Fall is finally here, and the first holiday of the season is upon us. Halloween, will look very different this year — just like every other holiday has since the novel coronavirus outbreak hit in March.
But there are still creative, fun ways to celebrate and stay safe, says Dr. José Mayorga, family physician and executive director of the UCI Health Family Health Centers, even as COVID-19 cases surge elsewhere in the country.
Mayorga says what's happening in states where coronavirus is on the rise is to be expected as the change in seasons brings cooler temperatures.
"When people are spending more time indoors, it’s easier to spread the virus," he says. "The second thing is that when many individuals are coming together in small household gatherings, they’re not following strict safety guidelines. Last and most important, more younger adults are starting to get this infection."
As a group, young adults are less likely to wear masks and observe physical distancing, Mayorga adds.
"We know that young adults generally have less severe cases of COVID-19, but they also interact with older, higher risk adults. So this is not a good trend to be seeing as we enter the holiday season."
Halloween and Dia de los Muertos
With Halloween and Dia de los Muertos looming, a little advance planning is in order to ensure that these group-centric holidays are enjoyed safely.
"These are two great holidays we all enjoy, however, this year we need to be a little bit more creative," Mayorga says.
"Both traditions promote congregating and the mixing of multiple households. Even if you’re outdoors and trick-or-treating, you’re still at risk, especially on porches and at entryways, and walking directly behind other people."
UCI Health experts have create safety protocols that align with those from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these guidelines, Mayorga strongly recommends the following for safe trick-or-treating:
- Keep at least a six-foot distance from others
- Don’t interact directly with trick-or-treaters who aren’t part of your family group
- Wait until you get home to eat your treats
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before digging in
"Alternatively," he adds, "you can do what my nine-year-old suggested. We’re going to stay home, break open a piñata in the shape of the COVID-19 virus and watch Halloween movies!"
Making trick-or-treating safer
The CDC recommends the following guidelines for trick-or-treaters and folks who supervise the treat bowls:
- Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
- Distribute treats outdoors, if possible.
- Set up an outdoor station with individually bagged treats for kids to take. An adult who is properly masked and gloved should supervise from six feet away.
- Carry hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
- Parents must always supervise young children.
- Wear a real safety mask. Halloween masks are not effective protection against COVID-19.
- Stay at least six feet from people who don’t live with you.
- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before touching treats.
Other creative ways to celebrate at home
We've all had to adapt to a new normal during the current pandemic. Parents, especially, have had to get creative to keep children engaged.
Here are some ideas to make Halloween fun without actual trick-or-treating:
- Host a virtual costume party. Dress up or make costumes and invite your child’s friends and family to a virtual party. Possible themes: crazy wigs, dance party, sing along.
- Go crazy with the decorations. Why wait until Christmas? Make your favorite Halloween creatures with arts and crafts supplies. Decorate inside and out!
- Decorate and carve pumpkins. This could be a fun outdoor and socially distanced activity for a small group or it could be hosted virtually.
- Bake or make Halloween treats. Let the kids pick out a few to make and share your creations virtually.
- Scavenger hunt. Give clues to where you hid the candy around your house.
- Find or plan a neighborhood drive-through event. With more and more people going all out for the Halloween and Dia de Los Muertos holidays and decking out their homes like it was Christmas, it can be a fun tour — and participants remain in their vehicles.
- Take lots of photos. This is a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. You’ll want to remember how creative you were!