COVID-19: How do I celebrate Halloween safely?

ome might say there’s no need for Halloween this year. After all, 2020 has been a nightmare, am I right?

But for those seeking a bit of joy in the macabre and to cash in on whatever free chocolate they can get, there are still ways to partake in this spookiest of holidays without catching or spreading COVID-19.

Mind you, it will look a little different but if you can get yourself into the spirit safely, All Hallows’ Eve could be salvaged after all.

So I can still celebrate Halloween, right?

If you are sick or self-isolating, do not go out, do not host parties and do not hand out candy. Turn off your porch light so there are no unnecessary house calls or guests to your door. And if someone rings your doorbell while you are sick or in isolation, don’t open the door to send them away. Instead, just let them know through the mail slot or leave a note on the door.

If you are healthy and plan to wear a costume, consider incorporating a non-medical mask or face covering into your costume. This could be the year you go as Meredith Grey and the entire cast of Grey’s Anatomy! Keep in mind — a costume mask should not be worn over a non-medical mask as it can make it difficult to breathe.

And regardless of how you celebrate, be sure to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often.

Can I still attend or host a party this year?

That would be ill-advised. This is not the year for a Halloween party, large or small, as any indoor gathering puts you and your guests at higher risk of being infected with COVID-19. Should your Halloween party turn into a super spreader event, then that’s the ghost story you’ll be telling for years to come.

Instead, consider celebrating with a Halloween movie or traditions like pumpkin carving with those in your household or your social bubble. If you choose to do this, ensure you “stick to six” and keep the group small. You should know how to contact everyone in attendance — no plus ones, no new partners you’re unfamiliar with, no one you couldn’t pick up the phone and contact within a minute if contact tracing is needed, and no one who has a social bubble different from yours.

If you are hosting a small gathering within your social bubble, don’t pass around snacks, drinks, smokes, tokes or vapes. Try to keep activities outside more than they are inside and if you are inside, keep the space well-ventilated by opening windows.

Go nuts with decorations inside or out but try to avoid any props that can prompt coughing like smoke or fog machines. And be careful if you are setting up a fire pit in the yard — hand sanitizer is highly flammable.

Can I still take my kids trick-or-treating?

You can absolutely still take your kids trick-or-treating but not without taking proper precautions. Stick close to your own neighbourhood instead of venturing too far or to another neighbourhood.

“What I would say is — it depends a little bit on your own situation in your community,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry. “Keep it local, keep it small. Keep small groups and if you do want to have that trick-or-treating experience for children — very small groups.”

Henry advised parents and little trick-or-treaters to stay in their own community and if their own community is not into the usual Halloween traditions this year, to respect that and not to venture over to another neighbourhood.

“I think we have to be mindful as well that some of those communities where the whole street gets involved or a whole building would get involved, or at the mall where they’ve had indoor events — those are not going to be recommended this year,” she said.

Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an infectious disease expert at the University of B.C., also notes that while it’s unreasonable to ask kids to contain their excitement or to not say “trick or treat” when greeted at the door, he suggests kids should try to “avoid yelling the phrase to prevent the transmission of respiratory droplets.”

Be sure to stay away from homes if their lights are out, as the may not be participating or they may be ill and in self-isolation. Also avoid trick-or-treating in busy areas or indoors such as in malls this year.

Be sure to wash your hands before going out and after getting home from trick-or-treating and definitely before eating any treats.

Is a costume mask enough to protect against COVID-19?

“Not all costume masks are created equal,” said Murthy. “If there’s a big hole in the costume mask then respiratory particles can get through, and it probably won’t work well as a mask.”

Children are still encouraged to wear a non-medical mask or face covering as part of their costume. Masks can be decorated, of course, or it can be integrated into the costume.

Murthy does note that non-medical masks should not be doubled up or layered with a costume mask as it can make it difficult for children to breathe as they walk from house to house.

Can we make plans to trick or treat with another family or with friends?

If you are making plans to go out trick-or-treating together, keep your group small and stick to a maximum of six people. (That includes your kids, and should not be interpreted as six parents and then an additional number of kids.) Be sure to leave space between you and other groups to reduce crowding on stairs, sidewalks and yards.

“It’s also important to look at who your child has been exposed to recently,” said Murthy.

“If your child regularly plays with another child in the neighbourhood outside in the park, then conceivably they could trick-or-treat together on Halloween, following physical distancing guidelines, similar to a school friend.”

Do I need to clean Halloween candy?

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control says there is no need to clean each individual treat. Instead, be sure to wash your hands after handling treats and do not touch your face.

If you plan to snack while you are trick-or-treating, bring hand sanitizer with you and sanitize before and after snacking.

Is it safe to hand out Halloween candy?

You can absolutely still hand out Halloween candy, just be sure you are taking proper precautions and getting creative with how you hand out treats.

You can use tongs, a baking sheet or event get craft create a “candy slide” to hand out candy but still allow for enough space to physically distance between yourself and trick-or-treaters. Instead of holding out a bowl for little hands to rummage through, consider handing out an individual treat.

This should go without saying but be sure you are only handing out sealed, individually packaged treats.

“I think there’s lots of things that we can do to keep those distances,” said Henry. “Making sure that we’re keeping our distances outside is better than inside.”

Also ensure you’re wearing a non-medical mask that covers your nose and mouth so you do not unknowingly spread any possible viruses, even if you are certain you’re not sick as you could just be asymptomatic

Consider standing outside on your porch, at the bottom of your stairs or even curb side where there is ventilation and air flow to hand out candy, instead of having people closer to your door. Be sure to disinfect any door bells, knobs, handrails and high-touch surface that lead to your door.

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