Christine Hartford, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician and assistant professor of clinical sciences at NYITCOM-Arkansas, warns of the dangers of trick-or-treating during the pandemic and what people need to do to stay safe and healthy.
I love this time of year. Not only because the temperature starts to trend down, the humidity breaks and the leaves begin to change color, but also because it is the start of what is typically several weeks filled with fun activities and celebration.
Halloween kicks it off and Thanksgiving is not far behind, followed by Christmas and New Year’s Day. But this is not a typical year. This year we are in the middle of a pandemic. What does that mean for these weeks that are normally filled with parties and family get-togethers? It means that this year is going to be different. It means that this year must be different.
To say we are in the middle of a pandemic doesn’t tell the full story. The first case of COVID-19 arrived in Arkansas over seven months ago, but rather than seeing the end in sight, we are now facing an upswing. Cases are increasing again in the United States. This past weekend, we hit almost 70,000 cases in one day, a number our country has not seen since July.
Before we know it, we will not only be dealing with COVID-19, but influenza will be here as well. This brings the potential for individuals to become infected with both viruses at the same time, something we have yet to experience, but the prospect of which is most certainly concerning. It also brings the potential for our health care system to become overwhelmed.
Right now is the time to buckle down. We should have done it weeks ago. Months ago. But we did not. Let’s not make that mistake again. If we do, we will most certainly regret it.
Halloween is just over a week away and many parents are trying to decide how to celebrate. Is trick-or-treating ok? What about Halloween parties and haunted houses? The temptation to carry on as usual, to attend the parties and go trick-or-treating, is there. Please don’t.
If you want this pandemic to come to an end, if you want to protect your family the best you can, please don’t carry on as usual. We know that gatherings of family and friends have been the source of many COVID-19 outbreaks. When we are amongst family and friends, we often assume we are safe, and we tend to let our guard down. But we can’t.
The virus does not care if you are family. The virus infects indiscriminately and easily. With Halloween approaching, avoid the tendency to carry on as usual. Buckle down and chose ways of celebrating that are safe. It may take thinking outside the box, it may take creativity, it may take being positive in a way that you never have been before, but it is possible.
Avoid congregating. Avoid indoor parties. Avoid situations in which there is not social distancing of at least six feet.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics both offer suggestions for safe activities that will allow our children to enjoy Halloween safely. These include virtual costume contests, Halloween-themed movie nights within your own household, and outdoor activities such as scavenger hunts, costume parades, and pumpkin patches where social distancing is enforced, to name just a few.
If trick-or-treating is allowed in your community and you choose to participate, make sure to avoid clustering with other groups, diligently maintain six feet of social distancing, make sure everyone in your group wears a cloth face mask and uses hand sanitizer frequently.
Remember that a costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth face covering. It’s ideal to find a way to incorporate the cloth face covering as part of the costume. If you chose to hand out candy from your home, consider prepackaging the candy in small bags, sit outdoors, and wash or sanitize your hands prior to handling the treats.
It is going to be hard. So many families have missed out on what should have been some very special occasions over recent months. Graduations, proms, and birthdays, just to name a few. This has been especially difficult for our children.
So how do we now say to them that this time of year, a time that they look forward to with anticipation, is going to be different? How do we add more items to the list of things they’ve missed out on?
We do it because we have to. But we do it in a way that models for our children how to be responsible, how to be resilient, and how to make the best of a difficult situation.