5 ways to have a safe Halloween during COVID-19

October 21, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

Leaves are changing colors and there is a crisp chill in the air. The onset of fall means Halloween is around the corner, and whether you have children in your household or simply enjoy passing out candy, the continued presence of the coronavirus has many wondering: is Halloween canceled this year?

For the past seven months, navigating the pandemic has you programmed to wash your hands more than ever before, keep six feet apart, cover your face and nose, and even wipe down everyday items with disinfecting wipes.

It’s easy to experience pandemic fatigue with desperation for normalcy, but, tired or not, we are still in a pandemic. The good news? It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!

“Halloween is not canceled,” confirmed Kristen Padilla, D.O., pediatrician at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “Everyone can still celebrate. We just have a new consideration to think about — coronavirus.”

Similar to Halloween safety measures you would take into account any other year, such as crossing the street safely or wearing reflective materials in the dark, you now have additional risks to consider.

Padilla went on to say, “The biggest concern this Halloween is avoiding crowds and gatherings of people outside your household or pod.”

Rest assured, there are plenty of ways to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Halloween guidelines and still bring the joy of the holiday to your family or neighborhood.

Check out these five pediatrician-approved ways to safely celebrate Halloween in 2020.

Pumpkin carving or decorating with your household or small intimate group

Start with a trip to your local pumpkin patch. This can still be done safely since many are outdoors with lots of space. Don’t forget to wear a mask since you’ll be around other people.

Then turn your pumpkin carving, or decorating, into the main event. Whether you enjoy with your immediate household or invite a small number of trusted guests to join you, this is a great activity that you can easily apply safety measures to.

“Pumpkin carving is usually done outside anyway. Using a couple tables and inviting a small intimate group from your pod to come over to carve pumpkins is a safe thing to do while keeping people separate,” said Padilla.

Just remember, masks that cover your mouth and nose and social distancing are still important, and it’s best to keep it outdoors and bring your own carving tools to avoid touching the same items. Grab some cider and doughnuts to top off the event and don’t forget the hand sanitizer!

Start a Halloween scavenger hunt around your neighborhood

Early on in the pandemic, some neighborhoods had teddy bear hunts or searched for leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day. For Halloween, spooky decor can be just as fun to walk around looking at and a great way to enjoy being outside before it gets too cold out.

“If your neighborhood is one that gets into Halloween, you can have decorations or a pumpkin contest,” added Padilla. “There are lots of ways to get the neighborhood involved.”

If you don’t have the budget to go all out on decorations, you can make Halloween-themed pictures for your windows — perhaps a friendly pumpkin hunt if your neighborhood has younger-aged children.

Then expand your outdoor fun by making your own scavenger hunt to check off all the ghostly ghouls you find as you walk around the streets.

Replace traditional trick-or-treating with a candy hunt in or around your house

For a lot of kids, candy is the most important thing — with dressing up coming in a close second. You can still enjoy both safely in or around your home.

“Similar to an Easter egg hunt, order Halloween-themed eggs to hide candy in,” suggested Padilla.

It’s as easy as a “Halloween egg hunt” search on Amazon and it saves you the risk of going door-to-door. This is a good option for families who are more cautious or have younger children that aren’t used to going door-to-door anyway.

According to the CDC, even participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard) poses a moderate risk, and traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating is labeled a higher risk activity. 

If you choose to participate in trick-or-treating, “consider keeping a distribution table outside that you leave individually wrapped goodie bags on so you can limit your contact with others,” suggested Padilla. “Sit outside at least six feet away from the table and wear a cloth or surgical face mask that covers your nose and mouth.” She added, “Pre-packaged treats set out are best. Avoid the candy bowl and make sure to have hand sanitizer on hand.”

Hold a socially-distanced neighborhood parade

If you’re fortunate enough to live on a tight-knit street, consider organizing a socially-distanced neighborhood parade. One of the nice things about Halloween falling on a Saturday is you can arrange for something like this before standard trick-or-treat hours begin.

If the group agrees to candy handouts, encourage your neighbors to follow proper safety protocols leaving single treat bags on a table close to the sidewalk. Onlookers can stand at a distance and wave to the parade.

A word of caution — keep the numbers down. “You can do a lot of alternative things, but even those become unsafe if they become large events,” warned Padilla.

When it comes to dressing up in costume, remember that Halloween costume masks do not protect from the spread of disease. Most costume masks focus on fitting appropriately to breath out of it with most having an opening around the mouth.

“For this year, it’s not recommended to choose a costume that includes a head or face mask,” said Padilla. “It’s best to wear a cloth or surgical mask that covers your nose and mouth and, by keeping your head uncovered, it also allows better visibility to ensure proper face mask use.”

You may also consider kid-friendly face masks that could be incorporated into a costume, such as a lion’s snout or a witch’s crooked nose.

Have a virtual or indoor backup plan

Weather can be unpredictable. If it’s too cold or it starts to rain, “avoid congregating inside with other groups of people,” cautioned Padilla. “We have good, solid guidelines warning against indoor gatherings based on the increased risk.”

If you find yourself inside, anything virtual is safe. Halloween costumes don’t have to go to waste if you organize a virtual costume contest with friends — and don’t forget to dress your pets! Come up with different categories — like funniest costume or scariest costume — so everyone can be a winner.

There is plenty of other indoor fun to be had too. Several of the previous suggestions can be done inside, such as the pumpkin carving (with lots of newspaper laid out) or the candy hunt. You can also make Halloween-themed snacks, do a Halloween craft, share scary stories and top the night off with your favorite Halloween movie.

Happy haunting!

This story first appeared on the Michigan Health Blog.

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