Recommendations for Tribal Ceremonies and Gatherings During the COVID-19 Outbreak
Tribal ceremonies such as sweat lodge, social gatherings and seasonal ceremonies, and larger gatherings such as pow wows and rodeos, are a vital part of cultural identity and common and traditional practices in tribal communities. CDC recommends how to help tribal communities, elders, and leaders decide how best to keep their communities safe and work to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These points are meant to support—not replace—tribal laws, rules, and regulations aimed at protecting the health of tribal communities.
The risk of spreading COVID-19 grows as more people attend a ceremony or gathering, they are closer to one another, and they stay together longer. A higher level of community transmission in the area that the gathering is being held also means more risk of COVID-19 spreading during a gathering.
It is important to take steps now to protect tribal community members from getting sick before, during, and after taking part in tribal ceremonies or other gatherings such as:
- birthday parties,
- pow wows,
- rodeos, and
People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may not be fully protected even if they are fully vaccinated. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.
What is done today, affects seven generations. The risk of COVID-19 spreading at events and gatherings including tribal seasonal ceremonies and gatherings increases as follows:
Tribal ceremonies or gatherings are conducted virtually (such as by communicating online, by video conference, or by telephone), if traditions allow.
Small in-person ceremonies or gatherings are held. Gatherings take place outside or in larger structures with good air flow. No food is served at ceremonies or gatherings. Tribal members stay at least 6 feet (or about 2 arms’ lengths) away from others, wear masks, and do not share or touch the same items.
Larger in-person ceremonies or gatherings are adapted to allow tribal members to remain at least 6 feet apart. Tribal members are encouraged to wear masks. Food is served in pre-packaged boxes with disposable utensils.
Large in-person ceremonies or gatherings are held where tribal members have a hard time staying at least 6 feet apart because of the increased number of people based on the venue size. Tribal members share or touch the same items. Food is served “potluck” or family style. Tribal members attending the ceremony or gathering come from multiple tribal communities or from outside the local geographic area.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Rub the gel over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Stay at least 6 feet, or about 2 arm lengths, away from others.
Wear a mask to protect yourself and others from getting and spreading COVID-19. CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people wear a mask in public indoor settings if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
- Fully vaccinated people might choose to mask regardless of the level of transmission, especially if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised or more likely to develop severe disease, or if someone in their household is unvaccinated. People who are at higher risk for severe disease include older adults and those who have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, overweight or obesity, and heart conditions.
Note: Masks should not be placed on children younger than 2 years old, anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, or anyone who can’t remove the mask without help.
- If you are not fully vaccinated and aged 2 or older, you should wear a mask in indoor public places.
- In general, you do not need to wear a mask in outdoor settings.
- In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities with close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.
- People who have a condition or are taking medications that weaken their immune system may NOT be protected even if they are fully vaccinated. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, including wearing a well-fitted mask, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider.
- If you are fully vaccinated, see When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated.
Stay home if you are sick.
Tribal elders and leaders can:
Consider postponing, rescheduling, or canceling in-person tribal ceremonies or gatherings. Hold virtual tribal ceremonies or gatherings (such as by communicating online, video conference or telephone) or hold them at another time, as tribal traditions allow.
If tribal elders and leaders decide to go ahead with holding an in-person tribal ceremony or cultural gathering, CDC offers these suggestions to consider in the context of tribal traditions:
- Take steps to limit the size of ceremonies or gatherings, as traditions allow.
- Consider holding events in a large, well-ventilated area or outdoors, as circumstances and traditions allow.
- Encourage tribal members to stay at least 6 feet, or 2 arm lengths, away from others.
- Provide ample seating or viewing areas.
- Provide physical guides, such as tape to mark floors or walkways and signs on walls, to make sure that tribal members stay at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times.
- Encourage the use of masks, especially when people have a hard time staying at least 6 feet away from one another.
- Promote healthy hygiene practices.
- Encourage tribal members to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Provide enough supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors, including soap, clean water, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, tissues, and no-touch trash cans.
- Stay home if you are a sick person or have had close contact with someone who is sick with COVID-19.
When to Disinfect
You may want to either clean more frequently or choose to disinfect (in addition to cleaning) in shared spaces if certain conditions apply that can increase the risk of infection from touching surfaces.
- High transmission of COVID-19 in your community
- Low number of people wearing masks
- Infrequent hand hygiene
- The space is occupied by people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19
If there has been a sick person or someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in your facility within the last 24 hours, you should clean AND disinfect the space.
Use Disinfectants Safely
Always follow standard practices and appropriate regulations specific to your facility for minimum standards for cleaning and disinfection. For more information on cleaning and disinfecting, see Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility.
- Consider not serving food or changing how food is served.
- Avoid buffet or family-style meals, if possible. Have tribal members bring their own meals if possible, or serve meals on individual plates.
- Use disposable eating and serving utensils (such as plastic forks, spoons and knives; and paper dishes and cups). If disposable items are not possible or desirable, make sure that all non-disposable utensils are handled with gloves and washed with dish detergent and hot water or in a dishwasher. People should wash their hands after removing their gloves or after directly handling used food service items.
- Avoid sharing food, containers, and utensils.
- Consider posting signs in highly visible places (such as entrances, in restrooms) that promote everyday protective measures and describe how to stop the spread of germs by properly washing hands and properly wearing a mask.