Parents banking on Halloween being a lifeline to some semblance of normalcy are going to have to find pre-pandemic joy some other way.
Public health officials have been urging families for weeks to find safe alternatives to trick-or-treating. Those exhortations have grown stronger as the numbers of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations have begun to spike across Washington state and the nation.
It’s difficult staying away from others, but with the holiday season fast approaching, it’s important to keep taking precautions to keep each other safe, Washington’s deputy health secretary Lacy Fehrenbach said in a recent news briefing.
“We’ll need to redouble our efforts to have fewer, shorter, smaller, safer gatherings in Washington state,” Fehrenbach said. “Gatherings in groups, even with people we know well, people we trust, people we love, can still spread COVID. The more people we interact with at a gathering, and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the risk is of becoming infected.”
For this week’s FAQ Friday, we’re answering common questions about celebrating Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Should kids be going door to door trick-or-treating?
“It’s not a good idea,” because going door to door for candy is a high-risk activity during a pandemic, said Dr. Gaetan Habekoss, chief of the UW Neighborhood Ravenna Clinic. “Rates are increasing nationally, and this is a dangerous virus which does not take holidays off, so we should not let our guard down.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends against traditional trick-or-treating, especially if the virus is spreading actively in your area.
Infections have been rising more rapidly since early September in Washington state, and hospitalizations began inching up as well at the beginning of this month.
What are some safer ways to celebrate Halloween?
There are safe, fun activities to do on Halloween that don’t involve going to other people’s homes to show off a costume and collect candy.
Bryna Dunaway McCollum, a physician assistant at the UW Northgate Neighborhood Clinic, suggests celebrating outdoors by doing a costume parade through your neighborhood.
“Enjoy the fall weather and try a costume parade with a few neighbors, or take a trip to a pumpkin patch or park in costumes with a couple of friends,” she wrote on UW Medicine’s blog.
In Columbia City, Mount Baker, Seward Park and other parts of South Seattle, neighbors have created a crowdsourced map of houses that are offering socially distanced candy delivery options.
Seattle Times readers have shared other creative ways they’re celebrating Halloween this year. Michelle Escobar said her family is going all in on outdoor decorations. Shelley Rousseau’s family is jumping on the trend to build a candy chute out of PVC pipe, designed to deliver Snickers or Twix or Laffy Taffy to the hungry hordes while keeping the young ghouls away from those handing out the treats.
For those who don’t excel with tools and decorating, the state Department of Health has suggested some alternatives to trick-or-treating, including a candy exchange where families deliver confections to neighbors’ doorsteps.
Other ideas include:
- A candy hunt with your immediate family in your house or at a park with some friends and neighbors.
- Outdoor pumpkin carving with family and friends.
- Hold a virtual costume contest.
- Have a Halloween-themed movie night with people you live with.
- Decorate spooky cookies, bake mummy pastries or cook up other Halloween-themed eats together.
Doctors and public health officials encourage people doing any of these activities to wear masks, practice social distancing and, if getting together, do so outside.
What are some face-mask-friendly costumes we can throw together at the last minute?
Halloween masks won’t stop you from catching or spreading the coronavirus.
“And we would discourage wearing a cloth mask underneath a Halloween face mask because that can impair breathing or make breathing difficult,” says Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious diseases specialist.
But there are plenty of easy ways to incorporate a CDC-recommended mask into your costume.
- Cat or other animal: Just draw a snout on your fabric mask with markers or fabric paint, and it will purrrfectly match the ears on your headband or hood.
- Cowboy or cowgirl: A bandanna around your face won’t look out of place.
- Jack-o’-lantern: Draw a creepy grin in black on an orange mask to level up a regular pumpkin costume.
- Firefighter: A neck gaiter would complement the other protective gear needed for this getup.
- Doctor or nurse: Don a surgical mask and try a costume that honors real-life superheroes!
Material from The Seattle Times’ archives, the Mayo Clinic News Network and the Chicago Tribune is included in this report.
You can read last week’s FAQ Friday, which explained what you need to know about remdesivir — the first drug to get FDA approval for treating COVID-19 — at st.news/faq-remdesivir. If you have a question you haven’t seen addressed in The Seattle Times’ coverage, ask it at st.news/coronavirus-questions or via the form below.