With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, and case numbers rising in Ohio, health officials are encouraging caution with Halloween events planned this week.
Bethany Wachter, health communications specialist for the Henry County Health Department, said, first and foremost, do not go trick or treating or hand out candy if you are feeling unwell. Wearing face masks, using hand sanitizer and washing hands frequently are also encouraged.
For those trick-or-treating, Wachter recommended going only with immediate household members and staying at least six feet away from other families.
“Don’t go with a big group, really stick to your family unit,” she said.
Cloth face masks should be worn at all times, and Wachter noted a costume mask is not a substitute for a face mask.
“It has to have that two layers of fabric in front of the nose and mouth,” she said. “We’re encouraging using a Halloween-themed (face) mask, maybe get something that’s similar to your child’s outfit.”
Frequent use of hand sanitizers is important, and Wachter said hands should be thoroughly washed before eating any candy.
“You might also consider wiping off the candy wrappers with a sanitizing wipe,” she said.
For those handing out candy, face masks should be worn and it’s recommended to avoid having children select their own treats from a bowl or common container. If that is done, hand sanitizer should be available to use. An alternative could be to place treats on porch steps or a table in a driveway.
“You could also prepare goodie bags,” Wachter said, adding there’s been a few creative alternatives featured in online videos that include making a candy slide of PVC pipe to encourage social distancing. “You can also have fun with it, too.”
With the rise in popularity of trunk-or-treat events, social distancing and distance between vehicles is key for a safe event.
“Try to do one-way traffic if you can rather than having a big circle,” Wachter said, adding pre-registration or limiting the number of participants at one time could also help control the number of kids in that area.
Other alternatives could also include hiding treats on the family’s property and house and hunting for them or having fun putting up decorations.
Overall, Wachter added those who are at higher risk from COVID-19 should consider not trick-or-treating or handing out treats.
“We’d rather have you miss one Halloween this year, then miss a bunch of Halloweens,” she said.
In addition to the extra precautions for COVID-19, Wachter said it’s also important to remember other guidance, including not drinking or driving and being watchful of trick-or-treaters while driving.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is recommending hayrides and haunted houses be avoided or canceled; not hosting large in-person Halloween parties (10 or fewer people are recommended in an outdoor area where social distancing is possible); and avoiding any events that involve being crowded in a small area or coming into contact with and being touched by others.
“A lot of people are getting COVID from small family gatherings, so we encourage if you want to have something small, have it outside, social distance, wear a mask,” Wachter said. “We’re really discouraging the house parties because the more people that get together, the more chance that COVID-19 is there, too.”