How to keep Halloween happy — and safe

Holiday activities can still happen, but will likely need to look different

Paul Albani-Burgio
palbaniburgio@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 10/20/20

In a year that has already offered far too many tricks and too few treats, Halloween looms like a rotting jack-o’-lantern left out a week too long. What has traditionally been a time of …

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How to keep Halloween happy — and safe

Holiday activities can still happen, but will likely need to look different

Posted

In a year that has already offered far too many tricks and too few treats, Halloween looms like a rotting jack-o’-lantern left out a week too long.

What has traditionally been a time of anticipation, fun, and friendly seasonal spookiness is now a source of uncertainty, worry and perhaps fear as people bemoan the potential loss of another cherished ritual and wonder whether trick-or-treating and other festivities can be safe and sensible this year (and what they will tell their kids if they aren’t).

Into the witchy brew that is a tired nation wondering whether haunted houses and candy corn will be the next casualties of the COVID-19 horror show (and all just before Election Day 2020, no less) have stepped several local medical experts who say that Halloween fun is still possible, but warn that it will require an adjustment in expectations and more pre-planning and flexibility than in a typical year.

“It can be a little different this year for Halloween 2020 but it can still be fun,” said Chris Nyquist, the Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Control at Children’s Hospital Colorado. “And planning ahead is really important.”

During a virtual press conference on Halloween safety, Nyquist offered several ideas for how area families can modify trick-or-treating to make it into a safer activity with a focus on reducing the amount of contact kids and their families would have with other people as they trick-or-treat.

Those ideas include communicating with neighbors ahead of time around hygiene practices and making a plan to limit trick-or-treating to those neighbors who have agreed to follow safe distancing and hygiene practices.

“It’s that creativity that kids love with the whole idea of Halloween and what it means to them,” said Nyquist. “Is there a way to have a large tube that the candy comes down and they catch the candy so we can keep a safe distance?’

Rachel Herlihy, the state epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, said families whose children are participating in school or home-learning pods or cohorts could also coordinate together for celebrations that would reduce risk because those kids have already been exposed to one another.

Herlihy said her own 9-year-old daughter will be participating in such a celebration with parents heading to a local park to hide candy for their kids to find.

“It’s going to be a cross between Easter and Halloween with a Halloween candy hunt in the park and then we will spend some time in our yard having a little bit of a celebration afterwards with just the small group of kids she is routinely in contact with,” said Herlihy.

Trick-or-treating isn’t the only Halloween activity that will require some rethinking to be done safely this year.

Tips from a pro

Eric France, the chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said those planning to organize Halloween parties or visit haunted attractions or corn mazes should consider public health guidelines and how to reduce the spread.

“We want to focus on doing as many activities outdoors as possible,” said France. “Pumpkin patches, corn mazes, we know how to do these things in the safe way. Haunted houses might need to be transformed into haunted forests or other outdoor events as possible.”

Those organizing such events should also utilize strategies to implement one directional flow of participants and encourage mask wearing, he said.

Although most indoor haunted houses in the metro area are on hiatus this year, The 13th Floor in Commerce City is open after implementing several procedures and protocols intended to increase safety.

The owners of the 13th Floor declined to be interviewed for this story and instead directed Colorado Community Media to their Scary Safe webpage, which details precautions ranging from limited attendance to requiring payments be made with credit cards.

“The nature of a haunted house is all about physical distancing; it always has been, it’s what we do normally,” reads a statement on the website. “The attractions are linear and very seldom would you ever come within 6 feet of other patrons. We do everything we can to make you feel ‘alone.’ But this year, we’re going above and beyond our normally safe and distanced methods of operation, and taking it to the next level.”

Check in advance

Regardless of whether one plans on attending a family gathering or a pumpkin patch, France recommended getting in touch with the organizers to find out what precautions will be taken.

France said Colorado residents should also consider where their counties rate on the state’s new COVID dial when planning activities — and said the decision about what is safe should depend in part on where counties fall.

For example, those who live in communities rated as “high risk” should consider activities like a costume parade with predetermined routes to ensure safe distancing is maintained between participants or a driving tour of yard decorations while a small get-together of family or close friends could be doable in counties that are on safer-at-home level 1.

“Our approach to celebration should really be tuned into the dial,” said France.

Ideas for safe activities for each phase of the dial can be found at covid19.colorado.gov/halloween-tips-and-tricks. Residents can view their county’s level at covid19.colorado.gov/data/covid-19-dial/covid-19-dial-dashboard.

But regardless of where a county falls on the dial, France said it is important for those celebrating Halloween to follow basic health guidelines, such as wearing masks, frequently washing hands and not participating in any social activities if one is sick.

halloween, COVID-19,

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