A COVID-Safe Halloween



Bay Area health officials are asking residents to forego trick-or-tricking and other typical Halloween and Día de los Muertos traditions in favor of activities that have less risk of spreading COVID-19.

 

“Trick-or-treating is a high-risk activity, because it increases contact with people outside of your household who may not be as careful about COVID-19 prevention. Parties are high-risk, because mixing among people who don’t live in the same home introduces more opportunities for the virus to pass from one person to another,” county health officials said in a joint statement. “Bay Area contact tracing has shown that gathering and mixing are key contributors to infection.” 

 

But officials say there are lower-risk ways to celebrate the holidays, from decorating your home and setting out grab-and-go treat bags to participating in drive-through events, socially distanced costume parades or movie nights.

 

While the usual coronavirus prevention tips apply – stay home if you’re sick or have been in contact with someone who is, outdoors is safer than indoors – there are some special advisements for Halloween. Health officials point out that costume masks are not a substitute for cloth masks, but that the two should not be worn together because that could make it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a themed cloth mask. In addition, many gatherings remain prohibited by state and local health orders.

 

The health officers offer the following guidelines for celebrating safely:

 

LOWER RISK: Stay Home, Keep It Small

• Celebrating Halloween traditions like carving pumpkins or a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in your home.

• Visiting an outdoor pumpkin patch, while wearing a mask and maintaining distance from others.

• Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at least 6 feet apart while wearing masks, with a very small group of neighbors or friends. Fewer people with more distance is safer.

• Having a virtual costume contest.

• Dressing up your house, apartment, living space, yard or car with Halloween decorations or decorating homes with images and objects to honor deceased loved ones.

• Preparing traditional family recipes with members of your household.

• Playing music in your home that your deceased loved ones enjoyed.

• Making and decorating masks or making an altar for the deceased.

• Participating in vehicle-based gatherings that comply with state and local guidance like drive-in movies and drive-through attractions, or car/bike parades where participants do not leave their vehicles.

       • Avoid driving in areas where there are many pedestrians.

       • Spectators should watch from their homes or yards and not gather with people they do not live with.

 

MODERATE RISK: If You Must

• Participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to physically distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard)

       • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing the bags.

       • Ensure everyone is wearing an appropriate face covering and maintaining a physical distance from others.

       • Everyone participating should bring hand sanitizer and use it frequently AND wash their hands immediately after coming home.

       • Candy shouldn’t be eaten while outside the home because that would require both removing the face mask and touching wrappers.

• Having a very small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade or movie night where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart and are wearing masks. Fewer people with more distance is safer.

• Enjoying themed outdoor dining that complies with state and local guidance or takeout.

 

HIGHER RISK: Please Avoid

• Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door-to-door. Although this activity is outdoors, it is higher risk because it brings multiple people from different households together.

• Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19. Doing so can bring COVID-19 into the area and threaten the residents’ lives.

If trick-or-treating is occurring in your neighborhood and you are at home and do not want to be disturbed, you may want to post a sign or turn off your porch light.


 
VERY HIGH RISK or Not Permitted by State and Local Orders

• Attending a crowded party held indoors or outdoors. Large gatherings, even if they are outdoors, are high risk for spreading COVID-19 and are associated with many cases throughout the Bay Area.

• Sharing, eating, drinking, speaking loudly or singing amongst others outside of your household.

• Haunted houses or indoor mazes.

• Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots.

Janine DeFao is an associate editor at Bay Area Parent.
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