(CNN) — Prepare for the most difficult months of this coronavirus pandemic.
Over the next several months, new COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are expected to continue to rise as temperatures drop.
But that doesn’t mean your fall and winter have to be miserable. Here are seven ways you can stay healthy, sane, and really enjoy these cold weather months:
1. Find your social distancing team and stick with it
You’re probably sick of hearing about face masks, social distancing, and hand washing. But those are your strongest weapons against the coronavirus.
However, many Americans abandon those precautions and let their guard down with friends and family who do not live with them.
The Casual meetings at home drive recent covid-19 capssaid Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Along those lines, Dr. Peter Hotez suggests limiting your physical contact this fall and winter to a small, select group of friends or family, and avoiding close contact with anyone outside of that group.
“Think about who you want to do your social distancing with as you head in late November, in December, in January, and prepare to take refuge,” said Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
2. Have a plan to take care of your mental health
This terrible period is not going to last forever. I think we will be in a much better place by the middle of next year because vaccines will be available, ”Hotez said.
But “be realistic and recognize that this winter, November, December, January, February, could be the worst time of our epidemic, plan accordingly and be smart about it. And take steps to protect your mental health, ”Hotez said.
Make sure you meet a mental health counselor, how to contact him if you need one. Know how to call family members. It’s okay to feel scared and upset and depressed. That is a normal reaction to this. But be prepared for it.
3. Determine your risk of infection
The calculator, created by Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health, It also offers tips on how to lower your risk, said Dr. Megan Ranney, center director and emergency physician.
4. Know that socializing outdoors is safer, but not always safe.
The colder climate means that people tend to socialize indoors, where there is less opportunity for viral particles to disperse. And that increases the risk of spreading the coronavirus.
So if you have meetings, keep them outside if you can, perhaps with a campfire, a warm coat, or a heat lamp, said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician and visiting professor at George Washington University.
But just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you can abandon all safety precautions.
The outdoors is not perfect. If you’re still sitting a foot away from other people, without a mask, you can still spread it, especially if you’re in that highly infectious period, ”Ranney said.
One of the reasons why coronavirus is so contagious is that the people who get sick because of it they are usually most contagious before they begin to show symptoms. This means that people can easily spread the virus without knowing it.
“Just because someone is a close relative doesn’t mean you’re safe,” Ranney said. “Unfortunately, if that close relative has had many contacts, he could still be sick and take him home.”
5. If you visit friends or family, do it wisely
“We now know that much of the spread of COVID-19 is actually not due to formal settings with strangers, but rather to informal gatherings of family and friends,” Wen said. “Some people may be letting their guard down with their loved ones.”
If you must travel while on vacation, eliminate risky behaviors before your trip, such as dining in inland restaurants or being in close contact with people who don’t live with you.
It’s also a good idea to get tested before seeing loved ones, so those who test positive can stay home. But don’t have one false sense of security just because you had a negative test result.
“Sometimes there are false negatives, which means you have the disease but the test does not detect it,” according to Penn Medicine.
“Because it is possible to get a negative result even when you have coronavirus, it is important to be careful even when you receive a negative result.”
And even if the negative test result is correct, it is possible to become infected since the test was performed.
6. Celebrate the holidays safely
The CDC offers a long list of ways to celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving in a safe way.
Instead of Halloween parties or trick-or-treating, the CDC suggests carving pumpkins with your family or with friends and neighbors (at a safe distance).
You can also have virtual costume contests or a Halloween scavenger hunt, “where kids are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for as they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations from a distance,” the CDC recommended. .
For Thanksgiving, you can celebrate with a virtual dinner with friends or family from afar and share your favorite Thanksgiving recipe, the CDC noted.
“Thanksgiving is really tough,” admits Ranney. “I’m going to do a Thanksgiving Zoom with my parents.”
You can also help those at high risk for COVID-19 or those who feel isolated by preparing traditional Thanksgiving dishes “and delivering them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others,” says the CDC.
7. Keep things in perspective
Yes, this fall and winter will be difficult. But the covid-19 has killed more than 218,000 people in the US. and many survivors still have complications months after infection.
So remember the long-term benefits of making short-term changes.
“I think in the short term, we have to duck,” said Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine at George Washington University.
“The consequences of this virus, especially for the elderly, the people we really want to meet up with on Thanksgiving, can be really dire. And frankly, I’d rather do a Thanksgiving Zoom with the people I love than expose them to something that could kill them.
Personal responsibility and small sacrifices now will pay off later.
“Next year will be much better,” said Reiner. “Let’s get over this and get over it safely.”
CNN’s Scottie Andrew contributed to this report.