Like most things in 2020, fall will look and feel different this year compared to last. But with a little planning and caution, you can still enjoy some of fall’s signature activities during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
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Instead of focusing on all the changes, it’s really about shifting our expectations and reimagining how to do some of the same activities, explains family medicine specialist Neha Vyas, MD.
“There are still plenty of things we can safely do, we just need to take precautions to protect ourselves and those around us, which from time to time, might mean passing on an event or activity if those precautions can’t be followed,” she says.
Maintaining at least six feet from other people is key, and for times when that isn’t possible, wearing a face mask is crucial. And if you haven’t already caught on, hand sanitizer and hand washing will continue to be the coolest trends of the season.
Dr. Vyas shares some insight, advice and modifications for a safe fall.
Halloween and COVID-19
Parents and kids alike are wondering about Halloween this year. But how do you handle trick-or-treating, costumes and passing out candy in the middle of a global pandemic?
“Your city will determine if trick-or-treating is happening or not,” says Dr. Vyas. “If it is, then it’s really about deciding as a family what you’re comfortable with and how you’ll protect yourself and those around you. If your city has determined that trick-or-treating will be canceled, everyone will need to respect that rule as well.”
Parents who allow their kids to trick-or-treat will need to consider quite a few things: How will your child maintain social distance from others? How many houses will they be allowed to visit? How will you help your child keep their hands clean and not touch their face?
And then of course, there’s the concept of incorporating a face mask (and no, we’re not talking a Spiderman mask) into your child’s costume.
Children who are trick-or-treating (and parents who are out with them) will still need to wear a proper face mask, aka it covers the mouth and nose, has multiple layers and ties around the ears or back of the head.
“Get creative and encourage your child to think about how their face mask can be part of their costume,” says Dr. Vyas. “Opt for a mask that matches the costume’s style, or have them pick a costume where a face mask is an essential part – like a doctor or a ninja. And as long as your child can still see and breathe fine and there’s plenty of ventilation, you can layer a Halloween mask over a cloth face mask.”
When you get back home, you might be wondering if you should sanitize your child’s candy haul, but according to Dr. Vyas, it’s not really necessary.
“The transmission of coronavirus on surfaces is very low,” she says. “But if you feel safer doing it, than by all means do.”
Passing out candy
If you’ve opted not to go out trick-or-treating, but still want to pass out candy, consider leaving candy and hand sanitizer out on a table at the end of your driveway. You can even sit farther back from the table so you can enjoy the evening from a distance. Or, you can designate one person with clean hands to pass out candy. Unfortunately this year, experts say to avoid having kids pick directly from the bowl because it could spread more germs. It’s also advised to skip on passing out homemade goods.
Other ways to celebrate Halloween
If you’ve decided that you’re not comfortable with Halloween outside of your direct household (which is perfectly OK!), get creative and have some fun with how you’ll celebrate:
- Decorate or carve pumpkins at home.
- Set up a piñata for your kids in the backyard.
- Watch a scary movie.
- Create a candy or festive scavenger hunt at home.
- Host or attend a virtual Halloween party and costume contest.
Enjoying autumn activities during coronavirus
Just because we’re spending more time at home these days doesn’t mean we have to skip every fall activity we once loved. With a little organization, preparation and creativity – it’s possible to still enjoy some of your favorite fall events.
The trick (to this treat) is reimaging and setting the correct expectation. You’ll also want to keep the golden rules of COVID-19 in mind: Wear a face mask, social distance, don’t touch your face, wash your hands regularly and stay home if you aren’t feeling well.
Here’s what else to keep in mind for several popular fall festivities:
- Haunted houses, hayrides and corn mazes. Tread carefully with these fall activities. In the past, these outings have been very group oriented, which doesn’t mix well with COVID-19. Some businesses are offering a drive-thru haunted house experience to limit the exposure of large gatherings, so check to see if that’s an option in your area. If it’s not, consider putting one together in your own neighborhood. If you choose to participate in these activities, you might be required to make a reservation for a specific time, so call before you go so there’s no surprises. Wear your face mask and be sure to ask about disinfecting, capacity and social distancing, plus who will be monitoring these guidelines. Also, don’t be afraid to leave if protocols aren’t being followed.
- Apple picking or visiting a pumpkin patch. Apple and pumpkin farms are popular autumn attractions, and with a little preparation and vigilance, these experiences can be safely enjoyed this year. Many establishments are now requiring reservations for visiting these facilities. This allows more control over how many people are there at one time and allows for more sanitization. Call ahead before visiting and ask about the guidelines and precautions. Be aware that certain activities that may have been available in the past (sorry, there won’t be any bobbing for apples this year), might not be an option. If you can, try to visit during non-peak hours and always bring your face mask and hand sanitizer with you.
- Fairs and agricultural shows. Be cautious when attending these types of events. In some areas, officials have canceled fairs and animal shows due to the influx of large crowds who attend. (And although the risk of animal-to-person spread of COVID-19 is considered very low, there’s always potential risk.) If a fair in your area is still happening, make sure you know the risk level of your region and follow the guidelines set by officials, like wearing a face mask and social distancing. Remember, the more and longer people interact, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected.
- Fall sporting events. It’s possible that if guidelines are followed correctly, you can safely attend these types of activities this fall. Most school districts and organizations have limited the amount of fans allowed at each event, so be aware of who will be allowed to attend in-person and what to expect. As a parent at a school event, lead by example when it comes to following protocol. Wear a face mask, maintain social distance and encourage those around you to do the same. You can also ask if there are virtual options available for family and friends to watch at home.
Still lots of fall fun to be had
We know this year has been a bummer for many things and events. But just as we learned in the spring and summer, if we’re safe, we can still enjoy some activities – they’ll just look and feel a little different.
There’s still time to enjoy the great outdoors and local parks this fall, so take a socially distanced hike and pack a picnic. Enjoy a family car ride to enjoy the fall foliage when the weather turns cool, or hold a faux tailgate in your driveway. Rake leaves, perfect your apple pie recipe or warm up next to a campfire on a crisp night.
“Coronavirus doesn’t have to take all the fun out of everything,” says Dr. Vyas. “If we all practice and respect the safety guidelines, we can slow the spread of the virus and still experience things that bring us joy.”
And don’t worry, pumpkin spice lattes are fall 2020 approved — for the occasional splurge, of course!