A primary public health concern is how the flu and cold season will be impacted by COVID-19 and how fall activities such as Election Day, Halloween trick-or-treating and holiday celebrations could result in more people contracting the virus.
Our local COVID-19 case investigators are already reporting that many individuals that have tested positive have stated that their early symptoms mimic sinus infections, colds or the flu. Many have unknowingly spread the Coronavirus to their families and co-workers because they did not realize that the initial onset of symptoms may be as mild as a “stuffed up” head or runny nose.
Earlier in the year, during holidays such as Easter, Memorial Day and the 4th of July, our children were not in school, but now most schools are at least partially open and we expect Halloween, Thanksgiving and the winter holidays to create conditions for the increased possibility of community spread.
Many traditional activities such as trick-or-treating and multi-household indoor gatherings are considered high-risk in the CDC’s new guidance.
Therefore, it is up to each of us to take precautions to protect the health and safety of ourselves, our families and our friends, while finding ways to enjoy participating in fall activities.
Many of us are already considering ways to vote safely. We encourage residents to visit the Department of Elections website for more information on your voting options and to make a plan.
Remember, the best way to avoid becoming infected is to avoid being exposed to the virus altogether. This is particularly important for people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
If voting in person or dropping off a ballot, wear a cloth face covering, observe physical distancing and practice good hygiene. If you are under isolation or quarantine on Election Day, you can pursue emergency absentee voting by contacting your General Registrar.
Many of us look forward to the fall and winter holidays, however, indoor gatherings with family and friends over shared meals are considered high risk if you plan to include guests outside of your household. And, unlike the spring and summer holidays, the weather rarely cooperates for outdoor gatherings.
Tips for safer gatherings include:
• host gatherings outdoors or increase ventilation indoors by opening windows and doors;
• gather only with those in your pod/household or limit attendees to no more than six;
• wear face coverings;
• provide hand sanitizer and info about COVID-19 to your guests;
• ask guests to avoid contact with others 14 days before the event; and
• ask guests to refrain from attending if experiencing COVID-like symptoms or if they are currently under isolation or quarantine for COVID-19.
For Halloween, there are ways to transform the traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating into a safe activity. Some suggestions include:
• set out individually bagged treats for trick or treaters;
• regularly wash hands with disinfectant;
• wear a cloth face covering instead of a costume mask;
• give treats outdoors;
• and avoid direct contact by practicing physical distancing.
Rather than trick-or-treat, participate in safer activities such as carving or decorating pumpkins, hosting virtual costume contests/parties, scavenger hunts and movie nights with members in your household.
If you gather with others outside your household, stay outdoors, wear face coverings and practice physical distancing.
Remember that COVID-19 targets all ages. The upcoming holidays present opportunities for residents to host super-spreader events that will affect our friends and family, both young and old.
Likewise, with our children in school, additional opportunities for exposure exist both before and after holiday celebrations. That being said, I wholeheartedly encourage all of us to vote and celebrate the holidays safely.
Review the full CDC guidelines for safe holidays here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html.