Public health expert offers safety tips for keeping fall traditions alive during COVID-19

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Cooler weather usually means more indoor social activities, especially to celebrate the holidays, which this year could mean more spread of COVID-19, says Virginia Tech public health expert Lisa M. Lee.

“We now know that if we are going to socialize with people who are not in our household – or in our pandemic pod – being outside or in a well-ventilated space is better than being inside without outside air circulation,” says Lee.   

Lee says that as social activities move indoors, it will be very important to keep the number of guests as low as absolutely necessary, leave enough space to keep 6 or more feet between people, and to wear face coverings. 

“These preventive measures are more important than ever because we know that recent COVID-19 cases are among younger people, who are less likely to have symptoms and might not even know that they are contagious. As families mix—young with old, healthy with frail—we will see more vulnerable people becoming infected and dying. Protect your grandparents by making sure everyone wears a mask,” says Lee.      

The fall season brings many traditions such as trick-or-treating on Halloween, visiting pumpkin patches and indoor haunted houses. For those who want to keep the traditions alive, Lee offers the following safety guidelines to consider.

  • Avoid crowds, especially indoors; keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others; wash your hands often; and wear a face covering.  It takes a little planning to do these things during the usual holiday traditions, but it especially important as we gather with generations of our families and friends.
  • Remember that if you are young and healthy, you might not have symptoms, but could be infected and could spread the disease to older or medically vulnerable relatives and friends.
  • Think about substituting typical indoor traditions with outdoor activities.  Consider a walk to look at the autumn colors; bundle up for a hike or scavenger hunt; find a local farm that does fall hay rides. Plan ahead so you can avoid crowds, keep your distance, and wear a face covering.     

About Lee
Lisa M. Lee is a public health expert specializing in infectious disease epidemiology and public health ethics.  She also serves as the associate vice president for research and innovation at Virginia Tech, where she leads the division of Scholarly Integrity and Research Compliance.

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