shrink covid bubble for fall
@rohane / Twenty20

Over the summer, many families took the opportunity to gather safely with others—getting together for outdoor play dates, "quaranteam" vacationing with other families, eating out on restaurant patios and perhaps even traveling to see friends and family while observing as many public health guidelines as possible.

But saying goodbye to summer means saying hello to the reality of colder weather and the viral infections that come with it. As fall and winter approach and kids embark on blended or in-person learning at school, more activities move indoors and cold and flu season gets into gear, it's a good time for families to think about a return to stricter precautions. How might we need to adapt our behaviors to keep ourselves and our communities safe?


Here's why right now is the time to start thinking about how big our "bubbles" really are, and what we can do as the weather gets cooler to keep our families healthy.

Why fall 2020 calls for more precautions than summer 2020

Inevitably, when we spend more time indoors, we spread more viruses. This year that means coronavirus. However, if we are masking and social distancing, there's every reason to believe these precautions will help reduce our risk of all viruses including coronavirus, influenza, RSV and stomach bugs.

As we settle into our school year routine, whatever that entails, now's the time to be most protective of our bubbles. If we've introduced our children to in-person school, pods or daycare, we have more responsibilities than ever.

Over the summer, when I made decisions about our choices, I did so with my family and my community in mind. As a low-risk family in an area where coronavirus has been well controlled, this felt easy. But now I have an additional layer to consider.

Both my children are attending school in person—and it's going great. But their classmates and teachers are depending on me to make responsible choices and not increase the risk of coronavirus entering our community. Anyone who gets sick will cost all of us extra visits to the doctor, isolation time and testing.

I get it—it's getting colder out and we're all tired of being so isolated. But when I read about schools (and parents) gaining confidence after a few weeks of being open successfully and considering decreasing the precautions, I get concerned. Now is not the time to let our guards down—in fact, we have to remain vigilant.

What history + science tell us about viral spread

We know from prior pandemics that as seasons change and as individuals change their behavior in response to "caution fatigue," new waves of viral infections can occur. During the influenza pandemic of 1918, the second wave that occurred in the fall was worse than the first wave, resulting in the majority of fatalities attributed to the pandemic.

While we've already seen over 7 million cases in the U.S., protective "herd" immunity from infection is incomplete and for many may not be permanent. It may help that in some communities, large numbers of people have already been infected, but we are far from achieving the kind of large-scale immunity that would make it safer for us to let down our guard against infection.

We also know that coronavirus has an intrinsic lag period which we have to remember when considering our exposure risks. Most people once infected don't show symptoms for at least five days, and even once they obtain testing it may take time to know the result.

Most individuals hospitalized may not be hospitalized until 10-14 days into their illness. Deaths in impacted communities can lag even further, up to six to eight weeks from the peak of cases. So while following the number of cases and percent positive tests in your community can be helpful, it likely takes a minimum of two months to understand the true impact of behaviors on your community. If you wait to see a change in numbers before you change behavior you may get exposed in the meantime.

What does being careful mean in fall 2020?

While staying at home is the easiest way to be safe, for many families social contact is essential to our mental health during this marathon of a pandemic. We have many needs, whether related to work, school, physical activity, preventive health and dental care, that require us to leave our homes. As parents, you know best what's important to your children and your family.

When making choices about your activities, there are seven factors to remember.

  1. Keep your "bubble" small. By keeping our activities confined to our own small social circle or pod we decrease the likelihood of introducing new infections to the group.
  2. Stay outdoors. If you've always embraced the adage that there's no such thing as bad weather (only bad preparation), great! But if not, this is the year to stock up on appropriate apparel and stay outside even when rain or snow come. Outdoor time is particularly important for those involved in virtual school.
  3. Mask up. When doing something indoors or not distanced, it's especially important to wear a mask. Children can do it! Changing masks frequently can improve comfort.
  4. Clean hands. While we know most transmission comes from breathing the same air as others infected with coronavirus, clean hands will also prevent transmission of other diseases that can cause false COVID-19 alarms, such as common colds and flu.
  5. Protect the parents. As a pediatrician, I know how careful parents are about their children and how motivated we are to protect them, but please remember for most families the risk of bad outcomes from coronavirus is much higher in the parents.
  6. Track the numbers. Once a week check in with your community dashboard. Know the numbers required to keep things open in your community and consider how the numbers in your area might impact your family plan.
  7. When in doubt, check it out. If anyone in your family has symptoms, please isolate yourself and get the test. It's worth the extra caution to protect our communities.

With appropriate precautions, we can make it through this winter without major surges in coronavirus, colds, and flus. As Dory said in Finding Nemo, "just keep swimming"—the only way out is through.

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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