State and local health experts are offering up ideas for how to enjoy fall activities with your family this season, nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic.
This fall, unlike last year, COVID vaccines are widely available to anyone 12 and older.
"We're armed with a lot more information than we were last year and we also have the joy of having a vaccine available to us," said Dr. Lisa Pickett, Chief Medical Officer at Duke University Hospital.
However, the youngest trick or treaters among us don't have access to a vaccine just yet which is why Dr. Betsey Tilson, the State Health Director, urges families to stick together this Halloween.
"It'd be best if families just go as nuclear units -- so just people who live in the household go trick or treating together," said Tilson.
Tilson also encouraged families to consider leaving candy bowls at the end of the driveway like last year to allow for limited contact and social distancing.
As for any other fall-related outings you may be planning for the family this year, Tilson said the activities with the lowest risk of contracting COVID-19 would be anything outside with few people where you can move around.
"I would choose a pumpkin patch over a haunted house that's indoors," she said. "And I would choose a pumpkin patch over a corn maze where in a corn maze you may have a bunch of people crowded together, but a pumpkin patch you can spread out."
Looking ahead to the rest of the holiday season, the CDC has yet to share updated guidance on what it considers safe gatherings, but Pickett has a few ideas for your Thanksgiving, Hanukah, or Christmas plans.
"As you begin to plan those, really everybody needs to take into account their own risk, the members of their family- whether they're high risk or unvaccinated children, the distance they would need to travel and then who they're going to see," she said.
Pickett encouraged families to think of ways to give back to those who have suffered loss throughout the pandemic, whether that be a friend or family member due to COVID, or a job loss.
"Think about important ways that we can acknowledge these holidays with community kindness," she said. "Maybe think about the way that you celebrate in a new way."