Like everything in 2020, Halloween celebrations likely will look very different this year. Some cities and neighborhoods may discourage or even ban trick-or-treating while COVID cases continue to rise.
More than 222,445 people have died from coronavirus in the United States — more than any other nation on Earth. Yesterday, the United States hit an all-time high in new coronavirus cases, surpassing the previous mark set during a summer surge across the Sun Belt.
While Arizona is not experiencing the same degree of surge as other locations around the country, “we have recently seen a shift of COVID-19 spread in the state in the wrong direction,” says Dr. Cara Christ, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Her department this morning announced 890 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. As of today, the virus — for which we do not yet have a vaccine or a consistently effective treatment — has killed 5,869 Arizona residents.
Earlier this fall, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health made news when it was the first major city to announce Halloween activities such as trick-or-treating would be prohibited. L.A. has since revised its stance to say trick-or-treating is permitted but not recommended.
The Pima County Health Department urges families to avoid door-to-door trick or treating this year, noting it’s too difficult to maintain proper physical distancing and that reaching into a shared candy bowl or being given candy by hand poses health risks in a pandemic.
In a recent blog post, Dr. Christ suggests “trick-or-treating can be done safely, but it’s no time to let down your guard since COVID-19 is still active in our communities.” She urges families to:
- Continue following safety measures to help curb the spread in recent months, and stay home if anyone feels ill.
- Make sure trick-or-treaters wear cloth face masks in addition to any other mask they plan to wear.
- Maintain six feet of physical distance from others.
- Use hand sanitizer frequently.
- Find creative ways to avoid touching frequently touched surfaces, like using an elbow to ring a doorbell.
She urges parents to get creative. Consider holding virtual costume contests or creating a drive-through haunted house, she says. Host a family scavenger hunt, a scary movie night or pumpkin-carving at home.
“Homeowners can maintain COVID-19 safety by wearing masks and using tape to make lines that help trick-or-treaters maintain six feet of physical distance,” Christ writes.
“You may want to consider leaving individual bags or cups filled with goodies for kids to take.” Or pass out wrapped candy by tossing it (underhand) into each child’s bag. Be sure to wash or sanitize your hands often, and do not open the door if you’re feeling ill or out of sorts.
While outdoor festivities are presumed safer than indoor ones, anything that brings lots of people together right now poses risks. For those determined to participate in trick-or-treating festivities where allowed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics offer these additional safety guidelines:
As is recommended every Halloween, keep trick-or-treaters safe from vehicles and traffic by having them wear glow-in-the-dark lanyards (available at any dollar store) or by putting reflective tape on costumes. Shoes and costumes should also fit well to prevent tripping or entanglement.
Avoid singing, chanting, or shouting — activities shown to emit large quantities of droplets that could contain the COVID-19 virus — especially when not wearing a mask and within 6 feet of others.
Get a flu shot.
Health experts are still concerned that a difficult flu season could tax healthcare providers and make people more vulnerable to COVID-19. Make sure everyone in your family who is 6 months of age or older has gotten a flu shot before participating in Halloween activities.
Quarantine the candy.
When kids bring their Halloween spoils home, wipe the packages/wrappers with a sanitizing cloth or let them sit for a couple of days before the children handle them. If possible, have some special treats on hand that your kids can consume while they’re waiting to dig into their trick-or-treating stash.
Greet without touching.
Do not shake hands, bump elbows or give hugs. Instead, wave and verbally greet others or flash a peace sign.