COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Health leaders are issuing a warning ahead of a busy fall weekend. They expect central Ohioans will gather for Buckeye football and Halloween celebrations, and urge everyone to consider pandemic safety.

“COVID is real and COVID is affecting everyone. And we should continue to follow the guidelines right now until we are at a very safe level,” said Dr. Anup Kanodia.

The family physician explained many of the health and safety guidelines have remained consistent since the onset of COVID-19, but advice about exposure risks has evolved as experts learn more about the virus.

“It’s evolving because the Delta variant is 200-percent more contagious than the other forms of COVID-19,” he said.

The Delta strain has also proven more contagious for young and previously healthy individuals. Even as case numbers decline, the risks of contracting the illness remain high among those who are unvaccinated. Transmission is consistently higher in areas with lower vaccination rates and in large, maskless gatherings.

“If everyone is vaccinated, it’s going to be much safer than if some people are vaccinated and some people aren’t vaccinated. If we’re having a ‘mixed party,’ then we recommend wearing masks indoors,” Dr. Kanodia said.

Outside activities have long been considered less dangerous than those indoors, but doctors encourage everyone to maintain a safe distance from others.

“Yes, outdoors is much safer. But outdoors when it’s crowded, like when we talk about a football game or a large outdoor concert… we’ve seen super spreading events,” said Dr. Kanodia. “If you’re at the game, wear a mask. It’s hard to physically distance yourself in that type of setting.”

The same advice applies to indoor gatherings, such as watch parties or Halloween celebrations and Dr. Kanodia recommends limiting such gatherings to small groups.

The CDC is giving the green light to trick-or-treating and handing out candy this year because exposure is limited, though some health experts encourage mask wearing.

Dr. Kanoida summarized: “We’re not saying to be socially isolated. We’re saying you can do things… but if you could – eat outdoors… or if you go to outdoor events – don’t be in a crowded one. If you’re at an outdoor facility or a bar or whatever, wear a mask as much as you can.”

He said we should be planning ahead for the fall and winter holidays to avoid a January spike, and added that those who haven’t already should get vaccinated now so they can build immunity before the Thanksgiving holidays.