How do I decide whether to attend an event during COVID? Holidays, birthdays, dinners…it’s constant and really hard.


Questions about the riskiness of specific situations are the most difficult to answer. These situations often include a lot of details… and a lot of unknowns. There are so many factors to think about all at once: individual health history, your behaviors related to COVID risks, everyone else’s behaviors related to COVID risks, the specific arrangement of the event, the expectations of people you care about, etc. It’s impossible to try to hold it all at once. We get it.

You cannot assess the risks of every single situation–no one can. But you can consider your comfort and how you can reduce your risk: ask yourself what the worst outcome is, and do what you can to guard against that–no matter how unlikely the worst outcome may be. Once you’ve made those assumptions, things may become much more clear. What can you do to reduce the risk of that worst case outcome? That’s the only variable in your control, so control it!

Strategies to reduce your risk include:

– Avoid events that aren’t essential
– Limit your interactions to a small group of people
– Wear a mask and insist those around you wear a mask too
– Keep your physical distance
– Stay outdoors or open a window
– Keep your interactions brief

Acknowledge ambivalence

Sometimes, we’re of two minds about something. We want things to be normal again, and also know that everything is different right now. You might feel sad about missing an event while also wishing so much that you could go safely. Recognizing those internal struggles before you begin a conversation will help you stand your ground once you make a decision. 

What to say if you choose not to attend

If you decide not to attend an event, tell people clearly and firmly. Focus on your decision about what’s best for you. Avoid getting into the details about the reasons behind your decision. You don’t need to defend your position.

“I can’t come to the event. Thank you for the invitation! I’m so sorry to miss it.” 

Disappointing people sucks. We get it. You don’t have to manage other people’s emotions to be a good person. People may be angry, unhappy or upset – you don’t need to make yourself uncomfortable to make other people happy.

“I understand you’re upset, and I care about you. I made this decision because it’s the right thing for me. I wish things were different this year too.” 

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