Nursing & Healthcare News

A Pandemic Halloween

Costumes? Trick-or-treating? How to celebrate safely

Four girls are smiling with different monster masks. Each one is in front of a different background color and with a different costume on.

Will COVID-19 make Halloween extra scary this year? Here’s a rundown of current official guidance in Southern California.

Trick or Treat?

If you have kids, you may need to find ways to celebrate Halloween that don’t include trick-or-treating. As of this writing, no local counties are expressly prohibiting trick-or-treating (L.A. County announced and then hastily withdrew a ban in early September), but many local officials and the CDC advise against it.

The official San Bernardino County guidance urges “extreme caution,” but offers suggestions for minimizing the risks, including recommending that people who want to give candy use tongs to handle prewrapped treats and create a “candy slide” to distribute candy without touching it.

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The guidance also reiterates the importance of hand hygiene, masks and social distancing while trick-or-treating or giving out candy.

Inherently Risky

Orange County hadn’t yet issued official guidance as of press time, but L.A. and Ventura County health officials are not sanguine about trick-or-treating safely.

L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, Ph.D., MPH, M.Ed., declares, “We don’t think it’s an appropriate activity during a pandemic.”

Ferrer says sharing food, even prepackaged candy or treat bags, is inherently risky. So activities like “trunk-or-treating” (where kids take goodies from the trunk of a car) aren’t necessarily safer than going door-to-door.

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Party Off

In-person parties or gatherings involving multiple households are still prohibited statewide, and amusement parks and haunted house attractions remain closed. Some drive-in events are still allowed, as are Halloween events at outdoor restaurants. However, your safest bet is an online costume party, a social media pumpkin-carving contest or a scary movie night for your family or quarantine pod.

As for Halloween costumes, the CDC warns that a costume mask “is not a substitute for a cloth mask … [and] 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.”

They also caution against combining cloth masks with costume masks that restrict breathing.

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