COVID-19 might have made this year extra scary, but it does not mean you have to give up on your favorite Halloween activities. An infectious diseases expert at Baylor College of Medicine said there are ways to celebrate Halloween this year while also preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“The most important thing is that the same principles of controlling viral transmission need to be applied to Halloween activities,” said Dr. Jill Weatherhead, assistant professor of pediatrics-tropical medicine and infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine. “That doesn’t mean we can’t have Halloween or there can’t be trick-or-treating, it just means that we have to adjust those traditional activities to incorporate the strategies that we have been using, which include social distancing, wearing masks and washing your hands.”
Although trick-or-treating is normally outdoors, which can lower the risk of spreading the virus, going up to people’s doors and asking for candy can put you and others at risk. Weatherhead offers tips on how to celebrate safely this year:
Avoid physical contact with strangers
- If you are handing out candy, she recommends placing the candy on a table several feet away from the front door.
- Consider offering candy in individual candy bags so that trick-or-treaters can avoid cross contamination by putting hands into a bucket.
- Trick-or-treaters, remember to carry hand sanitizer so you can sanitize or wash your hands before and after you take candy
- Trick-or-treat in small groups and stay away from large crowds
“Any way that you can reduce contact with other individuals can lower transmission,” Weatherhead said. “This includes avoiding face-to-face contact by going door-to-door and touching multiple objects like a candy bucket.”
Avoid homemade candies and treats
- Only pass out and take pre-packaged candy while trick-or-treating, since the candy inside the wrapper is not contaminated.
- Wash your hands before and after you open the candy from its wrapper, and before eating the candy.
Wear a mask – do not rely on a costume mask
Wearing a Halloween mask might look the same as wearing a standard mask, but Weatherhead explains that costume masks do not have the same layering and fit as a protective mask.
“We usually recommend two to three layers of fabric for the mask and that it fits snuggly over the nose and chin,” she said. “Costume masks are not usually made that way.”
If you decide to wear a costume mask, make sure you are wearing a standard mask underneath. The CDC recommends that children 2 years and older should wear a mask.
Alternative Halloween activities
If you attend a fall festival or pumpkin patch, Weatherhead recommends visiting ones that enforce safety precautions by managing crowds and requiring that people wear masks and sanitize their hands.
“When you are there, just remember to keep a mask on, and while buying something or looking at pumpkins, have hand sanitizer available to clean your hands,” she said.
If you are high risk or are uncomfortable participating in trick-or-treating or pumpkin patches, Weatherhead said there are plenty of lower risk Halloween activities, such as having a small gathering at home with family and friends.
“The CDC has a list of lower-risk activities for people who don’t want to do traditional trick-or-treating,” Weatherhead said. “There are some activities that they have listed that allow you to celebrate the holiday, but without the interactions with individuals that you don’t know.”
Find more information on Halloween safety here.