Here’s their advice for staying safe and coronavirus-free this fall.
How to go about your daily life
The autumnal chill might make people rethink where they gather, but outside hang-outs are still safer than those indoors (with the exception of large, crowded events that don’t leave room for social distancing).
There’s more room to spread out and steady air flow, so even though it’s getting colder out, people should still limit their interactions at indoor venues, said Dr. David Aronoff, director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Division of Infectious Diseases and professor of medicine.
But before you go anywhere:
Stay warm outside. Invest in ways to keep gatherings outdoors, even when it’s chilly, be it a fire pit, a warm coat or a heat lamp, suggests Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician and visiting professor at George Washington University’s Milken Institute of Public Health. This keeps meetings in a safer locale and helps prevent social isolation, too.
But you definitely should wear a mask around others. But if you’re outdoors at a crowded area or on streets where it’s tough to avoid strangers, do wear a mask, Aronoff said. Cloth masks prevent you from breathing out the virus if you’re asymptomatic, he said, and they can prevent “silent transmission” of the virus.
How to celebrate fall holidays
The pandemic will certainly complicate the celebration of holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving, which all revolve around community and family.
“We know by now that much of Covid-19’s spread is actually driven not by formal settings with strangers, but by informal gatherings of family and friends,” Wen said. “Some individuals may be letting down their guard with loved ones.”
It’s tempting to skirt Covid-19 prevention tips to gather loved ones on those days, but holidays shouldn’t be considered exceptions, Aronoff said — the virus won’t stop infecting people on those days.
The virus that causes Covid-19, he said, “is just capable of being transmitted whenever people get together.
“I think people need to take these holidays very seriously. This is not going to be a season of being able to get together the way we used to.”
If you take a risk to travel, cut down on exposure. Some may be willing to risk coronavirus transmission to see their loved ones, Wen said. But making that decision requires that you cut down on your cumulative risk, she said.
Create alternate holiday plans. Trick-or-treating or gathering for a communal meal come with additional risks during the pandemic. Aronoff suggested trading them for less risky fun.
How to vote
Both Wen and Aronoff agreed that voting is essential, even during a pandemic, and shouldn’t be skipped. Whether you’re voting ahead of or on November 3, it’s possible to limit your exposure to Covid-19 at the polls.
If voting in-person, vote early. Early voting dates and hours vary by state, but polling places are typically less crowded ahead of Election Day.
Learn about your polling place if you’re voting in-person. Learn as much about your polling place as you can before you go, Wen said. What precautions are poll workers taking? How much time will you have to spend indoors when you’re there?
Bring the essentials. When you go to vote in-person, Wen said, wear a mask, bring hand sanitizer and be conscious of what you touch and the distance you keep from others.
How to beat pandemic fatigue
But we must continue to take the precautions that we know work, or we’ll continue to live this way for far longer, Aronoff said.
“We’re all tired of Covid-19, which is certainly a predictable effect of a horrible pandemic that seems to keep going and going,” he said. “But we are not out from underneath it yet … and it’s up to us, in the absence of a vaccine, to continue to do our part to protect one another from this potentially fatal virus.”
Wen likens it to drinking and driving without serious incident. Just because you don’t end up injured or arrested, doesn’t mean those behaviors are sustainable or safe — and the same goes for people who flout mask requirements or social distancing guidelines.
“It’s possible someone can get lucky multiple times,” she said.
But the more often someone engages in risky behaviors, the more likely they are to wind up ill with coronavirus.