Kids have had a tough time of it since the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed everyone's ability to socialize in close quarters. And, with coronavirus infection rates still high and no vaccine available, going trick-or-treating on Halloween during coronavirus doesn't seem like such a good idea.
But while we want to keep ourselves and others safe and healthy, according to a poll done by Insight into Action, 70 percent of moms are committed to letting their little Minecraft Creepers, Spidermen and Wonder Women have a bang-up sugar-inspired holiday.
Yet, at the same time, many people (46 percent) according to a recent Apartment Guide survey, are not comfortable with handing out candy to trick or treaters this year.
So, while Halloween night might not look like the traditional door-knocking event, don't be frightened away: There will be ways to celebrate and stay safe. This guide will help you determine the best and safest way to celebrate the holiday with your family.
In late September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidelines regarding Halloween. The agency defines low-, moderate- and high-risk activities. It's no surprise that trick-or-treating the old-fashioned way is not recommended at all as a way to celebrate.
Low-risk activities include carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends, decorating your house, apartment or living space or doing a Halloween scavenger hunt.
Examples of moderate risk activities include participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance, having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than six feet apart or attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than six feet apart.
The CDC says to avoid these higher-risk activities:
Many states and localities are also issuing their own Halloween safety regulations. For example, as reported by the Los Angeles Times in early September, Los Angeles issued health guidelines banning trick-or-treating and other Halloween celebrations, but then reversed the decision.
Now, the city “recommends" that people don't participate in traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating, nor should they participate in “trunk-or-treat" events involving car-to-car candy dispersal. As the date nears, check your state and local regulations before deciding how you'll celebrate.
Of course, if you or your children have any symptoms of COVID-19 — fever, chills, shortness of breath, muscle or body aches, new loss of taste or smell — you should sit this one out. Stay home and watch a scary movie.
If you do want to attempt to trick or treat, the best way to do so is to limit the number of people you're with and maintain social distancing of at least six feet. While we've all come to accept the idea that distancing ourselves from others by six feet to avoid flying droplets that spread the virus from one person to another, recent studies have shown that droplets may fly even further. This is why it's particularly important to wear a mask. (See below)
Make sure to bring and use hand sanitizer that's at least 60 percent alcohol, wear a mask, cover your mouth and nose with your elbow if you sneeze, and when you get home, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
When you're out in the neighborhood trick-or-treating, if a bowl is presented, allow your child to touch only one candy, but it's safer if the homeowner hands out candy piece by piece since only one person — and not dozens of people — will be handling the item.
But keep in mind that, according to the World Health Organization, you won't get coronavirus from food (or candy) packaging materials. Just remember to wash your hands properly after handling food packages and before eating.
Certainly, if you're ill, don't participate in giving out candy. But if you're healthy and your house is a traditional pit stop, you could create small goodie bags of candy and place them on your steps or driveway, or in front of your door if you're in an apartment building. This way trick-or-treaters will just grab one and go.
One Ohio dad's creative idea recently went viral. He put together a “candy chute" by attaching a cardboard tube to an inclined handrail. Kids will stand at the base of the railing while he — wearing gloves — will slide candy down to the trick or treaters waiting to snag the candy in their bag.
The good news about Halloween is that it's usually an outdoor event, people wear masks and there's no risk of catching the virus from a candy wrapper.
The Hershey company, which knows a thing or two about Halloween, is so invested in the candy-filled holiday that it has sponsored a website that includes an interactive online map created by Harvard Global Health Institute showing every county in the United States and its COVID-19 risk level. Each level is assigned a color — green, yellow, orange or red, with red being the highest risk based on the most up-to-date public health information.
For printable party invitations, downloadable scavenger hunt clues, a costume contest scorecard and other fun ideas, click here.
While it might be fun to decorate masks for the holiday, make sure you get the right type of mask and that you're wearing it correctly.
According to the CDC, your mask should have two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric. When you're wearing it, it should completely cover your nose and mouth and fit snugly against your face with no gaps.
Wearing a cloth mask offers protection by trapping droplets that you might be released when you talk, cough or sneezes.
The CDC cautions against using a costume mask as a substitute for a cloth mask “unless it's made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers your mouth and nose and doesn't leave gaps around your face." And you don't want to wear a costume mask over a cloth mask “because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask."
Living in an apartment building has added layers to the safety equation during the pandemic. High traffic and communal areas need extra cleaning and sanitizing, residents need to communicate with one another about whether they're ill and quarantined and whether they need help if they are.
Even if your building community has been welcoming to Halloween in the past, this year will certainly be a different challenge. Talk with your building's resident association members and property manager to find ways to safely celebrate.
Despite the pandemic, Halloween is big business. According to the National Retail Federation, consumer spending on Halloween is expected to reach $8.05 billion in 2020 (down from $8.78 billion in 2019, due to a COVID-19 drop in participation). And, NRF's annual survey shows that more than 148 million U.S. adults plan to participate in Halloween-related activities.
People will just have to check the websites of their state and local authorities, determine their comfort level based on the risks and then decide how best to celebrate. NRF's survey showed that safe at-home activities ranked highest: 53 percent plan to decorate their homes, 46 percent plan to carve a pumpkin and 18 percent will dress up their pet.
Being festive might help dispel some of the gloom and the uncertainty we've all been feeling, particularly for the children. You're already wearing a mask, why not make the best of it?