Follow These CDC Suggestions for a Safe and Happy Halloween

Halloween candy and decorations are displayed at a store, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Freeport, Maine. In this year of the pandemic, with trick-or-treating still an uncertainty, US Halloween candy sales were up 13% over last year in the month ending Sept. 6, according to data from market research firm IRI and the National Confectioners Association. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

By Jen Sako

October 28, 2020

The CDC has offered several ways to enjoy Halloween while limiting your risk of coronavirus infection this year.

Samantha Smith isn’t haunted by having her Halloween traditions scrambled.

Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Pittsburgh mom going to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines this year and stay inside with her family.

“It’s nice to change traditions,” she said.

Back in March, when governors across the US handed down mandates shutting down schools, church services and businesses, few people thought about how the coronavirus pandemic would affect Halloween.

Many thought the pandemic would be under control by now.

But Halloween is a few days away and the nation is still grappling with the best ways to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus and reduce deaths from COVID-19.

After a summer of socially distanced barbecues and canceled family vacations, we’re staring down a whole new set of autumn traditions that seem risky for the times.

The CDC recently published guidelines for Halloween they hope will be useful for the public in making decisions on how to celebrate in ways that are safer with less crowding and screaming.

Staying close to the people in your household is the best way to keep your risk of coronavirus infection low, according to the CDC. 

The agency suggested going on a walk as a family to look at Halloween decorations, holding a candy scavenger hunt in your backyard, or staying in and doing something as a family.

So that’s what Smith will do.

One of her boys has outgrown trick-or-treating, so she’s happy to start something new within the family to celebrate the season. Smith said the family will also continue their tradition of baking apple pies and making applesauce. 

But she said she’s decided against allowing her kids to spend Halloween evening outside and risking crowds. 

“What’s the point of elevating exposure for no reason,” she said.

Stephanie Platania, also of Pittsburgh, has been thinking along those same lines when it comes to her Halloween night this year. 

“Turn off the lights outside and watch TV,” she said about her adjusted plans. Her children also decided they would rather hang out inside and watch scary movies as a family.

Both moms will have bowls of candy outside for the neighborhood kids to select their treats and minimize crowding at their doorsteps.

The CDC has advised against trick-or-treating, but also provided recommendations for people to do it as safely as possible.

While holding your bag open for someone to drop in candy at individual houses in the neighborhood or out of the trunks of cars carries a higher transmission risk, picking up a goody bag from a table in the front yard is only a moderate risk, the CDC said. An even lower risk level activity is arranging a scavenger hunt for candy or treats in your own home or yard for your close family members.

The CDC advises that those who wear a costume outside their home make sure to wear a cloth mask made of at least two layers of fabric that covers the mouth and nose with no gaps. They also warn against wearing a costume mask over a cloth one as it may limit proper breathing. But all the better if a cloth mask is part of the costume.

Upper St. Clair, a township near Pittsburgh, announced trick-or-treating is on as usual. Resident Heather Dresnik is ready for the neighborhood’s participation. “If it’s nice, I’ll sit outside with a bowl 6 feet away,” she said, adding that she’ll wear a mask that covers her mouth and nose.

The Bell family in nearby Mt. Lebanon has decided to let their children visit a few houses close to them to show off their costumes. Heather Bell said she will make sure her kids wear gloves and masks that cover their mouths and noses with the costumes.

Bell said she plans to wipe down all wrapped candy with disinfectant cloths and let it dry before the kids can touch it. In the meantime, Bell will give the kids some treats she’ll have on hand. 

The CDC advises against doing much more than that. It lists going to festivals and haunted houses as high-risk activities.

Indoor haunted houses are particularly risky because of crowding and screaming, which sends particles outward and could spread infection.

If you need bigger thrills, find an outdoor haunted forest. But keep away from screaming groups of people.

The CDC also advises against traveling to rural areas for pumpkin patches, apple picking, and hayrides to keep the spread of infection down. Keep your farm visits local and use hand sanitizer before and after touching gourds, pumpkins and apples.

Before participating in any activities outside the home, assess your health and be ready to cancel plans if you show symptoms of COVID-19. You should also cancel any plans to hand out candy if you feel sick.

Plan to have fun, but plan it safely. And no matter what you choose to do, there’s no risk in lighting your jack-o’-lanterns to keep your Halloween spirit glowing.


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