By SMH Digital Communications Specialist Ann Key
Who’s ready for Halloween 2020?!
You know, the one that coincides with a full moon, daylight savings time ending and a global pandemic?! (At least it’s finally on a Saturday!)
All kidding aside, this “unprecedented” Hallows Eve is certainly one to celebrate — SAFELY.
With COVID-19 a continued concern in our area, Halloween activities and family traditions will look a little different this year.
Traditional trick-or-treating is considered a high-risk activity for COVID-19 infection — one that should be avoided this year, according to Dr. Manuel Gordillo, who leads Sarasota Memorial’s infectious disease department and has been on Sarasota’s COVID frontlines since Day 1.
But you can still make the holiday special and frightfully fun. Get inspired, be creative and find a way to enjoy Halloween that doesn’t put you, your family or our community at risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.
Check out “Safer Ways to Celebrate” below for suggested alternatives to trick-or-treating.
“This year is a good opportunity to try different Halloween activities with the family, instead of trick-or-treating,” said First Physicians Group Pediatrician Jose Tavarez, MD. “The safest place to celebrate is your home!”
Anyone venturing out for Halloween should continue to follow the same common-sense COVID-19 precautions that health experts have urged since the early days of the pandemic:
- Wear a face covering.
- Avoid crowds.
- Stick to outdoor activities.
- Keep proper physical distance (6 feet+).
- Use hand sanitizer frequently; wash hands as soon as you get home — or sooner, if possible.
- Wipe down candy, toys and other Halloween loot before handling, when surface transmission is a concern.
And if your family chooses to round the neighborhood for trick-or-treating or decides to hand out treats from home, use the “Safer Trick-or-Treating” guidelines below to reduce your risk of getting being exposed to the virus.
First and foremost, if you’re not feeling well, STAY HOME. If anyone in your household is high risk for severe COVID-19, stay home, and choose a safer way to celebrate (see below).
Wear a cloth face covering. There are many fun ways to incorporate a face mask into a costume or to customize it to coordinate. Remember: Masks should not be worn by children under 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing. Retail costume masks do not replace a cloth face covering, nor should they be combined with one.
Use hand sanitizer frequently, and wash hands as often as possible. Wait to sample candy until you can wash your hands well. If young ghouls or goblins simply cannot wait to sample their stash, ensure that they sanitize hands before AND after popping a treat into their mouth.
Avoid crowds or direct contact with those outside your group. You’re more likely to get or spread COVID-19 or the flu when you are in close contact with others for an extended time (more than 10 to 15 minutes). Avoid the high-traffic streets and don’t crowd in front of houses; have your little witches and wizards wait for the crowd to clear before approaching. Have children use plastic, tong-like grabbers to accept treats in a fun, low-contact way.
Skip going door-to-door. Visit only those homes that are dishing out the tricks and treats outdoors — from the driveway or curbside. Plan to visit fewer houses than usual to reduce the number of people you’re in contact with; consider trick-or-treating only at the homes on your street or the families you know well.
Set up a trick-or-treat station curbside or in your driveway, instead of meeting trick-or-treaters at your door. If possible, hand out individual treat bags or non-edible treats, such as stickers, pencils or small toys. Have an adult pass out the treats, rather than having dozens of kids reach into a bowl of candy, which would greatly increase the risk of COVID-19 spreading. Get creative and devise a way you can pass out the candy from a safer distance, like a DIY candy chute or by using long grilling tongs or plastic, tong-like grabbers. Have hand sanitizer available for visitors.
For more Halloween 2020 safety tips and ideas, visit the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online COVID-19 guide or the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website.
Safer Ways to Celebrate
Health experts recommend skipping traditional trick-or-treating and avoiding packed Halloween parties this year. Here are a few ideas for festive alternatives your crew will enjoy.
Roadtrip. Attend a drive-in scary movie or a drive-through Halloween event, like those being hosted by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office (Oct. 30) or the Sarasota High School Theatre group (Oct. 29).
Make it movie night. Have household members dress as their favorite characters, then watch scary (or kid-friendly) Halloween movies. Or invite a few friends and take movie night outdoors; use a projector to show holiday-themed flicks onto your fence or a sheet.
Get creative in the kitchen. Make Halloween-themed meals, candy or other treats with the kids. A quick online search will turn up dozens of easy recipes, and check out this Healthe-Recipe for Spooky Toast.
Get creative with pumpkins. Carve and/or decorate pumpkins with your household. Make it a friendly contest. If you have a spacious outdoor area, invite neighbors and friends to join in the socially distant fun. Remember: Young children should never carve pumpkins; instead, encourage them to draw a jack-o-lantern face using non-toxic markers, and then parents can do the carving.
Go hunting. Organize a themed “treat hunt” (like a spookier version of an Easter egg hunt) or an indoor scavenger hunt for Halloween-themed items around the house.
Go virtual. Host an online costume party or costume contest with friends and family via group video chat.
Have any other creative, safe ways to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve? Let us know so we can share it on social media! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries among children on Halloween.
- Remind trick-or-treaters to stick to well-lit streets, always use the sidewalks, and cross streets at corners using traffic signals and crosswalks. Be alert to cars that are turning or backing up.
- If you’re driving on Halloween, be especially alert in residential areas. Children are excited—and likely fueled by sugar—and they may move in unpredictable ways. Drive slowly and anticipate heavy foot traffic, especially from 5:30 to 9:30 pm.
For more Halloween safety reminders from SMH Trauma Program Coordinator Leeann Putney, click here.
Sarasota Memorial Digital Communications Specialist Ann Key manages the health system's Healthe-Matters blog and digital newsletter, as well as its social media and other wellness content channels. Have a health question or a wellness topic you'd like a local expert to weigh in on, let her know: Send an email to email@example.com.