The First Day of Fall Foretells More COVID-19 Hardships

Photo by Olivia Ross

By Jillian Waterhouse, Staff Writer—

Tuesday, Sept. 22 marked the first day of the fall season. 

With temperatures cooling and leaves beginning to change color, some sense of normalcy has made its way back into a year where it seems like there is none. With an upcoming weather change, it is only logical to consider how the COVID-19 pandemic could affect fall activities this year, whether they be Halloween trick-or-treating or Thanksgiving dinners with family. 

As cases continue spiking across the country, it is likely that our holiday season will look different this year. 

Following the lead of bigger events such as those held at Disney’s theme parks, communities across the country will likely cancel the majority of their seasonal events and adapt those that remain to comply with CDC social distancing guidelines. Regan Morrisson, a student who recently tested positive for COVID-19, discussed the changes she has seen in her own life and plans for fall due to the pandemic.

“I won’t be doing fall activities with anyone,” she said. “I’m not going out anytime soon.” 

Though her family typically spends time together during the holidays, she was disappointed to say that her family gatherings have already been cancelled through Easter of next year. 

With steadily falling temperatures, it will become increasingly difficult for individuals to continue their outdoor activities, which have soared in popularity since mandatory quarantine and stay-at-home orders were enacted in the spring. This decrease in community involvement and time spent getting fresh air outdoors has been predicted to have a negative effect on mental health nationwide.

A recent CDC survey found that over 40% of survey respondents reported worsened mental health conditions since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Commonly included in reported symptoms were feelings of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts, along with increased substance use. With cold weather quickly approaching, Americans are likely to face an increased number of difficulties with their mental health. Seasonal affective disorder, otherwise known as SAD, has been found to seriously affect approximately 9 million Americans per year. In combination with the effects of COVID-19, it can be expected that the fall and upcoming winter seasons will be challenging for students both on and off the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus. 

Though a national uptick in mental health conditions as a result of the pandemic have been observed, it is unlikely that the changing seasons themselves will have an effect on the spread of the virus. The impact of weather conditions on public health, otherwise known as the “weather effect,” has been historically minimal. If anything, it is predicted that the spread of the virus will remain consistent throughout the fall and holiday seasons as more people will be forced inside, although nationwide travel will spike during specific times such as Thanksgiving weekend. 

While Morrisson’s family has chosen to remain distant for their safety, other families are emphasizing the importance of gatherings during a trying time for mental health. The Harris poll, completed in June, reported that 74% of young parents believe Halloween was “more important than ever this year.” 

Though seasonal festivities may look different, their importance has not been discounted in efforts to give everyone something to look forward to during a year of hardship.

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