Halloween is scary enough.
But this year, parents and guardians are contending with a new worry: If they let their children trick or treat, do they risk exposing them and those around them to the coronavirus?
"Halloween trick-or-treating is associated with increased face-to-face encounters," Dr. Evangelos Loukas, associate medical director at Plainview and Syosset hospitals, said as part of a Newsday Live webinar this week on holiday season safety in the age of COVID-19. "There's a lot of contact sharing, contact spread, through candy sharing, rummaging through candy bowls, ringing people's doorbells."
But despite the risks, Loukas said, "There's ways we can [participate] in trick-or-treating, but not in the traditional sense we're used to."
Medical experts, including those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, are suggesting a host of new guidelines and protocols to keep parents and their children safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Those guidelines include placing treats in individual paper bags, not trick-or-treating with others outside your core group and waiting for others to leave a doorway before going to the same house.
There are also alternatives to trick-or-treating for those who are wary: On Wednesday, Nassau County officials unveiled what was dubbed as "the first-ever drive thru Halloween for cars" at Stew Leonard's, which is hosting Halloween displays in the parking lots of several of its stores, including those in East Meadow and Farmingdale.
"Every year Halloween provides children and families with lifelong memories, and this year should be no different," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. "While COVID-19 is still a risk, people can certainly enjoy the holiday safely. Remember to be responsible: Wear a mask, practice social distancing, and use sanitizer to wash your hands and commonly touched surfaces."
Whether you're trick-or-treating or not, here's what you need to know to celebrate Halloween safely this year:
If you're handing out treats, the CDC advises that you:
- Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
- Distribute the treats in outdoor spaces, if possible, and set up a station with presorted, individually bagged or wrapped treats (with space between each) to limit direct contact between nonfamily members or those not in your household.
- Wash your hands before handling all treats.
- Wear a face mask — and remember that a decorative costume mask is not the same as a protective face mask.
Trick-or-treaters should wear a mask and stay at least six feet apart from those in different households, the CDC said.
Here's some more of their advice:
- Make a cloth mask part of the costume.
- Remember, again, that a Halloween or costume mask is not the same as a protective cloth face mask.
- Do not wear a costume mask over a cloth mask. It can limit air intake and make breathing more difficult.
- Children under age 2 should not wear a mask.
- Remember that close contact with strangers — or anyone who does not live with you — makes it more likely to get or spread COVID-19. That applies to being indoors and outside.
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before any trick-or-treating activities — and after. Especially make sure to do so before eating treats.
- Bring hand sanitizer and use it after touching any objects or after direct contact with others.
- Make certain young children have correctly sanitized/cleansed their hands.
- Use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Decorate your residence for Halloween.
- Carve pumpkins — or draw, paint, or otherwise create Halloween art — with members of your family or those who live with you.
- Walk the neighborhood to take in and admire decorations from a distance, instead of going trick-or-treating door to door.
- Visit an outdoor Halloween-themed scavenger hunt, pumpkin patch, orchard, maze or other attraction. But remember to practice social distancing, wear protective masks, and sanitize hands.
- Instead of taking children trick-or-treating, hide treats in and around your own home and property. Hold an event exclusively for family members.
- Host an outdoor costume parade or contest where you and other parents and guardians can maintain, observe and enforce safe social distancing guidelines and protocols for children and adults.
- Host an outdoor Halloween movie night for friends and neighbors while practicing safe social distancing measures. Or hold an indoor Halloween movie night, gathering or event for members of your immediate household.