Stick to your own pod, your own yard or your own candy — and you can still have a frightfully good time

By Stephanie Emma Pfeffer
September 24, 2020 10:55 AM
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On Tuesday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided general guidelines for celebrating Halloween amid the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Included on the list of low-risk activities are virtual costume contests, scary family movie nights and outdoor scavenger hunts where kids look at Halloween decorations from afar.

Moderate-risk activities include one-way trick-or-treating (grab-and-go goodie bags lined up at the end of a driveway); small, socially distanced open-air costume parades; and outdoor parties where people remain six feet apart and wear protective masks. (Costume masks should not be substituted for cloth masks.)

Traditional trick-or treating, crowded indoor costume parties and indoor haunted houses — especially where screaming may be involved— are considered high risk.

“Overall, the CDC guidelines make good sense," Dr. Shawn S. Nasseri, an ear, nose and throat specialist that trained at the Mayo Clinic, tells PEOPLE. "They are based on intelligent considerations broken down by how much you want to expose your children."

One of the recommendations he's not keen on — especially when it comes to kids — is the costume party idea. "Keeping young children socially distanced and in a mask is not practical," he says.

"If it is a small group where everyone is in a similar pod it is a lower risk," he continues. "Otherwise it becomes a high risk, because the reality is that even at outdoor costume parties, it's hard to prevent children from getting in close proximity of each other. They aren’t used to playing or running around in masks, so they are constantly adjusting their masks and fidgeting with their costumes, which can lead to the high-risk activity of touching their faces.”

As for door-to-door trick-or-treating? Dr. Nasseri agrees that it should be avoided.  “Going house to house and allowing people to hand out individual candies increases the risk of Covid exposure exponentially, even in lower case areas."

But he did have a suggestion for how parents can make kids happy.

“If you still want to trick-or-treat, we suggest taking your children out in a low-traffic neighborhood or only visiting houses in your pod, and letting them go to the yard —not the door — to enjoy the decorations."

The key here is not to let candy switch hands. That's right: BYO Candy. "You should bring along a bag with the kids' favorite candies and put them in their bag at each house. This allows them to go trick-or-treating while not being in contact with any neighbors, since all candy they receive will come directly from your home."

While Dr. Nasseri encourages everyone to keep activities in mind based on their community and local case count, "The main takeaway is to not be in large crowds or crowded streets, as kids will inevitably remove masks."