That familiar sound of “Trick-or-Treat” at your door on Halloween, October 31, may be a thing of the past for this year given the risks posed by COVID-19.
National and local experts have sounded the alarm on the threat of catching COVID-19 by door-to-door trick-or-treating or attending indoor parties or other alternative celebrations.
Everyone is at Risk for Infection
“With the exception of those who recently got infected with COVID-19 and survived, everyone including children is susceptible to this viral infection. Traditional activities during Halloween like door-to-door trick-or-treating by small children can pose a real risk of disease transmission. Individuals from different households come together within six feet of one another, touch and give away common treats, and may have difficulty in keeping facial masks on, particularly among the younger children,” said Dr. Armando Paez, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Baystate Medical Center.
Some cities and towns like Springfield have canceled trick-or-treating altogether, while others are leaving it up to residents and are providing coronavirus-related restrictions to keep kids and adults safe. Check with your city or town for their safe Halloween recommendations.
Trick-or-Treating and Parties are Considered "High Risk"
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are urging Americans not to trick-or-treat or attend indoor costume parties, labeling them as “high risk.”
Other high-risk activities according to the CDC include:
- Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots.
- Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming.
- Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household.
- Traveling to a rural festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19.
Virtual Activities are the Safest
The safest, according to Dr. Paez, “is anything virtual.”
“COVID has changed so much today in our daily lives, both personal and work-wise, and connecting with friends and family virtually, as well as holding virtual conferences and meetings has become the norm today during the pandemic,” he said
Meghan Brewer, Child Life Specialist III in the Child Life department at Baystate Children’s Hospital, recommends the following safe “virtual” ideas to celebrate the “spooky” season:
- Virtual Halloween Costume Contest
- Pumpkin Decorating via Zoom with friends
- Spooky Scavenger Hunts (set up in each person’s house and started at the same time – looking for candy/treats/prizes instead of trick-or-treating
- Virtually listen to a spooky story at the same time.
Additional safe ways to enjoy Halloween, according to the CDC, include having a Halloween movie night at home with family members of the same household, carving and decorating pumpkins to display, or decorating your home together.
Commonsense Safety Precautions
Whatever way people choose to celebrate Halloween, Dr. Paez reminds everyone to follow some commonsense safety precautions that public health experts have been recommending since the start of the pandemic to keep you and others safe from COVID-19:
- Wear a mask: A costume face mask is not a substitute for a cloth face mask.
- Social distance staying at least 6 feet apart from anyone not in your household.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Don’t go out when feeling sick and avoid contact with those who are sick.
Dr. Paez noted to keep in mind that other respiratory infections, such as flu, are more common during this time of the year.
“Remember, it’s more important than ever before to get your flu shot this year. There is worry that there could be a possible widespread second wave of COVID-19 coinciding with the flu. That’s why getting your flu shot now is more important than ever before.”
Follow Your Local Guidelines
For a full list of high, moderate and low risk activities when celebrating Halloween this year, visit: the COVID-19 and Halloween section on the CDC’s COVID-19 website.
Many states, including Massachusetts, have released their own guidelines concerning “what’s safe, what’s not” for Halloween. While there is no statewide mandate on how communities should address the challenge of celebrating the season, there are recommendations on mass.gov.