Editor’s Note: The Iredell County Health Department provided the following guidelines to keep Halloween safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Special to Iredell Free News
One trick to learn this Halloween is how to get your treats safely. Kids are eagerly awaiting to dress up as their favorite characters and collect candy with friends.
However, participating in the traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed out to children going door-to-door can increase the potential risk for spreading the COVID-19 virus.
Alternatives to traditional trick-or-treating
There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween that have been determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in order to lower your and your child’s risk:
• Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them;
• Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends;
• Decorating your house, apartment, or living space;
• Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance;
• Having a virtual Halloween costume contest;
• Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with;
• Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house;
Minimizing COVID-19 spread
The following activities pose a moderate risk:
• Participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard). If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 second before and after preparing the bags.
• Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart.
• Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than six feet apart.
• Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced, and people can remain more than six feet apart. If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
• Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing.
• Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least six feet apart.
♦ A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.
♦ Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
How to prevent the spread of COVID-19
Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:
• Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door;
• Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots;
• Attending crowded costume parties held indoors;
• Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming;
• Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household;
• Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors;
• Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19
However you decide to celebrate, continue to follow the CDC’s guidelines. In general, and especially during Halloween, don’t forget to wear a protective face coverings as noted above; social distance at least six feet from non-household members; clean frequently touched items regularly, and make sure your hands are cleaned often, especially before trading or eating treats.
Finally, stay home and away from others, if you are sick, or you have been in contact with someone who is sick with or has symptoms of COVID-19.
As you begin to plan for fall and winter holiday celebrations, it is important to consider ways to help protect other individuals as well as your families, friends, and communities from COVID-19.
These guidelines developed by the CDC are meant to supplement—not replace—your state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which holiday gatherings must comply. If you are planning to host a holiday celebration, you should assess current COVID-19 levels in your community to determine whether to postpone, cancel, or limit the number of attendees.
For additional information and guidelines developed by the CDC for the upcoming holidays, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html.
Additional information related to COVID-19 can be found at the following resources:
♦ NCDHHS-DPH: www.ncdhhs.gov/covid19
♦ CDC: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
♦ Iredell County Health Department: https://nc-iredellcounty.civicplus.com/1383/Coronavirus-COVID-19