Getting COVID-19 can be scarier than any horror movie or Halloween haunted house. Health officials and pediatricians aren't telling us to skip Halloween this year, but they do urge serious caution.
“Unfortunately, traditional trick-or-treating is high risk and is not recommended this year,” said Dr. Gaetan Habekoss, chief of the University of Washington Neighborhood Ravenna Clinic.
“Rates are increasing nationally and this is a dangerous virus, which does not take holidays off so we should not let our guard down,” Hebekoss said. “But we don’t need to cancel Halloween and it’s important to have things to celebrate during the pandemic.”
So what are the ways we can celebrate this holiday, 2020 style? Before we get to that, here are some of the possible risks if you and the kids do venture out to knock on doors.
In normal times, Halloween is the one night of the year when kids can go house to house asking for candy. Doctors say this year, as soon as someone opens that door, you are putting yourself at risk. The coronavirus spreads easily inside, and there is no way to know that the air you are briefly breathing from the inside of a stranger’s house is virus-free.
“There's a lot of opportunity in trick-or-treating for virus transmission with crowds, with large clumps of people together with someone opening up their door. And you don't know if they're wearing a mask. A lot of interaction with other folks outside your household,” said Bryna Dunaway McCollum, a physician assistant at the UW Northgate clinic.
Also, unless the candy is being tossed out the door, it’s difficult to maintain distance as the goods are dropped into a bag.
Incorporating masks into your costume design will help mitigate the risk of traditional trick-or-treating, but the risk will still be there.
Then, there is the candy.
Whether you get it the traditional route, or from bags placed on the sidewalk, a tree with hanging candy bars, or a creative “candy chute” that someone put the time and energy into building for this special day — any sweet stuff coming from outside of your own home needs to be handled like it’s slightly toxic. No dipping into the stash as you make your way around the hood.
Even though the odds of transmission through touch are low, it’s still possible. You need to wipe the treats down. The other option is to set it aside for about three days, or longer.
“If you do happen to get candy from a stranger, it’s safest to quarantine it for a week,” Habekoss said.
Back to the candy chutes.
If you have a chute or a slide, be prepared to manage crowd control at the point of delivery where small hands meet the treats. Doctors say the end of a chute or slide will be of high interest. Kids will jostle and try to get in close to catch the goods. Be prepared to put in the time to make sure kids and adults are all standing 6 feet apart, that they each wait their turn. Doctors suggest marking out spaces with chalk or tape that are 6 feet apart.
For the older crowd, avoid any haunted houses. Screaming increases the risk of transmission substantially.
So, how can we all safely celebrate?
Have a socially distanced costume parade.
Any candy your kid gets comes from your home.
Have a Halloween themed scavenger hunt in your home or yard.
Meet friends in costume at a park.
Have a virtual costume party.
Carve a pumpkin.
Have a scary movie fest at home.
This is what The American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending.