The Tulsa Health Department will be closed on Monday, September 7 in observance of Labor Day. The COVID-19 phone bank and testing appointments will be closed as well. Epidemiological investigations, including case notification and contact tracing, will continue to rapidly respond to confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our community.
The Labor Day holiday weekend is just ahead and many of us will enjoy the “last” weekend of summer, perhaps to a pool, the beach or the great outdoors. Holidays during a global pandemic is also a time for enhanced health and safety precautions. Keep these public health precautions in mind as you plan your Labor Day celebration safely.
Regardless if you own a gas or charcoal grill, there are safety tips that will keep you and your home safe during barbecuing season.
Grill outside and away from any structures. Charcoal and gas grills are designed for outdoor use only. Pay attention to overhanging tree branches when you set up your grill.
Make sure your grill is stable. Only set up your grill on a flat surface and make sure the grill can’t be tipped over. Consider using a grill pad or splatter mat underneath your grill to protect your deck or patio.
Keep your grill clean. Remove grease or fat buildup from both the grill and the tray below the grill. If you are using a charcoal grill, allow the coals to completely cool off before disposing of them in a metal container.
Check for propane leaks on your gas grill. Check the gas tank hose for leaks by applying a light soap and water solution to the hose and then turning on the gas. If there is a propane leak, the solution will bubble. Other signs of a propane leak include the smell of gas near the barbecue or a flame that won’t light.
If the flame goes out, wait to re-light. If you are using a gas grill and the flame goes out, turn the grill and the gas off, then wait at least five minutes to re-light it.
Take care around the grill and never leave a lit grill unattended. Don’t allow kids or pets to play near the grill. Never try to move a lit or hot grill, and remember the grill will stay hot for at least an hour after use.
If you use a charcoal grill, only use charcoal starter fluid. If the fire starts to go out, don’t add any starter fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. Consider using a charcoal chimney starter, which uses newspaper to start the fire instead of starter fluid.
Wear the right clothing: Clothing can easily catch fire, so be sure your shirt tails, sleeves or apron strings don’t dangle over the grill.
Be ready to put out the fire by having baking soda on hand to control a grease fire and a fire extinguisher nearby for other fires. If you don’t have a fire extinguisher, keep a bucket of sand next to the grill. Never use water to put out grease fire.
Beat the heat
In hot temperatures your body may be unable to properly cool itself. This could lead to serious health problems.
Drink plenty of fluids, regardless of your activity level. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Warning: If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask how much you should drink while the weather is hot.
Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol or large amounts of sugar–these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also, avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.
Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
Put on sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher – the most effective products say “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection” on their labels.
Stay in the shade!
Don’t let a stomach bug slow you down
The summer months typically see a spike in reports of foodborne illness. Keep the food safe at your picnic or BBQ.
Use separate plates and utensils for raw and cooked meat and poultry and ready to eat foods, like raw fruits and vegetables.
Use a food thermometer to make sure meat and poultry are cooked hot enough to kill harmful germs.
Don’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two hours – one hour if the outside temperature is over 90 degrees. Keep perishable food in an insulated cooler packed with ice or ice packs.
Prepare to take the plunge
Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children 1 to 4 years old than any other cause except birth defects.
Designate a responsible adult to watch all children swimming or playing in or around water. Drowning occurs quickly and quietly, so adults should not be involved in any other distracting activity while supervising children.
Teach kids to swim. Formal swimming lessons can protect young children from drowning.
Always swim with a buddy. Whenever possible choose swimming sites that have lifeguards.
Avoid drinking alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or water skiing. Do not drink alcohol while supervising children.
Know the local weather conditions and forecast before swimming or boating. Strong winds and thunderstorms with lightning strikes are dangerous.
Fight the bite
Bugs, including mosquitoes, ticks, and some flies can spread diseases like Zika, dengue, and Lyme disease.
Use EPA-registered insect repellents that contain at least 20% DEET for protection against mosquitoes, ticks, and other bugs.
Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and a hat. Tuck your shirt into your pants, and tuck your pants into your socks for maximum protection.
Check yourself and your children for ticks. Ticks are easy to remove.
Gatherings or cook-outs
The Tulsa Health Department encourages Tulsa County residents who choose to go to any gathering or setting where people are in close contact with one another to take precautions such as wearing a mask, practice social distancing and frequently wash hands. Those who have attended a large indoor or outdoor gathering should monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days after the event and seek testing within 5-7 days while continuing to monitor symptoms, social distance, wash hands and wear a face covering in public. The Tulsa Health Department is one of many sites in Tulsa County to offer COVID-19 testing. All local health care systems offer testing and there are additional sites listed on our COVID-19 web page.
If you choose to host a gathering or cook-out, please see the following public health recommendations.
Remind guests to stay home if they are sick
Remind invited guests to stay home if they have been exposed to COVID-19 in the last 14 days or are showing COVID-19 symptoms.
Anyone who has had close contact with a person who has COVID-19 should also stay home and monitor their health. Invited guests who live with those at higher risk should also consider the potential risk to their loved ones.
Consider keeping a list of guests who attended for potential future contract tracing needs.
Encourage social distancing
Host your gathering outdoors, when possible. If this is not feasible, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated (for example, open a window).
Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing. People from the same household can be in groups together and don’t need to be 6 feet apart – just 6 feet away from other families.
If planning activities for adults and/or kids, consider those where social distancing can be maintained, like sidewalk chalk art or frisbee.
When guests arrive, minimize gestures that promote close contact. For example, don’t shake hands, do elbow bumps, or give hugs. Instead wave and verbally greet them.
Wear cloth face coverings
Wear cloth face coverings when less than 6 feet apart from people or indoors.
Consider providing face coverings for guests or asking them to bring their own.
Clean hands often
Consider providing hand sanitizer in addition to clearly marked hand washing areas.
Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds when entering and exiting social gatherings. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
Make sure there is adequate soap or hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol available in the restrooms and encourage guests not to form a line at the door. Consider also providing cleaning supplies that allow guests to wipe down surfaces before they leave.
Remind guests to wash their hands before serving or eating food.
Use single-use hand towels or paper towels for drying hands so guests do not share a towel.
Limit the number of people handling or serving food
Encourage guests to bring their own food and drinks.
Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen or around the grill, if possible.
If serving any food, consider identifying one person to serve all food so that multiple people are not handling the serving utensils.
Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items, like salad dressings, food containers, and condiments, so that multiple people are not handling the items.
Limit contact with commonly touched surfaces or shared items
Use touchless garbage cans or pails.
Use gloves when removing garbage bags or handling and disposing of trash. Wash hands after removing gloves.
Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use when feasible.
If you choose to use any shared items that are reusable (e.g., seating covers, tablecloths, linen napkins), wash, clean, and sanitize them after the event.