Halloween is a big deal around my house. We go all out with decorations, and I even have a Halloween tree! This year though there are so many questions about what we should and should not do to celebrate. I talked with Thomas Lamarre, MD
, from The Christ Hospital Physicians - Infectious Diseases, about his recommendations for All Hallows’ Eve.
Halloween plans are still up in the air due to COVID. If we do get to celebrate, what are some safety precautions we should take?Dr. Lamarre:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Ohio Department of Health strongly recommend that hayrides, haunted houses, and trunk-or-treating events be cancelled or avoided and I agree. Precautions that should be taken during the fall season continue to be what we always recommend: face coverings/masks, social distancing (greater than six feet or more), hand washing, avoidance of large groups or gatherings (no more than 10 individuals), avoidance of indoor gatherings, and avoidance of sharing food or drinks (or related activities such as bobbing for apples).
How about handing out candy? Is there a way to make sure the candy is safe from spreading COVID?Dr. Lamarre:
According to the CDC, traditional trick-or-treating, with treats handed to children who go door-to-door, is a high-risk activity and should be avoided, and I agree as well. There is no way to completely ensure that candy is safe, although the spread of COVID-19 from/on the candy itself is unlikely. It is the proximity of individuals (with exposure to droplets) as well as the possibility of touching/contact (and subsequent rubbing of eyes, nose, and mouth) that are the main routes of transmission.
I have heard people saying that Halloween “should be fine” because of people wearing masks with their costumes. Is that true?Dr. Lamarre:
Unfortunately, a costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask, and should not be used in lieu of a cloth mask unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face. Costume masks should not be worn over a protective cloth mask either, because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe -- instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask. Face coverings should never be placed on children younger than two, or anyone who cannot easily remove them.
We all know with Halloween being on a Saturday night it is going to be hard to keep people from wanting to have a get together. What would you tell them? Dr. Lamarre:
I understand -- we all want to get together. But it is large gatherings (particularly indoors) that are very high risk, placing you and your loved ones at most risk for transmitting and acquiring COVID-19. If you do attend or host an event, it is strongly recommended that you limit attendance to 10 or fewer people and keep the event in an outdoor setting where social distancing is possible. If this is not feasible, make sure the room or space is well-ventilated (for example, open a window). Wear masks when social distancing is not possible or indoors. Arrange tables and chairs to allow for social distancing. People from the same household can be in groups together and don’t need to be 6 feet apart – just 6 feet away from other families. If planning activities for adults and/or kids, consider those where social distancing can be maintained (for example, sidewalk chalk art or frisbee). When guests arrive, minimize gestures that promote close contact and avoid touching, hugs or shaking hands.
If trick or treating is cancelled, what are some ideas for safe alternate activities to celebrate?Dr. Lamarre:
There are no completely risk-free activities (outside of staying home), but alternate lower- or moderate-risk activities that emphasize social distancing include (as recommended by the CDC and ODH): Holding a drive-through or drive-in trick-or-treat event, with children in costume and face coverings staying in cars and collecting treats from individuals spaced at least 6 feet apart.
I have heard of people forming a "bubble" with certain friends/family members that they get together with. How safe is that line of thinking?Dr. Lamarre:
- Holding drive-by costume or car-decorating contests with judges who are physically distanced.
- Leaving treats for friends and neighbors.
- Carving/decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them or carving/decorating pumpkins outdoors, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends.
- Holding costume parties or pumpkin carving events or contests online, such as by video conference.
- Hiding treats outside your home as an alternative to trick-or-treating
- Holding a Halloween scavenger hunt, giving children lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house.
- Holding a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your own home.
- Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with or having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends
I think that is reasonable, but there must be a significant amount of trust and accountability if a group is going to isolate and preferentially socialize in the attempt to minimize exposure and transmission of COVID-19. Regardless, the standard precautionary practices should still apply to include face coverings/masks, social distancing (greater than six feet or more), hand washing, avoidance of large groups or gatherings (more than 10 individuals), avoidance of indoor gatherings, and avoidance of sharing food or drinks (or related activities such as bobbing for apples).
So there are several safe ways to celebrate Halloween - we just might have to get a bit creative this year! If we wear masks, social distance, and try some of Dr. Lamarre's alternative activities, a ghoulish time can still be had by all. Looking for tasty pumpkin treats to pair with your Halloween plans? Check out these healthier ways to enjoy pumpkin spice season.