to others. Similarly, children can transfer their germs to other children during play that involves close contact or physical contact. If Timmy wipes his runny nose on the back of his hand and then plays Tag with his classmates, those classmates are at risk of getting Timmy’s cold.
When a person coughs or sneezes without properly covering their mouth and nose, droplets carrying germs can travel as far as six feet and infect others by landing on nearby surfaces or in another person’s eyes, nose or mouth.
In rare instances, these droplets can linger on surfaces for hours and remain infectious. Especially in situations involving a new or lesser-studied disease, like COVID-19, where the longevity of a droplet’s infectiousness is unknown or only partially determined, experts often recommend treating the disease as if it is highly-infectious. This is why it is recommended to wear a mask over one’s nose and mouth and disinfect surfaces that come into contact with infected individuals.
10 Ways To Prevent The Spread Of Germs At Events
1. Skip Handshakes
Instead of shaking hands, consider tapping elbows or forearms (not knuckles a lá fist bumping, as knuckles can still carry germs,) tapping feet, or simply waving to the other party or group from a distance. Any of these alternatives limits eliminates hand-to-hand contact with others, thereby helping to prevent the spread of germs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping at least six feet of space between yourself and others to prevent the spread of germs. In general, proper distancing from others is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection.
2. Have a Flexible Cancellation Policy
No matter how important or exciting your event may be, no event is worth risking your health or the health of others. Allow attendees to notify you of their cancellation at any time, and encourage anyone who is feeling sick to stay home. A sick person cannot infect others if they do not come into contact with others, so be sure to let guests know they can keep the germs away by keeping themselves away—no need to feel guilt or stress for cancelling!
3. Provide sanitary supplies
Give attendees every opportunity to stay safe and sanitary at your event by providing sanitary supplies like hand sanitizer, tissues, and of course, clean running water and soap for proper hand washing. You may even consider providing non-medical fabric masks for your attendees, if appropriate per the World Health Organization’s mask guidelines. Prevent the spread of germs at your event by encouraging good personal hygiene, and by making it easy to engage in those practices.
4. Educate attendees on basic best practices
A simple infographic on your pre-presentation slideshow or a paragraph or two in your event’s program can go a long way to prevent spreading germs. Reliable, vetted scientific sources like the CDC and WHO offer free, downloadable infographics like the ones below that can be used to educate your attendees on basic best practices regarding personal hygiene and germ prevention. Those who aren’t aware of the best practices will then be able to adopt them, while those who are aware (but may not always abide) may be more inclined to follow them.
5. Be cautious when serving food/buffets
When considering how to stop the spread of germs, meal time may seem particularly fraught. So much of an event revolves around food, and food is often a communal experience. But there are many ways to prevent the spread of germs over the dinner table, including limiting opportunities for food items to be shared by others. You may want to consider a plated meal versus a buffet to eliminate the possibility of an infected person contaminating one or more shared dishes. You may also opt for individual, pre-filled glasses of water instead of a shared pitcher for the table, or pre-packaged butter pats instead of a shared butter dish. If you’re including helpful tips and guidelines in any of your event’s messaging, like in a program or on the menu, consider gently discouraging sharing food. Sharing is not always caring, especially when it comes to preventing the spread of germs!
It’s also important that your caterer understands how to prevent germs from spreading during their work, including all food and beverage health and safety rules. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a wealth of information for food service workers as well as for consumers.
6. Avoid Overcrowding
Returning to the concept of proper social distancing, you can avoid overcrowding at your event by booking the right sized venue for your crowd — or even choosing a venue slightly larger than what you need. You can use our space calculator to estimate your event’s needs. Our metric assumes that each attendee needs six to ten square feet of space to be comfortable, which coincides with the CDC’s recommendation of keeping at least six feet between yourself and others during the coronavirus pandemic to prevent the spread of germs.
7. Allocate someone to routinely wipe frequented surfaces
There’s a difference between cleaning and disinfecting, and disinfection of surfaces is especially important when trying to keep germs from spreading or during an outbreak of an illness like COVID-19. To keep surfaces disinfected and less likely to contribute to the spread of disease at your event, consider allocating someone on your team or your venue’s team to routinely wipe down frequented surfaces with a disinfecting solution, per the CDC’s cleaning and disinfecting guidelines for facilities.
8. Consider antibacterial business cards
The future is now: Antibacterial business cards are on the market and a healthy, conversation-starting option for the germ-conscious professional. Because business cards are designed to be exchanged from person-to-person and spread around various social circles, an antibacterial business card tells everyone you meet: “I’ve considered what I can do to avoid the spread of germs, and I care about your health.”
9. Encourage frequent hand washing
We can’t say it enough: Hand washing is a vital step in preventing the spread of disease! Encourage frequent handwashing at your event by ensuring restrooms are easily accessible from all spaces throughout the event and that they’re well-stocked with antibacterial hand soap and clean running water. You may consider placing hand sanitizer stations throughout your venue, or even placing reminder images like the one below in and around restrooms.
10. Keep yourself and your guests in the loop
Information is power when it comes to germ spread prevention. The CDC recommends that event planners keep an eye on news related to the level of transmission in their area and current best practices regarding gatherings. You may consider regularly updating those on your guest list via email with individual health and sanitation tips, the steps you’re taking to prevent the spread of germs at the upcoming event, and the state of any postponements or cancellations.
More Germ Prevention Resources
The above tips are guidelines informed by the recommendations of highly reliable, unbiased sources rooted in fact and science. As such, we encourage event planners and guests alike to utilize the following resources to further educate themselves on how to avoid spreading germs, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The CDC is the leading national public health institute of the United States, and is a federal agency. The CDC regularly provides free, public information about current disease spread, disease prevention, and other health-related topics.
- World Health Organization (WHO): The World Health Organization is an agency of the United Nations, and is responsible for international public health. WHO offers free, public information about disease not just in the United States, but around the world, and has acted as the world’s primary hub of reliable, science-based information regarding COVID-19.
- The State of Minnesota & the Minnesota Department of Health: Here in Minnesota, the state government has made providing factual information regarding the coronavirus pandemic and other disease prevention a priority. Their website includes information regarding testing locations, current COVID-19 cases in Minnesota, and general information regarding disease spread prevention and best practices for personal health and safety.
Hosting Germ-Free Events at Earle Brown Heritage Center
Earle Brown takes the health and safety of all our clients and their guests incredibly seriously. We’d love to discuss our sanitary precautions and practices with you further. Contact us to learn more about the health and sanitation standards we have in place, and to start planning your germ-free event at our safe, clean venue.