Orange Park Medical Center - October 05, 2020

There are a million questions. Should we go trick-or-treating with our friends? Is it safe to collect candy from all these different houses? Well, experts note that trick-or-treating even with key precautions still has risks parents need to weigh.

“If you live in an area where there is still a high incidence of COVID-19, neither I nor the CDC recommends trick-or-treating door-to-door,” said Dr. Jennifer Chapman, Emergency Room Physician at Orange Park Medical Center

“If you live in an area where there is still a moderate incidence of COVID-19, you need to weigh if trick-or-treating is worth it to you and your family based on your specific situation,” said Dr. Chapman.

The easiest way to determine the COVID-19 risk level in your community go to where the Harvard Global Health Institute has an interactive map that details COVID risk level by county. Even if you live in an area with a low prevalence of COVID-19 cases, you still want to be sure and take a few extra precautions.

Experts don’t currently think that surface spread is the main mode of COVID-19 transmission. “I would say you’re okay to take the kids outside for limited trick-or-treating, but recognize it’s going to be very different from last year and prepare the kids with the new safety rules.”

Some of the biggest risks for this Halloween are:

  • Who you are trick-or-treating with. Close contact or who is within six feet of you for more than 10-15 minutes as defined by the CDC.
  • Face to face time. Keep your candy collection interactions brief. Trick-or-treat exchanges on the porch need to be brief and socially distanced. Know that the more households you visit the greater chance for germs to spread and linger – so keep it quick and move on.
  • Communal candy collection. Putting hands in big candy bowls and digging out the pieces you like the most. This might be the year for the small goodie bags already portioned out or candy in bags that can be placed by the adult into bags without children having to reach and root around in a big bowl. Encourage kids to use hand sanitizer throughout the route. They should wash their hands often and especially before eating anything from their tour around the neighborhood.

The experts add to skip the house parties and school dances this year to limit your COVID-19 risk. “I would limit your group to just your family or a small 3 or 4 kids at the most,” notes Dr. Chapman. “Choose wisely, friends that you know have been practicing social distancing and limiting their own exposure as well.”

Parents need to go over the new ground rules early and make sure children understand before setting out to collect loot

  • Make sure your children understand they can’t go digging around in candy bowls - choose one piece and stick with it or ask the host to drop some in your bag.
  • Have kids stay in their group or with the family – it’s hard not to want to run around and play but keeping a social distance this Halloween is important, even outside.
  • Don’t share toys, costume props, or candy bags or bowls. Ask each child to hold onto their own things and candy bag.
  • Bring hand sanitizer and use it to clean little hands between every few homes.
  • Give kids a break with wearing their masks. Away from the porch/doorway and perhaps at a family huddle away from others – take a minute to breathe and regroup if needed.

Above all else, wear a mask

Since many costumes already have some sort of mask or disguise – it shouldn’t be hard to incorporate a face covering into your child’s costume. Parents, be a good role model and wear one too.

CDC notes that you should not use costume masks in place of cloth masks.

  • Do not use a costume mask as a substitute for a cloth mask unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers your mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around your face.
  • Do not wear a costume mask over a cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask..

There are lots of ways to enjoy the holiday with a few new rules to keep everyone safe. Visit the CDC website for more guidance on the risks of different Halloween activities, and ways to lower these risk.