Published on October 28, 2021

Essentia Health urges people to have fun, stay safe this Halloween

After about 20 months of being immersed in a public health crisis that has curtailed social lives, this weekend’s Halloween holiday is a much-needed opportunity for children to get out and have some fun.

While taking precautions, of course.

Whereas a year ago trick-or-treating and other Halloween celebrations were dramatically scaled back because of the COVID-19 pandemic — and because vaccines were not yet available — there is more flexibility this time around. Health experts continue to urge caution, however.

“We’re not done with the pandemic quite yet,” said Dr. Dhilhan Marasinghe, a pediatrician at Essentia Health. “Hopefully next year we’ll be back to celebrating holidays like Halloween the way we’ve become accustomed to, but for now we still must be cognizant of the virus and make sure we’re not engaging in high-risk activities.”

Dr. Marasinghe wants kids and adults alike to have fun and be safe. Though the situation isn’t as spooky this fall, COVID-19 is still spreading aggressively throughout our communities. While it may not be necessary to wear a mask if you’re fully vaccinated and trick-or-treating outside, the advice changes if your event is indoors and/or you’re not vaccinated. Outdoor activities are preferred. Avoid large gatherings whenever possible — especially if they’re being held inside. If you’re attending or hosting an indoor event, keep it small, encourage social distancing and allow for improved ventilation via open windows. Provide ample hand sanitizer. If you’re not feeling well, stay home.

“Collectively, mitigation measures such as these will help us reduce the risk of spreading COVID,” Dr. Marasinghe said. “Especially at a time when our hospitals’ resources are already strained, any steps people can take to limit their risk of exposure and, potentially, hospitalization, it is very much appreciated.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers the following recommendations for a safe Halloween:

  • Here’s the biggie: Keep outside whenever possible, whether it’s trick-or-treating, a costume party or other community event. Transmission of COVID is greatly reduced outdoors compared to poorly ventilated indoor spaces. So instead of a haunted house, the AAP says to consider a haunted forest or corn maze. Similarly, pumpkin patches and apple orchards are safe alternatives to traditional Halloween celebrations. If your children are going to be indoors, everyone should wear face masks and social distancing should be practiced.
  • Remember: Nobody under the age of 12 is vaccinated against COVID, leaving them vulnerable to the virus, especially the highly contagious delta variant.
  • Make the face mask part of the costume — IE, surgeon. A costume mask is not a substitute for a mask with multiple layers of breathable fabric or a surgical-style mask, which snugly cover the mouth and nose. Likewise, don’t wear a costume mask over a COVID mask because it may inhibit breathing.
  • Trick-or-treating is best done in small groups.
  • If you’re giving out treats, you might sit outside and set up individually packaged treats that children can grab on their own. Make hand sanitizer available, as well.
  • Before digging into their gaggle of goodies, children should thoroughly wash their hands.
  • The AAP also has these suggestions for family fun nights: pumpkin decorating; costumed movie night; Halloween-themed treats such as decorating a pizza with toppings in the shape of a jack-o’-lantern; a haunted scavenger hunt in your home or yard.

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