Football and Halloween fun are on most of our calendars this fall. But, whether you’re cheering on your favorite team or eating up ghoulish Halloween goodies, please remember to “Be safe and prevent the spread!”

COVID cases continue to fluctuate in Northeast and Central Wisconsin, and remain high nationwide, so public health officials say Wisconsinites still need to mask up, stay physically distanced and sanitize their hands to stave off another surge this autumn. Also, they strongly recommend getting vaccinated if you’ve not received the vaccine already.

Vaccination remains the most effective tool to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death due to COVID-19,” says Natalie Vandeveld, Public Health Officer/Manager at the Outagamie County Public Health Division, a Be Safe Wisconsin Partner. “This is especially critical as we move through fall when other seasonal illnesses, like influenza, may potentially cause increases in hospitalizations.”

Vandeveld also notes national data that suggests COVID-19 vaccines make it less likely for individuals to transmit or contract the virus that causes COVID-19. She adds, “Lower transmission rates mean the virus has fewer opportunities to mutate into a strain that could cause problems in the future, even if cases decline in the short term.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has guidelines for fall activities. In general, it’s best to keep get-togethers outside, but with cooler temperatures, Wisconsinites might prefer being inside. In that case, public health officials say it’s best to keep windows open and increase ventilation. The CDC says, “Discuss expectations and behavior early, so everyone is working from the same ground rules about masks and other safety measures.” Health officials suggest virtual celebrations instead of in-person events.

Of course, if you’re sick, have COVID-19 symptoms or were exposed to someone who has tested positive, stay home.

To drive home the point of the impact vaccinations are having on the overall health of Wisconsin communities, check out this chart from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services

“While no vaccine is 100% effective, those that are unvaccinated are more than 8 times more likely to be hospitalized and nearly 19 times more likely to experience death because of COVID-19,” notes Vandeveld. “Breakthrough cases typically report mild illness or no symptoms and are discovered during routine testing or screening. Additionally, these cases are expected to increase as a proportion of total cases as vaccine coverage increases.”

Halloween Safety Tips

Children 12 years and older are eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Despite vaccinations, health officials have set guidelines for trick-or-treaters and neighbors handing out candy.

  • Families should travel in small groups and avoid crowding at one doorstep.
  • Everyone should wash their hands before leaving the house to trick-or-treat and when they return home.

It helps that Halloween is generally an outdoor-focused holiday and children can easily incorporate a fun facemask with their costumes,” said Dr. Jorge Darwich, a Pediatrician with ThedaCare Physicians Pediatrics-Neenah. ThedaCare is a Be Safe Wisconsin Partner.

Physicians suggest leaving candy out in individual bags for trick-or-treaters to help themselves, especially if you have not been vaccinated for COVID-19 or have an autoimmune disease. Candy givers should wash their hands while handling treats and even avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.

Dr. Darwich adds, “While we all look forward to getting back to traditional celebrations and events, it’s still important to continue practicing precautions so that we can do our best to stay healthy.”

And for the Wisconsinites who are vaccinated, Vandeveld suggests, “Encourage others who have yet to make the choice to be vaccinated. Vaccines remain the best protection against COVID-19 for ourselves and our community.”