So far, you have mastered the safe ways to host friends and family; the zoom parties, and socially-distanced backyard soiree. It is now time to test your newfound social skills with a Halloween trick-or-treat activity.
Yes, trick-or-treating amidst the pandemic is still possible. You have to understand and follow the guidelines laid out by experts.
Knowledge is Power
Research state and local guidelines about the holiday. Read the CDC’s new guidelines for celebrating Halloween. The more informed you are, the better the decisions you’ll make.
Thus, be prepared for updates on risk levels, recommendations— and more as we near October 31st—, and be adaptive.
Michelle Barron, MD, medical director for infection prevention and control at UCHealth in Aurora, Colo. says, “Just like we check the weather on Halloween to see what precautions and extra gear might be needed, knowing the current state of COVID-19 in your community will be important in determining if it is safe or not.”
She continues, “Follow the current rules and guidance being given at the state and local level, and do a risk/benefit analysis based on the health of the individuals trick-or-treating and those who live in the household and decide if the risk of getting potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19 is worth the bag of treats.”
Compared to parades, school dances, and house parties, trick-or-treating poses a lesser COVID-19 risk for parents to manage, more so when done outdoors in the non-crowded streets.
However, it’s worth considering critical risks associated with the activity (i. A large group of trick-or-treaters ii. Touching joint surfaces such as doors, toys, and candy, and iii. Face-to-face exposures) and factoring them in.
You can manage the traditional trick-or-treat creatively.
For instance, you can buy your kids’ favorite goodies and have them trick-or-treat door-to-door in your home. And if you can wear a face mask and go through lots of sanitizers, you can hand out candy yourself to other kids from the neighborhood.
According to Dr. Barron: “If you are going to hand out candy, I would recommend having a small bottle of hand sanitizer and using it before handing out the treats.” He adds, “This is probably a better approach than having a bowl that many hands can reach into at one time.”
The CDC proposes a “one-way” trick-or-treating, which includes putting out individually wrapped goodie bags for individuals to collect from a safe distance.
Better yet, the agency recommends a “scavenger hunt” in place of the traditional trick-or-treat, where you hide treats and have your kids search for them.
Limit the number of kids (say to 4) if you’re to include neighbors in your scavenger hunt. As Dr. Kesh, an infectious disease specialist and the deputy medical director at New York’s Westmed Medical Group, explains, “The most significant risk is your fellow trick-or-treaters because close contact is taken to mean within six feet of you for more than 10 to 15 minutes.”
The No, No list
Dr. Kesh explains that “In an area where there’s still ongoing community spread [and things] haven’t gotten to the point where things are opening up again, I don’t think trick-or-treating is a great idea.” She continues, “In areas where the community prevalence is lower, I think it’s okay to plan to trick-or-treat.”
According to Dr. Kesh: “I wouldn’t have a big pack of 10 kids from school going out together; I would limit it to 3 or 4 kids at most and choose those who you know have also been practicing social distancing.”
She reiterates that families, especially those with at-risk members, should trick-or-treat alone, as a household.
Also, as the CDC advises, “Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.”