COVID-19: How to Safely Enjoy Fall Activities

Best practices when out and about this autumn
Fall Activities, Halloween, COVID-19, pandemic, child safety

You can still enjoy fall’s signature activities safely during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic like hayrides, corn mazes and trick-or-treating — if you’re smart and plan ahead.

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“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,” says family medicine specialist Neha Vyas, MD.

Even if you have been vaccinated, keep doing all the things you’ve been doing like maintaining at least six feet from other people, wearing a face mask, using hand sanitizer and practicing hand washing.

And if you haven’t been vaccinated, do it. For those who are 65 or older, and for immunocompromised individuals, it’s important to get the booster shot.

“The more people that get vaccinated, the more we reach herd immunity,” says Dr. Vyas. “We can protect those most vulnerable and eventually if we have enough of a critical mass, we’ll be able to return to our pre-pandemic lives.”

Dr. Vyas shares some insight, advice and modifications for a safe fall.

Halloween and COVID-19

Parents and kids alike are likely wondering about Halloween this year. But how do you handle trick-or-treating and costumes during a global pandemic?

Trick-or-treating

Whether trick-or-treating will happen this year is up to each community, where officials will look at transmission rates.

“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.”

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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 necessary.

“The transmission of coronavirus on surfaces is very low,” she says. “But if you feel safer doing it, then by all means do.”

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

With a little organization, preparation and creativity, it’s possible to still enjoy some of your favorite fall events.

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“Make sure that you have more outdoor activities than indoors because the risk of transmission is much lower outdoors,” says Dr. Vyas.

The trick (to this treat) is 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. Many of these outings are group-oriented, which doesn’t mix well with COVID-19. 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. Call ahead before visiting and ask about any 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. In some areas, fairs and animal shows are back. (The risk of animal-to-person spread of COVID-19 is considered very low, but there’s always potential risk.) If a fair in your area is 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. While most sporting events, especially outdoor ones, have returned full force some may ask for proof of vaccination (a handful of NLF teams require it). As a parent at a school sporting 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.

There are still lots of opportunities for fun!

It’s a lesson we’re learned over the last year — if we’re safe, we can still enjoy some activities.

There’s still time to enjoy the great outdoors and local parks this fall, so take a 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.”

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