Is there a way for us to safely eat together in groups indoors in the time of COVID?

Date: November 2021

Question

Hello,

The grad students in our field have been enjoying eating outdoors together during the warmer months, but as fall and winter set in that’s going to become less and less enjoyable. Is there a way for us to eat together in groups, indoors, safely in the time of COVID? Most of us have shared offices, so even if we eat at our desks we will be unmasking around other people. Are there any designated indoor dining areas where we could gather together to eat? I would very much like to keep the social interaction going through the winter, but I also want us to be safe.

Thank you,

Socializing Safely


Response

Dear Socializing Safely,

We’ve been so fortunate to have pleasant weather since the start of the fall semester but it sure looks like snowflakes are in the air now.

Eating inside offices and other spaces is allowed, but there are some precautions and limitations. Cornell’s current masking requirements include a few provisions. Individuals must wear masks indoors except when eating and drinking. Masks should be worn whenever individuals are not actively eating or drinking, including up until eating or drinking and directly after eating or drinking. Additional risks can be mitigated by packing your own lunch to avoid congregating around food stations.

As you can see, the policy does allow eating in the normal places where graduate students have historically shared meals. Masks are one important component of a multi-layer plan to mitigate COVID transmission. We also rely on the nearly 100% vaccination rates, surveillance testing, and social distancing to further lower risks. There are times when distancing is impractical, such as while on buses or in some classrooms. In those situations, vaccinations, masks, and testing help keep risks manageable. In cases where masks need to be removed to eat or drink, it is important to be more diligent about maintaining distance from others. If you choose to gather with friends it would be best to keep groups small or meet in places where people can spread out as much as practical. And, as the policy states, be sure to re-mask as soon as you are done eating and drinking.

Sincerely,

Jason

Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration