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girl getting temperature checked in forehead
girl getting temperature checked in forehead

Coronavirus: How to Prepare for the Fall and Winter

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Since early 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has cancelled plans, shuttered schools and businesses, and upended daily routines. Now, as the weather turns colder, you likely will be spending more time inside. Common colds, seasonal influenza (flu) and other contagious illnesses will complicate the picture. And what about your family’s holiday plans?

Lisa Maragakis, infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins, talks about what to expect and how you might prepare.

What if my kids are attending school in person during the coronavirus pandemic?

In-person attendance at school could raise the possibility of outbreaks, which may affect students, teachers and staff.

Although children typically have less severe COVID-19 symptoms than adults, they are not immune from the coronavirus, and can become seriously ill. Research studies at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are exploring kids’ role in transmitting the coronavirus, and it may be that different age groups are more or less likely to spread COVID-19.

How to Prepare

  • If you’re in a household with children whose schools are open, find out what the school is doing to protect kids and adults.
  • It’s important to take steps to maintain distance between students and any family members who might have risk factors for getting a severe case of COVID-19.
  • Support your children as they follow precautions at school, and encourage them to wear masks as directed and do their part to keep themselves healthy.
  • Be ready for a change in plans. Some schools that have opened for in-person classes have had to close again and go back to an online format due to outbreaks.

Does the coronavirus spread more easily indoors?

Yes. When people are indoors, breathing, talking and laughing (not to mention singing, coughing and sneezing), they can spread the coronavirus. If anyone in a room, office or apartment is infected, droplets and coronavirus particles from their nose and mouth can accumulate in the air, and the concentration of infectious materials can build up over time.

Some evidence suggests that inhaling high concentrations of the coronavirus can make you sicker. But there’s little doubt that the more people who are in an enclosed space and the longer they are together, the higher the risk for getting or spreading COVID-19.

Is coronavirus airborne?

There is scientific debate about whether the coronavirus may spread by an airborne route in addition to larger respiratory droplets. Infectious disease expert Lisa Maragakis explains what we know and steps to take airborne precautions.
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Coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-Checker

Check symptoms. Protect yourself. Get information.

Avoiding the Flu and Other Infectious Diseases

Outbreaks of the flu (seasonal influenza) and other contagious diseases are more commonplace in the fall and winter. Flu shots are essential this season, and the fall is the best time to get them this year. Learn more about how you can protect yourself and your family from the flu during the coronavirus pandemic.

How to Prepare

  • Keep two weeks of emergency supplies. If there is an outbreak of flu or COVID-19 in your area or if someone in your household gets sick, you might be asked to stay at home or self-quarantine. With that in mind, it’s smart to keep a two-week supply of essentials, including prescription medicines, on hand throughout the winter months.
  • Postpone travel. Due to the current surge in infections across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you avoid travel during the fall and winter holiday season. They recommend you celebrate at home, only with those who live with you.
  • Stay connected. Make sure you have all the tools you need to communicate with family, friends and health care providers for the months ahead. It’s a good time to get familiar with platforms that can help you visit with loved ones. Think about trying telemedicine for any medical care that doesn’t require an in-person visit — more and more doctors at Johns Hopkins and other health organizations are offering this option.
  • Work on wellness. Cold weather months mean more time inside. To stay fit when the weather is too cold or wet for your regular walk or run, substitute with video workouts, exercise machines or free weights. Balance holiday goodies with healthy, whole foods, including plenty of vegetables, legumes, lean protein and complex carbohydrates.
  • Boost mental health. Your spirit needs attention, too: Some simple daily practices can add pleasure and joy to your days and improve your mental and physical well-being during the coronavirus pandemic.
Icon showing a sick woman with a cold press on her head

Flu Prevention During Coronavirus Pandemic

Fall and winter months bring the flu season. This infographic will tell you what you need to know to help protect you and your family from both the flu and COVID-19.

Fall and Winter Holidays During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Several holidays take place in the fall and winter, with food, parties, singing, drinking, traveling and spending time with family and friends. Due to the current surge in infections across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you celebrate the holiday at home, only with those who live with you, and avoid holiday travel.

Thanksgiving and other holidays can still be fun as long as you plan ahead, get creative and work with your family and friends to come up with safer alternatives for the fall and winter holiday season.

How to Prepare

Religious services are best observed online and you can also safely gather with the people you live with. You can read aloud, pray and sing together, and take part in observations and traditions such as festive meals, decorating, candle lighting, gift giving and games.

To embrace the spirit of giving and gratitude, think about donating food, money or time to a cause that’s important to you or your family. Safely reach out to those who might be forced to spend the holidays alone; for example, write cards to hospital patients or older neighbors.

For fun, try planning an online cooking or craft demonstration, storytelling event or virtual singalong for friends or family. A holiday-themed talent show captured on video is another alternative. Show off photos from happy holidays in the past, and raise a glass of cheer for good times to come.

Scientist carefully insets a pipette into a test tube.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

What you need to know from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Published October 20, 2020.