This time last year, a global pandemic sweeping across almost every nation on earth would have been all but unthinkable. But here we are, and as of mid-October, 2020, fewer than a dozen nations have no reported COVID-19 cases. (Most countries without coronavirus cases are island nations in the Pacific Ocean; two others, North Korea and Turkmenistan, are not known for being forthright with such information.)
As autumn weather chills and winter’s cold approaches, people will be spending more time indoors and in closer quarters, and thus the ease of spread of the coronavirus will tick upward, likely leading to more cases in more places. But even well before winter gets here we face an occasion that, handled improperly, could see so-called super spreader events all around America and even much of the world: Halloween. The number one Halloween tradition, trick-or-treating, is arguably the worst thing people could do right now, namely interacting with scores of people at dozens of houses, houses of families almost assuredly outside of any quarantine bubble or isolated school or work cohort.
But trick-or-treating is a beloved and time-honored Halloween tradition in America, and something children look forward to all year around. And as it is an activity that takes place outdoors, with proper precautions, safe trick-or-treating during the pandemic is possible. Just keep it top-of-mind that without proper safety precautions in place, trick-or-treating during COVID-19 is a terrible and reckless idea!
Here are five ways to stay safe while trick-or-treating in 2020 (and to ensure you don’t accidentally spread the coronavirus if you happen to be infected.
- Incorporate a mask into your Halloween costume
Halloween is actually the one day out of the year when in the past it would not have been at all odd to see masked people all around your neighborhood, and on this occasion, wearing a mask will actually be an improvement to your outfit, not a detraction. From scary masks with teeth to superhero themed masks to charming masks with animal snouts to neck gaiters or full balaclavas that achieve the ninja or warrior look, it will be easy to incorporate a face mask that enhances the look of your costume. You can also always use a solid color, nondescript mask if you don’t want to draw extra attention. And there has never been a better year to make your costume that of a doctor or nurse, both as then a medical mask will make perfect sense and to give a nod of thanks to all of our brave medical workers.
- Practice cohorting and social distancing
The people in your trick-or-treating group should be limited to those people with whom you are already in a quarantine pod. This may mean limiting groups to nuclear families in some cases, to extended families only in others, or two trick-or-treating with school friends your child already sees regularly, but unfortunately not friends with whom they have not had regular recent contact. And it’s important that groups of trick-or-treaters keep their distance from one another this year, so parental supervision will be quite important for younger kids.
- Use hand sanitizer, clean off candy wrappers, and wash hands
Parents (and older kids who can be responsible) should carry hand sanitizer with them this year and apply it to the hands of trick-or-treaters several times during the course of the outing. This should be done immediately if anyone with viral symptoms is encountered and of course before anything is eaten. If possible, also use a disinfecting wipe to clean off candy wrappers before they enter the home, and everyone needs to wash hands as soon as home as well.
- Offer candy in a safe, socially distant way
Rather than encouraging people to come to your home and knock or ring the bell, this year you should leave all candy outdoors. A bucket or basket with candy is an acceptable alternative to handing the stuff out, but an even more novel and safe idea is to fill lots of little bags with candy and then hang them on individual skewers spread around in your yard. That way kids can keep their distance while getting their treats. You can always stand at the door or window to call out “Happy Halloween” just the same.
- Leave dark houses alone
A house with its lights off on Halloween is generally a sign the home does not have candy to give out; this year, it is even more of a sign the household wishes to be left alone. Respect any darkened home by not even going onto the property, as residents there may have health complications or be older and trying to protect themselves. Also watch for any signs that may specifically ask the house to be bypassed this Halloween.