Updated March 17th:
This article was originally posted just five days ago. Since then, a lot has changed, so the article has been updated significantly. That I had to do that is a good reminder to watch for the latest news from the CDC, WHO, and your local public health authorities!

The Fourth Place is all about the passion for bringing people together, and a big part of the business is managing and promoting public board game events— and yet, I’m just as passionate about doing the right thing. At a time when the world is struggling with understanding a literal pandemic, we are all trying to understand how to balance safety with letting normal life go on.

photo of people playing games

Personally, my primary livelihood relies on organizing public events, but I don’t want to put myself, my customers, or anyone else at risk during a confusing and dangerous time. I can’t help but agonize over the answer, so I have turned to some research, and I’d like to share what I have learned, and how it could impact your game nights.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, medical professional, or trained scientist. My advice is based on my own research, including public information, WHO and CDC announcements, and conversations with friends and colleagues who are more appropriately trained.


The simplest, easiest, and most powerful thing we can do to protect ourselves from most diseases is to wash our hands— Because our hands move around a lot, and transfer viruses and bacteria from place to place.

Thankfully, two very common substances do a great job of chemically breaking down bacteria and some viruses, including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19— Regular soap, and alcohol.

Long story short: If you don’t want to catch a virus, wash your hands after handling anything that has been handled by someone else. If you might have a virus, wash your hands before handling anything that might be handled by others.

EFFECTIVE HAND-WASHING: The advice here doesn’t change much from one contagion to the next, but we all need to remember during a pandemic: Use enough soap, wash for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. Be sure to wash the entire surface of both hands, including finger tips, backs of hands, between fingers, and thumbs.

EFFECTIVE HAND SANITIZING: Follow the same advice as washing with soap, and be sure to use a sanitizer that is 60-79% alcohol. Too little alcohol, or not enough water, and it doesn’t kill.

NOTICE WHEN YOU TOUCH YOUR FACE: Forget about never, ever touching your face. Start by just realizing how often you touch your face. Once you do that, then notice what you touched right before, and what you touched next. That’s all you need to remember to wash your hands during an epidemic.

Photo of hand washing

(Anti-bacterial wipes and sanitizers won't affect a coronavirus at all, unless they also contain enough alcohol. Anti-bacterial soap doesn’t help with virus transmission any more than regular soap.)

Current information suggests that in some cases, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can stay alive on surfaces for at least several hours, and possibly a few days. Assume this includes every doorknob, railing, and board game you touch— If you wash your hands after touching such things, and before you touch your face, food, or mouth, you can avoid contact with the virus.

The important thing is when we need to remember to wash or sanitize our hands. This is especially relevant when it comes to playing board games.

LEAVING AND RETURNING HOME: Always wash your hands or sanitize before and after going into public or having contact with people. This includes playing board games,

WHILE IN PUBLIC: When out in public or in any kind of gathering, wash your hands or sanitize after any contact with surfaces, before and after touching your face, after being near anyone sneezing or coughing, and before and after touching food

FORM A HABIT: Learn to think of washing your hands any time you could pick up or transfer germs:

  • Before and after any contact with surfaces
  • Before and after touching your face
  • After being near anyone sneezing or coughing
  • Before and after touching food


photo of a mask

PEOPLE AT-RISK: People who are 70 years old or more, have a compromised immune system, have a history of smoking, or have a serious health condition including heart, lung, and immune system issues are all at much higher risk.

The average age of people who have been killed by COVID-19 is believed to be over 80 years old. The elderly, and others with underlying health conditions and/or compromised immune systems are much more likely to be harmed by the virus. For the rest of us, a big part of our job is keeping the virus away from them, both directly, and by reducing it’s prevalence in the overall population.

If you are At-Risk, stay home and avoid contact. It’s that simple. Until this pandemic subsides, I wouldn’t go to any public events, and stick to playing games with people you see regularly already, except those who may be infected.

If you have had respiratory infection symptoms, a fever, have had contact with someone known to have COVID-19 or a respiratory infection, stay at home if possible, and avoid public events, crowds, public transport, and contact with At-Risk people for 14 days after exposure and at least 72 hours after fever and symptoms fully subside.


The situation with COVID-19 testing varies by region, and appears to be progressing daily.

If you have symptoms, including a dry cough, a fever, absolutely isolate yourself until you can speak with your doctor about your risks, and whether you should be tested. Many health systems have set up hotlines, to reduce crowds at hospitals and load on the system, so check for one and call them first if you can.

If you have been positively diagnosed, absolutely do not go out in public, and avoid all human contact you possibly can. A real quarantine of at least 14 days is important to avoid harming many people in your extended community.


If you do go out, here are some things you can do to keep yourself, your loved ones, and the population as a whole a bit safer:

Keep Your Distance: In parts of Europe, the focus is on staying at least three feet (one meter) away from other people. Some reports suggest that six feet (two meters) to twelve feet (four meters) is safest to avoid transmission. Try to stay at least six feet away from strangers— anyone who you don’t have regular contact with, and who you don’t know is healthy.

If you’re at a board game night, keep your distance as much as you can. Just remember that you’ll all be touching the same cards, game pieces, etc. so it’s also important to…

Remember Your Hands (Again): Remember to wash your hands before and after anything that could spread or transfer contagion:

  • Before and after any contact with surfaces
  • Before and after touching your face
  • After being near anyone sneezing or coughing
  • Before and after touching food
photo of people on a bus

When you’re playing games, you’re touching the same cards and pieces, so be extra conscious of when you’re touching your face or food.

Mass Transport: If you can, avoid all travel via public and mass transport, including buses, subways, planes, trains, ferries, and cruise ships, especially if you are at risk or may have been exposed. You should also be careful in ride-share vehicles, taxis, and other transit used by other people. If you are at risk or infected, public transit is honestly a no-go. Using mass or public transit is even more dangerous in areas with any reported cases of COVID-19, or if you have any symptoms,


Experts are recommending a few additional things that you can do, to cut your risk of transmitting or contracting an infection, especially during times like this.

Get Vaccinated: There’s no vaccine (yet) for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, and other vaccines won’t help directly. However, getting vaccinated for the flu will help you avoid another common and dangerous infection and reduce confusion around unknown infections. If you are vaccinated for the flu, it’s easier to know whether what you have caught is the COVID-19 coronavirus or now. Avoiding the flu also simplifies COVID-19 testing.

Not Just Clean Hands: Regularly disinfect the most commonly-touched surfaces. Think about how many people touch a doorknob or railing, or how often you touch your smartphone and then touch your face. Again, you will need to use something that fights viruses, especially chlorine bleach or alcohol.


photo of a crowd

A lot of us are trying to figure out how bad it is to leave the house, socialize in person, and go to any kind of public event. This definitely applies to board game nights, in home or in public. Here’s some specific advice on how to make the right call, based on your situation.

Simply put, if you are At-Risk, or may have been exposed, you should avoid contact with people as much as you reasonably can. If you are At-Risk, that’s to protect yourself. If you may have been exposed, it’s to avoid spreading the virus into the population in general, so you don’t transfer it to someone who it could kill, and so you don’t increase the odds that such people will eventually be exposed.

For the rest of us, it’s not as cut and dry, which can make it hard to know what’s right.

As of today (and boy, does the news cycle move quickly on this) most areas have the following measures in place, which we should consider a starting point:

  1. Restaurants should be closed for sit-in eating, allowing only pick-up and delivery. (Bars that don’t offer food are being closed.)
  2. Delivery companies are offering contact-free delivery— Such as leaving your food on the doorstep.
  3. Business that can are closing their offices, and having all personnel work from home.
  4. Hospitals are encouraging people to come in only for true emergencies, and to use tele-health wherever possible.
  5. Large gatherings (over 250 people) are banned in many areas, and should be avoided.
  6. Mid-Size gatherings (over 50 people) are banned unless absolutely essential, and should definitely be avoided.
  7. Small gatherings (over 10 people) should be avoided, and are outright banned in some areas.
  8. Direct contact with your immediate circle (under 10 people) should be safe, if and only if nobody has had contact with symptoms (or a diagnosis), and nobody will have contact with anyone at high risk, and everyone takes serious precautions.

It would be safest if none of us went out at all, but it would also be extremely isolating and disruptive. That being the case, I have three pieces of advice above all others:

  1. Stay Informed: Keep close track of the latest news from your state and local government, and updates directly from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Heath Organization (WHO).
  2. Avoid Misinformation: Treat news and rumors from other sources (even me) with a grain of salt, as there is a lot of misinformation out there. If you haven’t seen it confirmed directly by a major reputable source, don’t jump to conclusions.
  3. Do what you think is best: This is a personal decision about your health, your social life, and your impact on the health and well-being of those around you. Use your best judgement.
photo of games

This is a serious worldwide outbreak. We all need to be careful. Remember the biggest risks, form good habits, and stay aware of the latest news, and you can keep yourself and everyone else safe and healthy.

  • Wash your hands well
  • Wash your hands often
  • Form habits so you remember to wash before and after touching things
  • Be extremely careful if you are at risk
  • Avoid gatherings over 10 people
  • Avoid going out except for necessities

Above all, think in terms of protecting yourself from anyone who could be infected, and protecting the general public and those At-Risk if you are infected and don't know it.

Please use the comments below share your ideas about how we can keep enjoying the games and company we love, without putting ourselves or others at undue risk.

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