‘If Screaming Will Occur, Greater Social Distancing Advised’

Local and federal health agencies across the U.S. have issued Halloween and trick-or-treating safety guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which suggest everything from duct taping driveways to maintain distance and pre-packaged candy bowls.

a group of people standing next to a person: People visit Mr. Jack O'Lanterns Pumpkin Patch on October 04, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

© AMY SUSSMAN / Staff/Getty Images
People visit Mr. Jack O’Lanterns Pumpkin Patch on October 04, 2020 in Los Angeles, California.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Monday acknowledged that “Halloween is more than just a fun activity, but a real tradition” for many Americans, but said the fall festivities should ensure “everyone does that safely and responsibly.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued guidelines which label high, low and moderate-risk activities for families and kids who will be seeking candy door-to-door or headed to pumpkin patches and orchards. Social distancing while trick-or-treating and avoiding packed holiday parties are among the recommendations from local health agencies nationwide.

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A child’s ability to breathe under both a Halloween mask and a cloth mask are among the concerns addressed within the typical fall traditions.

“Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask,” the CDC said of costume parties. “If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.”

Trick-or-treating in which “treats are handed directly to children go door-to-door” are among the “higher risk activities,” according to the federal health agency. Instead, the CDC recommends “individually wrapped goodie bags” that can be picked up at the end of a homeowner’s driveway or front yard.

In Michigan, the Saginaw County Health Department on Sunday urged participating homeowners to “use duct tape to mark six-foot lines in front of your home and leading to your driveway/front door.” If people insist on handing out candy, the local health agency suggested placing a disinfected distribution table between yourself and the trick-or-treaters.

“Do not allow children to reach into containers to get their candy/treats,” the Saginaw guidelines add.

In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the director of the Department of Health, Dr. David Damsker, offered several tips to the Yardley, Pa., Patch website: “avoid being within six feet of people outside your household for more than 15 consecutive minutes. Anyone handing out candy should be wearing a face covering and, if possible, remain outside” the home.

“A costume mask does not count as it does not provide the necessary level of protection,” cautioned New Jersey Governor Murphy, in statements released Monday. The annual October 31 holiday falls on Saturday this year.

Even candy makers including Hershey and Mars. Inc. and Mondelez International have offered advice to parents and kids on how to remain safe this Halloween. Each company said they expect online sales to be much higher this year and told KSAT-TV Monday they made changes to packaging and released products earlier to give people more time to buy. A Hershey representative advised people to keep trick-or-treating outdoors, rather than participating in indoor gatherings.

AirBnB, the property rental app, banned one-night reservations over the Halloween weekend in order to help curb any potential holiday parties.

The CDC said many traditional Halloween activities can be very high-risk for spreading viruses, not just coronavirus. They urged anyone who has been exposed to or previously diagnosed with COVID-19 to “not participate in in-person Halloween festivities,” particularly the handing out of candy.

Hay rides, tractor rides, indoor haunted houses and crowded costume parties were among the CDC’s activities deemed of the highest risk.

Newsweek reached out to the CDC and several local health agencies for additional recommendations Monday afternoon but did not receive replies before publication.

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