11/29/21: Guidelines for Holiday Parties

With the holiday season now upon us, many UB departments and student groups are considering having parties and other end-of-the-semester events involving food. Due to the rising COVID-19 transmission rates in the surrounding community, UB officials ask that groups hosting such gatherings plan the event carefully to minimize the risks. All events at which food is served, both public and private, must be approved by UB’s Department of Environment, Health and Safety.

Hosting groups should carefully consider whether it is appropriate to hold an event this year. Some larger events held in the past may not be advisable in the same scale this year. Organizers may want to consider the possibility of rescheduling larger events to a later time.

Organizers should also consider alternative ways of holding the event. Some options include:

  • Holding the gathering fully or partially remotely via Zoom.
  • Breaking up the event into smaller groups or using multiple rooms/venues.
  • Moving the gathering to a larger venue that allows for more distancing.
  • Gathering without food, so that guests stay fully masked at all times.
  • Having a party where the food is “grab and go” after the social portion of the event.

Where departments or groups decide to gather with food, they will be required to obtain pre-approval.

  • A food permit must be filed with EH&S at least two weeks prior to the event, and formal approval must be granted to proceed. As part of the permitting process, organizers must appoint an Event Monitoring Coordinator.
  • The Event Monitoring Coordinator must be present at the event, keep an attendance list and ensure that the event proceeds according to plans.
  • Please note that home-prepared foods are not permitted to be served at campus food events. The only exception is for traditional low-risk baked goods such as cookies, cakes and brownies.

The following general guidelines will apply:

  • Continue to follow the UB Health and Safety Guidelines.
  • Masks are required inside buildings regardless of vaccination status. Individuals may remove their masks when actively eating and drinking if they are able to maintain proper physical distancing.
  • Before and after eating, masks must be worn properly over the mouth and nose. This is especially important during holiday party activities such as social mingling, games, etc.
  • Individuals who are experiencing any COVID-19 related symptoms should not attend.
  • During the event, spare masks should be available.
  • If mask breaks are needed, they should be outside of the party area in private locations or outdoors.

The following are recommended for the party setup and service of food:

  • Consider separate areas for food consumption and for mingling.
  • Consider having food pre-separated into individual portions.
  • Seat the attendees in small groups with room designated for distancing.
  • Call attendees up to the serving table in staggered groups. Attendees must wear masks and use distancing while at the serving table.
  • All eating activities must take place at the assigned tables. If snacks, hors d'oeuvres or drinks are part of the gathering, attendees should return to their tables to enjoy these items.
  • For food served buffet style, consider having the food served out to attendees.
  • Do not share food, drinks or utensils. If attendees are using serving utensils, then single-use gloves should be available.
  • Attendees should always get a new plate for additional trips to the food service table.
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers should be available at both sides of the serving tables.

Lastly, the group should always be within the standard occupancy designation for the space. If the event establishes planned entry and exit routes, then all attendees should follow those signs.

Following these guidelines can help to ensure a successful and safer event.