If You Are Thinking of Spending the Night, Read This First.

Overnight stays and pandemics are actually incompatible. It’s a wonderful child’s rite of passage, with all that pizza eating, soda drinking, watching movies, and giggling all night. But all of these things (potentially sharing food and drinks! Snuggling together! With breath droplets floating in the air!) Also make them risky.

However, there may be reasons why you are considering having other children sleep in your house or sending your child to sleep in a different house. It may be due to need or desire, but either way, there are some things to consider and some precautions you can take to make the event even slightly safer.

First, consider individual risk levels

When we consider the levels of risk associated with planning or participating in a sleepover, there are two things to consider, ”says Ellie Murray , epidemiologist and assistant professor at Boston University. First, consider if any of the participants – or anyone who lives in the homes of the families involved – is at high risk due to their age or health conditions.

“If anyone in any of the participating families is at really high risk, that would be a big reason to prevent sleepovers,” Murray says.

Second, families should also consider whether any of the participants are working in a high-impact environment, such as a hospital, nursing home, or meat processing plant. If so, you might consider changing course and try a virtual sleepover instead.

Reduce your “contact budget”

Assuming everyone is at “moderate risk,” Murray says, you might be wondering if – and how – to proceed. In part, this should include reducing the ” contact budget ” as much as possible:

A contact budget is a way to think holistically about your overall risk that takes into account all of your day-to-day interactions. Just as we budget for our finances, we can think about our day-to-day interactions and our overall risk in a similar way.

After all, when you think of all the people you came in contact with and under what circumstances, what was the total sum of those interactions? Are there ways to reduce the total number of interactions?

“If you’re kind of getting ready for a sleepover, you have to make sure that for at least a week – maybe two weeks – before that … babies really keep all their contact to a minimum, so there is very little risk of infection when they show up. overnight time, ”says Murray. “It can help reduce the likelihood of infection and transmission.”

And once the overnight stay is over, complete the experience with another 7-14 days of limited “contact planning.” If 2-4 full weeks of limiting contact with other people outside the home is not worth it for them (or you) for one night, it may help you decide whether to participate.

Think “person, place, time and space”

When it comes to reducing the risk of infection, it is helpful to think of all our interactions in terms of “person, place, time and space.” Let me explain how this applies to an overnight setting:


We know that the more people there are, the more likely the virus is to spread. This means 2020 (and probably at least part of 2021) won’t be the year your daughter invites more than nine of her best friends for the most epic sleepover in history. Tell her that she can choose one or two super-extra-special BFFs instead. (If she insists there should be nine, consider it virtual .)

This is also influenced by your previous risk assessment – how likely it is that participants will have potentially poor outcomes from the virus, and how likely they are themselves to be infected.

“Do you regularly communicate with these people?” – says Murray. “Sleeping with cousins ​​with whom you are also homeschooled may be much less of an addition to your risk than it would be if it was someone you haven’t seen in six months because this is the contact that you didn’t have. before.”


We know that outdoor interactions are less risky than indoor interactions; this obviously gets complicated with an overnight stay where at least some, if not most, of the action will take place inside. Most of the country gets into the season when it’s too cold to, say, camp outside, but if that’s an option for you, it’s better than sleeping side by side on the living room floor.

If you’re mostly indoors, Murray suggests looking for ways to limit sharing and be aware of surface transmission.

“Is it possible to have a bathroom that guests use but that the rest of the family does not use to restrict data transfer between family members and guests?” she asks.


The more time you spend with someone, the higher the risk of transmission – which, again, is tricky when you’re talking about spending the night. So the more you can limit the number of their close contacts, the better. Keep them as far apart as possible by following the six-foot rule if they are messing around and watching a movie, especially when they are eating. (The longer you can keep them masked when they are not eating or sleeping, the better.)

To limit the time they are in the immediate area, you might consider allowing the guest (s) to sleep in the guest bedroom or in a separate area of ​​the house. Or skip part of the dream altogether by making it a ” sleepless party “:

A sleepless party is essentially a late night pajama party. It has everything you need for a true pajama party – pizza, movies, popcorn, pajamas, sugar, screeching – except that nobody really sleeps. You pick up the kids too late, when they almost faint. They satiated themselves with a night out without the added stress of figuring out how to sleep on an air mattress or in a sleeping bag.


Finally, Murray says, we need to consider the environmental conditions in the area, especially how small the space is and how well ventilated it is. Place them in a larger room, where you can open a patio door or multiple windows for air flow, rather than in a small room with limited ventilation, which will have more musty air.


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