(Tony Cenicola / The New York Times)

June 29, 2020

Quarantine Cookout: How Coronavirus is Changing the Dynamics of Summer

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What does sand in the winter and not being able to find parking in front of your house have in common? They’re both indicators that you live in a beach town.

Summer 2020 is undoubtedly one for the books. From lost internships to canceled vacations, everyone is feeling the effects of coronavirus in some way or another. These feelings are felt all the more deeply in a beach town.

Summertime is marked by the feel of sand in your toes, the smell of salty sea air, the sounds of seagulls and the taste of summer barbecues. But sand, sea air and seagulls aren’t lost. The beach can still be accessed, the smell of sea air still permeates our clothing and hair and seeps beneath the cracks of our door frames and the seagulls are still as loud and territorial as ever. The main thing that has changed is our barbecues.

According to Center of Disease Control Guidelines, large gatherings are prohibited, people must stay six feet apart and human contact has been severely limited, if not outright forbidden. When all this is taken into consideration, barbecues seem like a practice of the past.

Let’s go through what a stereotypical barbecue looks like. The men are gathered around the grill holding beers; the women are bustling around setting out all the salads, condiments and cutlery; the children are screaming and chasing each other around the yard with water guns and sunburnt skin — an idyllic summer evening in suburban America.

Now, based on the social distance guidelines, there shouldn’t even be enough people in your backyard that would warrant a meeting where there would be “gathering,” “bustling” or “chasing.” However, if the amount of people within this scene fall within CDC recommendations, then there’s another problem to face: Is your backyard large enough to provide the recommended six feet between people? If the answer is yes,there’s still the issue of touch. If a child slips on the wet grass, only their parents can pick them up. If someone has to go to the bathroom, are you going to let them inside of your house?

Note that although it is safer to gather outside than it is to gather inside, there are still precautions that need to be taken.

As a barbecue (really just Beyond Burger) enthusiast, I’m going to help you reclaim the best part of summer and plan your Quarantine Cookout, while still keeping yourself and your loved ones safe. Keep in mind this may seem like a large undertaking, but it will pay off with the knowledge that you’re doing your best to protect yourself and your family.


  1. Check the CDC Guidelines for mass gatherings before beginning any summer festivities.
  2. Take into consideration how large your party area is.
  3. Understand that although there is a maximum number of people you are allowed to have, if you cannot safely socially distance at that capacity — CUT BACK.
  4. Invite or even ask your guests to pitch in and bring something. However, be explicit in the way you might want them to bring it, or politely ask if they wouldn’t mind preparing it in a safe way .
    1. Beer is an easy (and safe) way for your guests to chip in!
    2. Disposable plates and cups and cutlery are also a good option
  5. Make it clear to your guests that this is a socially distanced barbecue, and you would love and appreciate their input and support (from a safe distance of course).
  6. Set up folding tables six feet apart.
  7. Use disposable cutlery and serving spoons.
  8. Prepare all food with gloves and a mask on.
  9. Divvy up the burgers, buns, salads, condiments, fries, watermelon etc. in a way so that each family will only be touching their serving bowls and utensils.
  10. Place a mini cooler filled with the same drinks (juice, lemonade, soda, beer, wine, water) and bottle opener by each table so that there will be no need for everyone to touch the same bottle opener and bottles.
  11. Each table will have a garbage bag in order to dispose of their own trash. This will also make clean-up easier!
  12. You can set up lawn games where everyone is still kept apart, such as water balloon dodgeball, or even purchase some of those giant inflatable balls for bubble soccer.
  13. If you have a separate entrance into your house or even a basement bathroom that’s not used, you can open that up to guests, and ask them to wipe down the faucet handles and doorknobs with sanitizer when they leave.

Don’t think about Summer 2020 as compromising on old favorites and traditions, but rather as a new adventure and making new memories. Warts and all. Happy Summer!

Sarah Austin is a rising sophomore in the School of Hotel Administration. She can be reached at sarahaustin@cornellsun.com.