PARTY OF FIVE: WHAT ARE THE RULES?

Public Health Insider



As the pandemic wears on and the summer weather turns ever more glorious, the temptation to gather with friends and relatives only grows stronger. But with COVID-19 cases continuing to rise across Washington State, it is more important than ever to follow a few basic rules about social engagements. Every time we talk, laugh, cough or sneeze, we may be spreading the virus, even if we don’t have any symptoms or know we have COVID-19.

  • As a household, limit your gatherings to only five people or fewer from outside your home each week, whether they are friends or family. The smaller the gathering, the safer it is. Only participate in one or two social gatherings a week.

  • Your household can meet with a new group of five the following week or meet again with the same five. Pick your five in a way that works for you each week.

  • You can meet indoors or outdoors, but outdoors is safer.

  • Wear a mask if you can’t maintain 6 feet of distance, even if you’re outdoors. If you meet indoors, wear a mask at all times and open doors and windows to increase air flow if it is safe to do so.

  • The key is to keep your household’s social circle small and only occasionally gather with your circle. Your household includes everyone you live with, whether that’s just you, your family of five, or you and several roommates.

Is there anyone who should not gather? Take into account the particular circumstances of your household. If someone in your home is at risk for severe disease, consider further restrictions on socializing. Gathering with people from outside your household presents a much greater health risk.


What if we just gather with close family members? Even with close family members, limit gatherings to only five people total who don’t live in your home. Is everyone in the household limited to the same five people total? Yes. Whether you live alone or with a large family, your household, as a unit, should only meet with a total of five people or fewer. If each household member meets with five different people every week, that greatly increases the opportunities for COVID-19 to spread.

What if you live with a roommate (or many roommates)? Limit the number of people you and your roommates gather with to a total of five people per week between all of you. As a household, collectively agree on your five-person social circle for the week. This also works in reverse – if you live alone but meet with a household of five roommates, you should consider this your one gathering for the week.  What are safer ways to gather?

  • Outdoor picnics and backyard socializing are good ways to get together, but do not share food or drinks from the same plates or bowls, and keep utensils separate. 

  • Throw a drive-by party if you’re celebrating a birthday or big life event. Wave hello or drop off gifts.

  • If summer usually means block parties for your neighborhood, organize one practicing physical distancing. Bring a grill and some chairs to your front yard or driveway and socialize with your neighbors from a safe distance.

Limiting how many people we socialize with gives COVID-19 fewer chances to spread. If you find out you have COVID-19, public health officials can more easily make sure the people you saw recently get tested and stay home safely.

Short gatherings are safer than long ones. Outdoor gatherings are generally safer than indoors because of the breeze and open air. As much as possible, meet up with friends or family outdoors and make sure everyone stays six feet apart. Wear your face covering as much as possible, especially when less than six feet apart.

When can we gather with more people? To ensure that King County continues its progress toward a fully reopened economy, it is essential for everyone to observe the five-person rule. We are now in Phase 2 of the Governor’s Safe Start plan. When we get to Phase 3, the five-person limit will be raised to 10. We won’t get there unless we all follow the basic safety measures needed to limit the spread of the virus. Continue to physically distance from others as much as possible, and wear cloth face coverings when you cannot. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly – and try to keep them away from your face.

For more information about social gatherings, see this state guidance.