Independence Day 2021 takes on a special meaning after a global pandemic and a year and a half of lockdowns and restrictions. In the U.S. the federal government has been aiming for 4th of July 2021 as “Independence Day from COVID” where we can attend public events once again. Now that the big day has almost arrived, there are a few considerations to take into account to make sure you and your loved ones stay safe.

The Biden administration set a goal of getting 70% of Americans fully vaccinated by July 4th2021, and so far, the data suggests the nation is on track to nearly meet that goal and will most likely be about 67% fully vaccinated by Independence Day.

Are outdoor gatherings safe this year?

For people who are fully vaccinated, outdoor gatherings are considered safe. Fortunately most traditional Independence Day events—barbecues, beach days and fireworks celebrations—take place outside anyway, so keeping the event in the open air should be achievable for most Americans. For people who are not vaccinated or are only partially vaccinated, wearing a mask, socially distancing and sticking to smaller groups is still recommended for any 4th of July celebrations.

What are the guidelines for indoor gatherings?

Indoor gatherings are not considered as COVID-safe as outdoor gatherings, but fully vaccinated people should still be able to attend with low risk. For people who aren’t fully vaccinated, indoor gatherings are not recommended. The virus spreads much more easily indoors, so being outside of your normal household is a big risk factor, especially if there is a crowd. Ventilation and the number of people in attendance may also affect how safe indoor 4th of July gatherings are.

What about larger events like parades or firework shows?

Huge events with thousands of people may pose some risk, especially for people who are not fully vaccinated. While there will be parades and fireworks shows in some places this year, it’s recommended to wear a mask if you are in a dense crowd of thousands of people. As usual, being fully vaccinated offers the most protection.

Experts suggest that the safety of these events is “contextual”—meaning it depends on the specifics of the event. Even an event with thousands of people in attendance may be safer if everyone stands a bit farther apart and wears a mask, for example. Following local guidelines, being fully vaccinated and using your best judgment is the best way to stay safe.

Do I need to wear a mask and socially distance?

For people who are not fully vaccinated—or people attending events with others who are not fully vaccinated—wearing a mask and practicing social distancing are recommended. People attending very large gatherings such as parades or fireworks shows may wish to wear masks and socially distance to keep a safe atmosphere in the crowd, as well. Otherwise, it is considered safe for fully vaccinated people to attend small outdoor events such as barbecues without a mask and without socially distancing.

Independence Day 2021 may be one of the first public celebrations considered fully safe to attend for many people following the pandemic. Choosing to keep these events as safe as possible while gathering with loved ones can be a wonderful way to enjoy the occasion.