PartySafe: Healthy Pandemic Practice

Social connection matters. Strong relationships support mental wellbeing, improve sleep and build our immune systems. 

Use these tips and resources to help assess your circumstances and get what you want socially (connection, belonging, fun, relaxation) without what you don’t want (illness for you or our most vulnerable, an outbreak in our community, a longer delay in getting back to classes and activities).

Social distancing. Small group of people enjoying conversation at picnic with social distance in summer park. Leisure activity together in new normal, gatherings following safety protocols

Everyday Actions to Socialize Safely

Remember, Bears Protect Bears!

Apply these City of Berkeley Public Health Directives to every gathering you plan to attend or host. Remember, COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Many people infected with COVID-19 don't have symptoms, but can still spread disease.

  • Stay home as much as possible
  • Wear mask or face covering
  • Physically distance 6 feet away from others
  • Wash hands often
  • Disinfect surfaces
  • Stay home/call medical provider if showing any symptoms 

In addition, for Berkeley students:

  • There are currently no campus/student organization gatherings allowed on campus.
  • Stay current about surveillance testing for students on and off campus.

We are Accountable To Each Other

Along with the benefits come the responsibilities of being part of the communities we decide to join. Our behaviors rarely impact just ourselves; their ripple effect can be far ranging. The Berkeley Campus Code of Student Conduct(link is external) outlines student responsibilities and the consequences for violating them. Covid-19 related updates include:

  • You can now be fined up to $100 in the city of Berkeley for not wearing a mask. The Berkeley city council has approved an ordinance that allows city staff to issue citations to individuals and businesses that are in violation of the city’s COVID-19 public health orders.

Social Bubbles

According to City of Berkeley guidelines, a “Social Bubble” is a stable group of up to 12 people from mixed households who can socialize together outdoors. “Stable” means the membership does not change for a three-week period. Social bubble members are expected to practice basic prevention when gathered.

Members of shared households are part of the same social bubble, even if larger than twelve people. This raises many congregate living issues -- including the value of reducing the likelihood that curbside optics or news coverage will give neighbors or others a reason for concern. 

Key to successful social bubbles is ongoing communication about:

  • Your Priorities: “This semester my top interests are my humanity, my studies and my health. They guide all my choices and actions.” 

  • Your Expectations & Agreements: Some examples of could be: 

    • Guests are OK in one common room only - otherwise no guests; no guests are allowed in residence halls at all.

    • Who cleans what surfaces, when and how; 

    • What outings are essential and what steps followed when returning to the bubble;

    • Surveillance testing frequency (if available); 

    • Anyone with symptoms stays home, contacts their medical provider and self-isolates within their household; 

    • If anyone is diagnosed with COVID-19, everyone in the social bubble will quarantine themselves and contact their medical provider.

  • Validation of agreements: “I’m glad we made time to talk and agree, and that we’ll speak up if we notice we’re getting off track.” 

  • Your Observations and Feedback: Sharing observations and feedback strengthens our relationships and prevents small issues from becoming big. Try these for feedback exchanges. 

    • Notice and express concern:

      • I noticed you (forgot your mask, stayed out overnight, brought a friend to your room). I feel worried about forgetting our community agreements and priorities we shared. How about you?

    • Acknowledge, explain don’t defend:

      • True, I’ve been getting tired of all the limits and rules - I just want life to be normal again. I lost track of those things by accident, not on purpose. 

    • Summarize/reflect and invite to continue communicating (being appropriate, not laughing it off):

      • It’s tiring for me too. Since I know neither of us wants to get sick let’s make time to talk about the priorities and agreements we set and see if they still make sense or should change. Tomorrow afternoon? 

In-Person Gatherings - As Permitted

  • Check local guidelines before planning or attending a gathering. In-person gatherings are prohibited under some policies and in some locations. 

  • Where events are an option, the host is responsible for the conduct and safety of their guests.

  • Choose outdoor venues over indoor spaces – if indoors, ensure the area is well-ventilated. 

  • Make gatherings small and short. Longer periods of time with more people create greater potential for transmission.

  • Tell guests about your precautions in your invitations (e.g. “masks required - provided for those who forget,” stay home if you’ve had recent symptoms or exposure, bring own food and beverages, no sharing cups, pipes, bongs, vape devices). 

  • During the event, kindly and firmly ask people to follow the precautions. 

  • Provide all necessary supplies – hand hygiene stations, hand sanitizer or soap and water, tissues, closed-lid bins, distance markers, masks. Require and facilitate sanitizing steps at logical times/locations during the gathering (e.g. at the entrance, before touching food, after toileting, etc.)

  • Hosts should use good practices for cleaning and disinfecting before, during and after a gathering.

  • If needed, minimize crowding by staggering arrivals and departures, numbering entries, designating seats/places and marking the floor to ensure physical distancing between people of at least 6 feet (e.g. chairs in driveways, around fire pits or large picnic tables)

  • Use the usual PartySafe@Cal risk management strategies to stay at levels of intoxication that allow for hosts and guests to adhere to public health, substance use and social health “best practices.”

  • If after the event anyone has symptoms or tests positive, please support contact tracing efforts.

  • Types of activities:

    • The Benefits of Getting Outdoors is a positive multiplier! Sun, fresh air, nature, exercise, adventure!! While the outdoors is not risk-free use common sense to reduce risks.  

    • Volunteer together. The “helpers’ high” is a fundamentally social experience. Doing something altruistic alongside friends deepens relationships, even while social-distancing.

    • Play games that allow for physical distancing (corn hole, spikeball, tennis, golf etc.). Mark out the playing area to reinforce 6-foot distancing.

    • Picnics - each personal or social bubble with their own food and on their own blanket.

    • Outdoor movies and concerts with hula hoops to mark distances (and get exercise!)

Remote Gatherings - Use Online Options when Staying Home. No Masks Required!

  • Hang out with different affinity groups - get a break from your daily social bubble.  

  • People are using dating apps to find and create platonic friends and interest networks.

  • Audio only phone calls. Can do them while you’re out walking or doing other activities.

  • Parallel play: watch movies, sports; dance; cook; make music; exercise; get sexy (with consent!)

  • Interactive play: Games, games, games! Trivia. Video. Apps. Online escape rooms?

  • Pick good start time (think time zones) and end time (think zoom fatigue). 75-minute events help everyone join, stay engaged and want to come back again. 

  • Make alcohol or other substances optional, not the focus. Don’t include substance use references in the title or description of the event.

  • Invite the right number of people: Consider setting up multiple rooms, and provide a rotation every 15 minutes. Attendees will meet people in a smaller setting, as opposed to having one longer, less-impactful conversation in a crowded room.

Substance Use & COVID-19

The pandemic has raised questions and challenges for people who use alcohol and other drugs, those who are considering use, and those who are no longer using or are in recovery.

COVID-19 Q&A for People Who Use Drugs

The following are considerations from the CDC, COVID-19 Q&A for People Who Use Drugs:

  • It’s not yet known if the occurrence of COVID-19 is higher for people who use drugs or have substance use disorders than for those who don’t. Some underlying medical conditions such as chronic lung disease and serious heart conditions seem to increase risk of severe illness from COVID-19. 

  • Consuming alcohol will not destroy the virus, and its consumption is likely to increase the health risks if a person becomes infected with the virus.  

  • Bars, restaurants and other places (including homes) where people gather to consume alcohol and other substances, without physically distancing, increase the risk of transmission of the virus.

  • Stay-at-home orders may lead to higher numbers of people using substances alone, without others around to intervene early, perform life-saving measures, or call for help in case of overdose. Alcohol and other substance use can increase during self-isolation; both isolation and use may also increase the risk of suicide.

  • People may be afraid to seek medical attention for fear of infection. Bystanders to an overdose might be reluctant to administer naloxone or perform CPR or other life-saving measures because of fear of COVID-19 exposure.

  • Alcohol is closely associated with violence, including intimate partner violence. Perpetrator violence is  worsened by their alcohol consumption, while targets experiencing violence are likely to increase their alcohol use as a coping mechanism. 

  • The pandemic may result in disruptions to treatment and harm reduction services, leading to untreated substance use disorder or a return to substance use for people not currently using or in recovery.

  • The illicit drug supply might be disrupted, or people might not be able to obtain drugs because of social distancing, potentially leading to risk of: withdrawal for people with physical dependence; contaminated drug products or people using drugs they are not used to, which might increase risk of overdose or other adverse reactions; and/or travel to obtain drugs which increase exposure to higher risk conditions for infection.

Safety and Harm Reduction Tips

Home Isolation or Quarantine

  • When studying and working from home, stick with your usual schedules and norms about when it’s OK and not OK to use. Keep yourself in a fit state to be successful. 

  • Plan meals and snacks ahead and buy healthy and nutritious food that nourish your body, your spirit and your immune system response. 

  • Avoid over-stocking alcohol or other substances at home; increasing availability can unintentionally increase your consumption and the consumption of others in your household. 

Don’t assume that alcohol helps you to cope with stress. It is known to increase the symptoms of panic and anxiety disorders, depression and other mental disorders, and the risk of family and domestic violence. Explore other mental health approaches.

Substance Use - Alcohol & Other Drugs

  • If you don’t use substances, consider staying on that track during this time. 

  • If you use substances, make mindful choices every time. Make a plan and stick to it. 

  • Learn and talk about the risks associated with substance use and COVID-19 (e.g. impaired judgement, violations of quarantine and physical distancing, underlying health conditions). 

  • Uphold community policies and agreements, including personal and social bubble commitments to keep risks as low as possible.

  • Never mix alcohol with medications, even herbal or over-the-counter remedies, as this could make them less effective, or increase potency to a level where they become toxic and dangerous.

  • Avoid alcohol as a social cue for smoking, and vice versa: people tend to smoke, or smoke more, if they drink alcohol, and smoking is associated with a more complicated and dangerous progression of COVID-19. Remember, too, that indoor smoking is harmful to others in your household.

  • Avoid bars, casinos, night clubs, restaurants and other, especially indoor, settings (including homes) where people gather to consume substances.

Alcohol or Other Substance Use Disorders

Alcohol or Other Substance Use Disorders are characterized by negative impact on self or others. If you, or a person close to you, struggles in relation to substance use, consider the following: 

  • The pandemic is a unique opportunity to try adjusting substance use (e.g. cut down, shift, quit) given enforced changes in social cues and peer pressure situations.

  • Online interventions by professionals and mutual help groups can be less stigmatizing and offer greater anonymity and privacy.**

  • Create a buddy system with someone you trust and reach out for help if needed. **

  • Practice physical distancing, but do not socially isolate: call, text and write to friends, colleagues, neighbours and relatives. **

  • Limit exposure to substance use cues and triggers in media and social media where there’s lots of marketing and promotion by the alcohol, cannabis and other substance industries. 

  • Try to maintain your daily routine - things you can control and which ground you – for instance, exercise, hobbies and relaxation techniques.**

  • If you become infected, discuss your substance consumption with health personnel so they can make the most appropriate recommendations for you.

** these suggestions are relevant for almost everyone


PartySafe@Cal logo

This page and handouts (PartySafe: Healthy Pandemic Practices and Substance Use and COVID-19) was brought together by the PartySafe@Cal team. PartySafe@Cal advocates improving party culture and social benefits by decreasing problems related to alcohol.

"Healthy Pandemic Practices" Handout
Substance Use during COVID-19 Handout