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Halloween protocols during the coronavirus pandemic

Carolynn Mostyn
Suburbanite correspondent

The day of ghouls, bats, ghosts and cute little goblins dressed as their favorite character is right upon on us.

This Oct. 31 is going to be a little different than those Halloweens of the past. Those costumed clad bits of cuteness will be wearing a mask of a different kind. With coronavirus still out there haunting us, Summit County Public Health (SCPH) has released some best practices for children and adults to celebrate Halloween safely.

One big thing every trick-or-treating season is making sure all candy is properly sealed. This year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it's also recommended that packages be sanitized before opening.

Many community events such as costume contests, Halloween parties and trunk or treat events have been canceled to take precautions to protect the children. The health Department encourages all to exercise caution when making the decision to participate in neighborhood trick or treat. Safety protocols should be practiced at types of events that put children and adults in close contact with those outside of their households.

The Health Department recommends selecting events or attractions that are held outdoors and allow attendees to stay in their cars. Costume parties, pumpkin carving contests or other events could be held online through video conferencing. Bobbing for apples is not recommended as it can spread infection.

Keeping the bewitching holiday hands-free is the best solution. Stay away from having children select their treats from a bowl or container of any kind. A special treat for safety and parents’ peace of mind would be to setup a sanitizing station.

Some ideas to consider are to place wrapped and bagged treats on the porch steps or on a table in the driveway. If you leave the treats without being there, place a sign asking children to only take one.

The Health Department recommends to be creative and hang bags of treats on a fence or a wall. Some homes are creating candy slides from PVC pipe that allows them to be six feet away and slide the candy to the kids.

The Health Department says to always wear a face covering and to stay six feet from people who are not from your household. However, face coverings should never be placed on children younger than two or anyone who cannot easily remove them.

Some safety practices:

• Stay home if you are sick.

• Sanitize hands frequently.

• Limit the number of houses for trick or treating.

• Ask children to stay away from others as much as possible.

• Allow children to eat only the factory wrapped treats.

• Avoid treats made by strangers.

• Be considerate of those in your household who might be at great risk for Covid-19 complications.

The Ohio Department of Health strongly recommends not taking hayrides, going to haunted houses and attending trunk or treat events. It also recommends that communities cancel such events.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), trick or treating with treats being handed to children going door-to-door is a high-risk activity and should be avoided. More creative suggestions than traditional trick or treat is holding a drive by costume or car decoration contest with judges who are physically distanced. Leaving treats for friends and neighbors, carving pumpkins with family members of your household, and displaying them or carving and decorating them outdoors at a safe distance with neighbors or friends can and to the fun.

Hide some treats outside like an Easter egg hunt only with safe Halloween treats can be fun for the kids in the family or distancing with friends. A safe scavenger hunt with your family walking the neighborhood with a list of items to find is a way to have fun and be safe. Host an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends and people spaced at least six feet apart. Of course, sometimes those movies could make you scream so the CDC suggests social distancing or to wear a mask – which could also help keep your face stay warm if outdoors. 

Keep in mind, however, that a costume mask is not a replacement 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 the nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face. Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask as it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe.  Consider a Halloween-themed mask in place of a costume mask.

It is also advised to carry hand sanitizer and use it often. Especially, if touching surfaces and eating candy.

Some other suggested precautions are to wipe off candy wrappers with sanitizing wipes when arriving home and to never wipe unpackaged food items with wipes. Allow children to eat only factory wrapped treats.

It is recommended to reach out to neighbors and make a plan and to find safer suggested things to do with the children or talk about how to keep the six-foot distance with activities work.

For those preparing goodie bags, they are encouraged to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before preparing treat bags.

For more information, visit: https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/static/responsible/celebrating-halloween.pdf, or call the COVID-19 call line at 330-926-5795. The call center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.