Advice from Dr. Rabbi Glatt, Young Israel of Woodmere, NY
Many people have asked about proper “protocols” for going outside during Shabbos, Yom Tov, and Chol Hamoed, so I have put together this basic guideline for such activities.
We strongly encourage people to go outside and get “fresh air” over Yom Tov (and in general). Isolation and quarantine do not mean that you should stay inside 24/7. Indeed, overall well-being and emotional health will be improved if people get out of their confined spaces and take walks. This is especially true for the three day Yom Tov when technology is generally not available for use.
It is critically important that while we go outside, we MUST maintain the strict social distancing that we all have been employing. It would be a great shame if walking outside turned into inappropriate close contact between non-family units.
Walking outside and getting fresh air unfortunately does not include using public playgrounds, or gathering together at any nice public or private spot. It means no ball playing together with different family units (weekdays or Yom Tov), visiting zoos, boardwalks or any public place with crowds. It is pikuach nefashos and potentially a chilul Hashem if we are seen flaunting the best medical, legal and halachic advice. This unfortunately still includes outdoor minyanim of any type.
When walking or sitting outside with the people you are living with, there is actually no need to socially distance from your family group and no reason to even wear a mask in that setting. However, no family unit should closely approach anyone else – stay as far apart as possible – don’t be satisfied with being 6 feet away, but strive to be much further apart. I have seen already several times that the distances people keep apart gets smaller and smaller as the conversation gets going. Please stay across the street when walking, even just wave hello and move on, or have only a brief conversation, checking to make sure everyone is okay, and then keep on walking.
I do not recommend that different family groups walk together even far apart simply because they usually end of getting too close, especially if younger children are present. However, within reason, it is ok for one family to stay in front of their house and have one other person or family come to visit, staying far apart, for a short period of time. Again, each situation is different. We must not only be very careful regarding having too many people together from a medical / social distancing perspective, but also from a chilul Hashem point of view, if we are seen or even worse, filmed, appearing to violate and flaunt public gathering rules.
We should wear a mask in public whenever we are in a situation where we must be in close proximity to other people and it is otherwise unavoidable. This includes but is not limited to grocery shopping (when no other less risky option such as delivery or pickup is available), working (for those in essential businesses that are required to be open) or other situations that necessitate being around/ near other people. Again, I must stress these type of situations should be avoided whenever possible.
Finally, it is critical to keep in mind that there are members of our community that are totally alone for Yom Tov because they are following the most appropriate halachic and medical advice. This will be a very hard Yom Tov for them. We suggest that everyone try and check up on such neighbors and friends to make sure they are “ok”. Doing this in an acceptable medically and socially distancing way is easy, and is a great mitzvah. Arrange a time with them to go outside and be seen. You can knock on their window and make sure they respond and have no issues; or offer to bring them items they may run out of or need; or any other similar chesed, to keep them from being emotionally connected even as they are physically isolated.
Iy”H we should all have a HEALTHY and happy Chag Kasher v’sameach.