man playing guitar with granddaughter

Halloween gets a greenlight but keep the masks on

October 14, 2021 | UCI Health
Boy dressed as a Dalmatian in a firefighter's helmet wears a safety mask as he accepts treats for his Halloween goodie pumpkin.
Consider integrating your children's masks with their costumes this Halloween. And make sure you have plenty of hand sanitizer at the ready between trick-or-treat stops.   

With the holiday of ghouls and ghosts fast approaching, families may be wondering whether its safe to let their children celebrate this year.

By all means, let your kids trick-or-treat as long as they're outdoors where there is less risk of exposure to COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said recently on CNN. "It's an important part of the year for children."  

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, concurs but she recommends avoiding crowded indoor Halloween parties even if you've been vaccinated for COVID-19.

And it is still wise to wear masks, even outdoors, says Shruti K. Gohil, MD, MPH, associate medical director of epidemiology and infection prevention for UCI Health.

"This year, it’s all about trying to balance appropriate caution while still enjoying the traditions we cherish," she says. "Although many people have been vaccinated, we still need to be cautious because our youngest children can’t get vaccinated yet. Young trick-or-treaters going door-to-door and those handing out candy should wear masks.”

Cooler fall and winter weather is expected to bring an increase in COVID-19 cases because more people will be spending time indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.

“While COVID rates have been lower due to California's higher vaccination rates compared with other states, we are not completely out of the woods yet," Gohil cautions. "It’s probably best to save big Halloween or Día de los Muertos parties for next year.”  

Plan ahead for safety

Celebrations of Halloween and Día de los Muertos often involve the mixing of many families. Even if those celebrations are held outdoors, Gohil says it’s important to remember to wear protective masks when in crowds — and to keep hand sanitizer at the ready, especially in strategic areas such as porches and at entryways.

Observing the following guidelines can make these celebrations safer:

Trick-or-treating

  • Avoid direct, prolonged contact with trick-or-treaters.
  • Give out treats outdoors, if possible.
  • Set up a station with individually bagged treats kids can take themselves.
  • Wash hands before handling or distributing treats.

Masking

  • Make your cloth mask part of your costume
  • A costume mask is NOT a substitute for a cloth mask.
  • Do NOT wear a costume mask over a cloth mask. It can make breathing more difficult.
  • Masks should NOT be worn by children under age 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing.

Hand hygiene

  • Carry hand sanitizer and use it after touching objects or other people.
  • Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Supervise young children when they are using hand sanitizer.
  • When you get home and before eating any treats, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Keep your distance

  • Stay at least 6 feet from others who do not live with you.
  • Indoors and outdoors, you are more likely to get or spread COVID-19 when you are in close contact with others for a long time.

Get creative

We've all had to adapt to a new normal over the course of the pandemic, especially parents with children eager to enjoy the holidays.

“We’re vaccinated and we will be out and about trick-or-treating," Gohil says of her family. "We’ll be laying out our treats for easy pick-up outside our door along with hand sanitizer before we head into the neighborhood ourselves. We also have costumes that go well with the masks we’ll be decorating to make our costumes as spooky as possible!”

But if you’re not yet ready or able to mingle outdoors, there are lots of ways to enjoy the holiday at home with immediate family.

  • Create a backyard spooky movie night. Project the movies on a wall. Spread the cozy blankets, sprinkle around some pillows and hand-out the yummy treats.
  • Go crazy with the decorations. Make your favorite creatures with arts and crafts supplies. Decorate inside and out!
  • Find or plan a neighborhood drive-through event. With more and more people decorating their homes for Halloween, it can be a fun tour while remaining safely in your vehicle.
  • Carve and decorate pumpkins, either as a fun activity for a small group or even a virtual event with other families and friends.
  • Host a virtual costume party. Dress up or make costumes and invite your child’s friends and family. Potential themes could be crazy wigs, dance party or sing-along.
  • Bake or make Halloween treats. Let the kids pick out a few to make then share your creations virtually.
  • Scavenger hunt. Give clues to where you hid the treats around your house.
  • Take lots of photos. You’ll want a reminder of how creative you were!

There are also many events scheduled across Orange County this month. Check online for ones near you and enjoy a little breathing space this spooktacular season.


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