How to Safely Enjoy Fall Holidays and Activities

Picking the perfect pumpkin, passing out candy to the tiniest ghosts and goblins, traveling to grandma's house for Thanksgiving—can we still partake in these fall traditions, or will the pandemic change the ways we enjoy autumn this year? Asra Mazhar, DO, with Overlake Clinics Primary Care – Downtown Bellevue, gives guidance on how to safely participate in fall activities, based on Washington State Department of Health (DOH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations.

Halloween

Despite being an outside activity, trick-or-treating in the traditional sense can be very high-risk. Door-to-door trick-or-treating, handing out candy or trunk-or-treating activities increase your risk of exposure to COVID-19. You can still celebrate the holiday with some safer alternatives, such as outdoor, socially distanced events wearing your cloth mask and practicing hand hygiene, pumpkin carving with family members, or a virtual Halloween celebration, like a costume contest.

If you do partake in an outdoor alternative, please note that costume masks do not offer the same level of protection that cloth masks do and are not recommended. Cloth masks with at least two or more layers of fabric should be utilized, ensuring that your mouth and nose are fully covered. 

Fall Activities

If taking the appropriate precautions, it can be safe to engage in other outdoor fall activities, like visiting pumpkin patches. Wearing your mask appropriately, practicing social distancing and utilizing good hand hygiene during outdoor activities can help decrease your risk. Businesses are aware of these precautions and are following DOH and CDC guidelines to keep the public safe. 

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has been one of the busiest travel times of the year in the past for Americans, but that is sure to be different this year. Traveling by car, alone or with members of your immediate family, is largely safer than traveling by air. However, any sort of travel outside the state does increase your risk of COVID-19. It is imperative to assess the risk and transmission rates of COVID-19 state-to-state, as many states do have higher rates of COVID-19. If travel is not essential both inside and outside of the state, it should be postponed. Consider hosting a virtual get-together with your loved ones.

“Friendsgiving” celebrations have increased in popularity in recent years, but it’s important to refer to your county’s guidelines for gatherings. King County is still in Phase 2 of the governor’s Safe Start plan, which means gatherings are only allowed outdoors with five or fewer people outside the household per week. Physical distancing of at least six feet must be maintained. It’s important to remember that gathering with individuals outside of your household may pose some increased risks, as each person has had contacts with others who may have been exposed.

Preparing meals for loved ones outside of your household can be a low-risk activity that still allows you to celebrate this holiday. Precautions should be taken, though there is no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 could be transmitted in the process of food preparation. These precautions include frequent handwashing before and after food preparation, cleaning the cooking surfaces and surrounding areas and properly cooking and storing the food. 

Black Friday

Black Friday has historically been a time with large crowds in very close quarters. While many retailers are taking the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the public, Black Friday shopping is still a very high-risk activity, especially for high-risk populations. Go online shopping instead.

Whatever new and creative ways you may choose to enjoy the season, be sure to be safe and follow the latest guidelines from the Washington State Department of Health and the CDC.  

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