Feeling spooked about what the pandemic will look like this fall? Dr. Anthony Fauci said that Americans should prepare to "hunker down to get through this fall and winter," in a panel discussion with doctors from Harvard Medical School Sept. 10.
But with holidays like Halloween on the horizon, many people are wondering how and if they can safely gather during a pandemic. Even with costumed masks and activities moving outdoors, fall events and gatherings pose a risk for Covid-19 transmission.
The Centers for Disease Control released guidelines on Sept. 21 that outline how to stay safe this fall.
Here's what you need to know about the risk of various activities:
Visiting an orchard or pumpkin patch is considered moderately risky, according to the CDC. It's important to wear a mask, keep your hands clean when handling pumpkins or apples and maintain social distance from other parties. Also be sure to wash apples or other freshly-picked produce before eating.
Carving pumpkins with people in your household, or outdoors a safe distance from others, is considered low risk, according to the CDC.
Moderate to high risk
Having an outdoor, socially-distant costume party or parade in which everyone wears protective cloth face masks is one way to mitigate your risk while dressing up. You should avoid going to a costume party that's indoors, according to the CDC.
To that end, a costume mask can't replace your protective cloth face mask. "A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn't leave gaps around the face," according to the CDC.
If you're not able to move a costume party outdoors, the safest thing to do is stay home and make it virtual instead.
Although hayrides take place outdoors, the CDC ranks them a high-risk activity. The reason? Typically on a hayride, you sit close to other passengers, including people who are not part of your household.
Going door to door collecting treats from different households is not advised during a pandemic. The CDC recommends "one-way" trick-or-treating instead, which means you put out individually wrapped bags of candy for people to take from an appropriate distance. For example, you could position bags of candy on your driveway or front lawn. (Of course, you should practice good hand hygiene when preparing food.)
An even safer option for kids who want the thrill of trick-or-treating? The CDC suggests that you have a "scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search" where you hide treats inside your home, but limit it to people within your household. Or the CDC suggests taking a walk and doing a scavenger hunt of Halloween-themed items in your neighborhood, so you can admire the decorations while maintaining social distance.
Most people scream inside haunted houses, which can produce more respiratory droplets than talking or breathing. This is one reason why the CDC says indoor haunted houses are in the high-risk category.
An "open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest" would be less risky than an indoor haunted house, according to the CDC. However, even outdoors, people must be wearing face masks and maintaining at least six feet of distance from others.