The pandemic has forced us all to get creative over the last few months, in terms of work, childcare, exercise, and other daily activities. And Halloween is no exception. This year, many people will be forced to forgo their typical Halloween festivities from bar crawls and house parties, to traditional trick-or-treating and indoor haunted houses, amid the risk of COVID-19. While things may look different this year, you don’t need to skip over your Halloween festivities completely. Here are some creative ways to celebrate safely this year:
The CDC has categorized traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed out door-to-door as a “high risk” activity this year, as it involves close contact with a large number of people who may not be wearing masks. And in many places, the activity has been outright cancelled. That being said, if you live in an area where trick-or-treating is still permitted and you or your child are not at high-risk of serious infection, there are several ways to reduce your risk of contracting COVID-19.
- Stick to a “Pod”: Throughout the pandemic, many families and individuals have made pacts to socialize with only each other and limit interactions with all others. If you’re thinking of organizing a trick-or-treating outing, you might consider limiting the households you stop at to those within your pod. “Trick-or-treating with a controlled group in a social pod with agreed upon houses could reduce that risk, especially if everyone agrees to adhere to wearing masks, physical distancing, and overall being cautious ahead of the event,” says One Medical Provider, Natasha Bhuyan “However, this is more difficult to execute in reality as the houses cannot control the flow of external trick-or-treaters. As an alternative, some families are choosing to celebrate on Friday 10/30 this year with select families.” With these select families, you will be able to establish safety guidelines and ground rules ahead of time and limit your child’s interactions with strangers. For more on building a pod and expanding your quarantine bubble, read here.
- Set up a goody bag station: One of the best ways to keep you and your child safe this Halloween is to limit as much direct contact with others as possible. Some neighborhoods are choosing to do this by setting up tables or lining the ends of their driveways with individually wrapped goodie bags. “A neighborhood can coordinate and agree to only leave out goody bags that children can walk by and grab from a table on the sidewalk, without interacting with others,” says Bhuyan. “This minimizes the risk of transmission by limiting human-to-human interactions. Remember, COVID-19 most commonly spreads from person to person.” This allows those who are high-risk to avoid interacting with others and also prevents trick-or-treaters from clustering around a house or touching all the same candy in a bowl. The CDC categorizes this one-way, grab and go form of trick-or-treating as “moderate risk”. If your neighborhood agrees to use these goodie bags, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water before and after bagging up candy.
- Use signs: Oftentimes it can be difficult to tell if a house is handing out candy on Halloween. This can cause families to cluster around a doorbell or sidewalk waiting for an answer or figuring out their next stop. To prevent people from crowding outside a house or in the street, work with your neighborhood to decide on a sign or signal houses can use to indicate that they are participating in trick-or-treating this year. This could be a porch light or even a pumpkin. You may also want to consider putting up signs around the neighborhood that encourage the use of hand sanitizer, masks, and social distancing.
- Wear an appropriate mask: Whether you are out trick-or-treating or handing out candy from home, always maintain at least 6 feet of physical distance from others and wear a mask as much as possible. However, you shouldn’t rely on your costume mask to protect you from COVID-19. “Masks should be worn anytime you are around others who are not your household contacts,” says Bhuyan. “Costume masks are not a substitute for cloth masks. That is because costume masks often have holes in the nose or mouth, which can allow droplets to readily pass.”
- Sanitize frequently: Be sure to pack hand sanitizer and use it frequently throughout the night. “Sanitizing your hands between each home visit is a good idea.” says Bhuyan. “However, because COVID-19 is primarily spread from person-to-person either via respiratory droplets or in the air, sanitizing your hands won’t prevent the risk during those interactions.”
Celebrate Halloween at home
Prefer to skip trick-or-treating altogether this year? One of the best ways to reduce your risk of COVID-19 is to keep your Halloween festivities to members of your own household. But just because you aren’t out trick-or-treating, doesn’t mean you have to be in for a boring evening. Give your family something to look forward to with these moderate to low-risk risk activities:
- Scavenger hunt: Rather than having your kids go door-to-door this year, hide candy or prizes throughout your house or yard.
- Virtual costume contest: You don’t need a big Halloween party to dress up. Show off your costume over a virtual Halloween costume contest. You can even have friends and family vote for the best costume and give out virtual awards.
- Carve or decorate pumpkins: Pumpkin carving with your household contacts is one tradition that doesn’t need to change this year. Use paint or markers to get extra creative with your pumpkin!
- Halloween movie night: Many tv channels and streaming services are featuring Halloween classics this month. Step up your movie marathon game by dressing up as your favorite characters and making some Halloween treats.
When deciding whether to get together with friends and family this Halloween, it’s important to remember that there will always be some risk associated with social interaction. Everytime we engage with another person, we risk exposing ourselves and others to the virus. If you do plan a gathering with people outside your household, though, there are ways to keep your group safer. First of all, it’s important to keep your group small. Pay attention to what your local government has declared as the maximum size for group gatherings. You should also consider the confines of your space. There should be enough room for people to maintain at least 6 feet apart from each other at all times. Outdoor spaces are inherently safer, says One Medical provider, Natasha Bhuyan, MD. “Although COVID-19 is transmitted via droplets from one person to another, open air locations minimize the risk," she explains. You may even consider opting for public gatherings at a park or beach where there will be more space for people to spread out. With more open space, you’ll reduce the risk of repeatedly touching the same surfaces or objects. Whether you’re indoors or outdoors, it’s also important to keep a safe distance and wear a mask as much as possible. “As much as you may want to, you should also avoid hugging and kissing your loved ones,” says Bhuyan. Finally, avoid sharing food or drinks. If you do decide to eat together, have each person bring their own food and utensils to minimize the risk of contact and touching common surfaces.
The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, Portland, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
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