As temperatures continue to drop and the holidays draw closer, millions of Americans are likely wondering what Halloween and Thanksgiving will look like this year.
According to St. Luke’s pediatrician Dr. Katie Quayle, the fall holidays will certainly be different this time around—but not necessarily less eventful.
“The big thing will be modifying activities to minimize risk,” she said. “You can’t have zero-risk. People need to see people.”
Staying safe this fall
For most of the patients Dr. Quayle sees, Halloween is their top-favorite holiday, she said.
“I think kids need to celebrate Halloween this year, especially because they’ve had a lot of other big adjustments to make with the pandemic. But there are safer ways to celebrate than trick-or-treating,” Quayle said.
If a child is dead-set on going trick-or-treating in a group, Quayle has two recommendations. First, they’ll need to wear a standard cloth or surgical mask; second, they’ll need to travel in a small group with family members only, or one or two other kids they already spend time with at school.
Quayle noted that costumes with built-in masks should be avoided because those are ineffective in preventing COVID-19 transmission, and standard cloth or surgical masks should never be layered on top of costume masks due to ventilation issues.
“Have your child stick with a regular, everyday mask with a fun Halloween print instead, and find other ways to decorate the face, such as face paint,” she said. “Also, make sure to not use paint on surgical or cloth masks, because we don’t want kids inhaling that.”
Due to the virus, exchanging candy with strangers at the door will obviously be a high-risk activity this year, Quayle said. For a safer option, hosts can set out a bowl of candy on the corner of the driveway for contactless pickup. When kids return home, parents should wipe down each piece of candy with antibacterial wipes, she said. (Researchers detected the virus on plastics for up to three days, the New England Journal of Medicine reported in April.)
Lower-risk alternatives to trick-or-treating include playing a “Hide the Thimble” style game, where family members take turns hiding small pieces of candy throughout the house. A neighborhood can also host a scavenger hunt, where each household is asked to hide an item on their property for passersby to find.
Quayle said she’ll be urging families to stay indoors on Halloween and avoid any indoor haunted houses or hayrides.
“Certainly, home celebrations with family are low-risk, such as carving pumpkins together or watching scary Halloween movies,” she said.
If you’re hankering for a costume contest, Quayle recommends holding a virtual one from home over FaceTime or Zoom. (For tips on how to make video calls using FaceTime, Zoom, and other entry-level platforms, see Page 1 of the printed edition.)
“You can also try an outdoor costume party, but it would be best to do that with a smaller group than normal or with kids already in the same ‘pods’ at school,” she said.
As for Thanksgiving, Quayle predicts the planning process will be a bit more complicated and emotional this year as families weigh the risks and benefits of visiting their relatives.
“If you have family that lives within driving distance, that is doable,” she said. (That is, if the gathering is relatively short, masks are worn and no one with potential exposure to COVID-19 shows up.)
If you absolutely have to fly to see a loved one for Thanksgiving, it’s important to maintain six feet of space between yourself and other passengers in the airport, Quayle said.
“If possible, eat or drink beforehand to avoid having to take off your mask in the airport or on the plane,” she said. “Airlines are trying their best to keep people safe, and the air filters on planes definitely help prevent disease transmission, but people should really minimize taking their masks off to eat or drink.”
Though COVID-19 continues to puzzle doctors and researchers with various long-term effects, it’s clear that the virus has a much more difficult time surviving outdoors than indoors.
“We’re lucky to live in such a beautiful area with so many outdoor options,” Quayle said. “Mountain biking, hiking and getting out on the trails are great ways to get some good ventilation and still enjoy the fall.”
To take advantage of the natural beauty in the Wood River Valley in the coming months and ease into the cooler temperatures headed our way, here are three suggestions:
Set up a stargazing party with friends
Simply find an open spot and gather around in lawn chairs a few hours after sundown to take in what central Idaho’s night sky has to offer. Using the Free Star Walk 2 app, you can point your smartphone or tablet at the cosmos, identifying constellations, planets, meteor showers and more in real time.
Host an outdoor movie
In the mood for a do-it-yourself project? Using a white sheet and some PVC pipes, you can transform your backyard or deck into a movie theater (HGTV’s tutorial is available at bit.ly/33mxaBQ). Add in an outdoor projector ($120 and up) and you’re good to go.
Invest in warming technology to create a cozy, ambient space on your patio or deck
For some extra warmth well into the evening, check out the under-$100 selection of wood-burning fire pits various stores throughout the valley. For a cleaner fire, look for a propane-generated fire.
As local restaurants across the valley begin to roll out outdoor heat lamps, you can do the same at home. For a simple wall-mounted patio heater, try an electric heater or a hanging electric patio heat lamp.
Even with a warm fire or heat lamp overhead, it can get a bit chilly at night—that’s where you can get creative with blankets and coats. Other trusty options include The Comfy one-size-fits-all wearable blanket ($39.99, thecomfy.com) and the Selk’Bag wearable sleeping bag ($99.99-$169.99, selkbagusa.com).