Halloween is fast approaching, and this year it involves much more than a decision about what costume your child wants to wear! Many parents are wondering, with good reason, whether and how to celebrate Halloween during this crazy year. Covid-19 has altered everyone’s life, including our kiddos’ daily routines and activities. Although we cannot yet let our guard down when it comes to the coronavirus, it is natural to want your children to not miss out on the excitement and fun of Halloween. As your integrative pediatrician and medical home, combining conventional medicine with a holistic approach and focusing on your child’s emotional as well as physical health, we appreciate the value of Halloween as a happy diversion for the whole family in these stressful times. Accordingly, we would like to share guidelines and tips published by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for enjoying the upcoming holiday while doing your best to keep your family safe:
Follow local guidance
COVID-19 rates of infection and hospitalization have been increasing in recent weeks. PLEASE model good mask use and social distancing and follow the guidance of your local public health department. Use Colorado’s COVID dial framework to help determine how to celebrate Halloween in your community this year, especially when considering SMALL group sizes.
Protect yourself and others
Regardless of a community’s level on the dial dashboard, people should not participate in any in-person activities, including handing out candy, if they:
- Are sick, especially with COVID-19 symptoms.
- Have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are currently in the quarantine period.
- Have recently tested positive for COVID-19 and are currently in the isolation period.
- People at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should think about the risks and benefits of activities they are considering. Participating in virtual activities is the safest option.
- Wear a mask that fully covers your nose and mouth, wash your hands frequently, and keep your distance of 6 feet or more whenever you are out in public or around people who are not a part of your household.
Choose the safest options
- Outdoor gatherings are generally safer than indoor gatherings.
- Smaller groups are generally safer than larger groups.
- Shorter gatherings are generally safer than longer gatherings.
- It’s safer to gather with people who consistently wear masks, keep physical distance, and follow other prevention recommendations.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment encourages alternatives to traditional, door-to-door trick-or-treating this year to limit the potential spread of COVID-19.
- Door-to-door trick-or-treating involves mixing lots of different households at close range. When you open your door to hand out candy, you are unlikely to be able to keep at least 6 feet of distance.
- Door-to-door trick-or-treating means lots of closer interactions over a short period of time. Taken together, these may INCREASE the risk of COVID-19 spread.
- It can be hard not to mingle with friends and neighbors. Even if you intend not to interact by being out and about, it may be hard to avoid.
- Communicate with your neighbors to plan trick-or-treating this year. Get creative, and figure out ways to hand out candy while keeping appropriate distance. For example:
- Line up individually wrapped treats at the end of the driveway or yard’s edge. Watch the fun, and enjoy the costumes from a distance.
- Use a plastic slide, cardboard tubes, or plastic pipes to deliver candy from a distance.
- Take kids on an outdoor, distanced treasure hunt to look for candy or Halloween-themed items.
- Whatever form your trick-or-treating takes, it’s safest to stay in your own neighborhood.
- Have adults accompany trick-or-treaters to help them follow precautions.
- Stay with your household members. Avoid mingling with groups from other households; stay at least 6 feet away from non-household members.
- If going door-to-door, limit the time you spend at doorways.
- Whether you’re trick-or-treating or handing out candy, keep your masks on — save the candy eating for when you return home! And in fact, put the precious candy prizes “in quarantine” for 72 hours, just to limit the chance of viral contact. That means you might want to have a couple of “safe treats” to offer your eager child on Halloween night!
- Follow regular Halloween safety tips such as decorating costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and carrying glow sticks or flashlights to help increase visibility among drivers.
Costume masks vs. COVID-19 masks
- Costume masks are not a substitute for masks that protect against COVID-19 spread. Masks that protect against COVID-19, should be made from two or more breathable fabric layers that cover the nose and mouth, with no gaps around the face. Wear non-costume masks when indoors with non-household contacts and outdoors whenever 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained.
- If wearing a costume mask over a cloth mask makes it hard to breathe, consider a Halloween-themed cloth mask as part of the costume instead.
- While the state mask order applies to indoor settings only, specific counties may have outdoor mask orders.
- We recommend everyone 3 years and older wear a mask that covers their mouth and nose, unless they cannot medically tolerate it.
Personal gatherings (all levels)
- Follow local and state group size and mask orders and guidance, and use the dial framework for all indoor personal gatherings.
- Have Halloween events outside whenever possible.
- Remind guests to stay home if they have COVID-19 symptoms, are positive for COVID-19, or have had recent close contact with someone with COVID-19.
- Remind guests to wear masks that cover their nose and mouth at all times when around others (except when eating or drinking), wash their hands frequently, and maintain at least 6 feet of distance. Have a supply of back-up masks at your event in case a guest needs one.
- Avoid buffet lines, self-serve table spreads, or bars where guests can congregate and handle shared food or drink; instead, hand out food to your guests individually. Use individually wrapped items, and pre-portion items before the event.
- Provide access to restrooms and hand-washing areas. Include soap and disposable towels or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
- Avoid singing and shouting, as these activities may increase the risk of COVID-19 spread.
- Keep a list of guests and their contact information so they can be notified quickly in the event of a COVID-19 exposure.
- If gathering indoors, improve ventilation by bringing in air from outdoors (opening windows and doors when safe) or maximizing air filtration and circulation through an HVAC or portable system.
- See CDPHE’s COVID-19 ventilation recommendations.
As of the date of this blog (October 22, 2020), Denver County has a “Safer At Home Level 2” designation. For that level designation, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment specifically suggests the following activities for more safely celebrating Halloween:
- Throw a neighborhood face-mask decorating party, with guests limited to 10. Wear a different mask during the decoration, of course!
- Go to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest, pumpkin patch, or corn maze. Make sure masks that cover the nose and mouth are required and people can remain at least 6 feet apart.
- Have an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family and friends, with people wearing masks and spaced at least 6 feet apart. If screaming is likely (it is Halloween after all!), we advise greater distancing.
We hope that the above helps you to decide whether and how to celebrate Halloween this year, despite the ongoing nature of the pandemic. Have fun…and be safe!