While many celebrations have been canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, there’s hope that Halloween will still be observed with traditional trick-or-treating.
“As far as this moment in time, Halloween’s still on in New Jersey,” Gov. Phil Murphy told NJ Advance Media at an event in Paterson. The governor’s office clarified that this includes trick-or-treating.
Of course, parents should expect some changes to the usual door-to-door candy collecting. “Obviously, it’s not gonna be a normal Halloween,” Murphy said. “We’re gonna have to do things very carefully. I’m sure we’re gonna have protocols that we’ll come to. And God willing, the virus stays under control.”
The governor did not specify what those protocols will be, but we can assume it will involve mask-wearing (and not just the Gremlins kind) and social distancing.
The biggest concern seems to lie not in accepting candy from neighbors but rather in big groups of friends getting together for an extended period of time to trick-or-treat. To minimize the risk, parents should limit the number of friends kids trick-or-treat with.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that the most significant risk of getting sick this Halloween hinges on who you’re actually trick-or-treating with,” says Dr. Amna Husain, a board-certified pediatrician and founder of Pure Direct Pediatrics in Marlboro. “Close contact is defined as those who are within six feet of you for more than 10 to 15 minutes. It is best to keep your group small–3-4 people–wear a mask and bring hand sanitizer.”
Keep interactions at each door spaced six feet apart and quick. When it comes to the actual candy, we know that the risk of contracting COVID from an object is much lower than from respiratory droplets. Experts agree it is not necessary to sanitize each individual piece of candy. Instead, use hand sanitizer and have your kids wash their hands when they get home.
It’s also important to tell your kids not to root around in a candy bowl.
“Children shouldn’t be digging around a candy bowl, touching multiple pieces,” says Dr. Husain. “Ask them to choose one and stick with it. And while it’s hard to ask kids not to run around the street, you should ask them to stay as far away from people outside of your household, to continue to do social distancing even outside.”
“Limiting face-to-face exposure with others and the number of individuals who you have contact with is more important,” she says. “That might mean you visit fewer homes than you usually do on previous Halloweens.”
If you’re planning to hand out candy, make sure to wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth and limit interactions with trick-or-treaters. Opting to put out a candy bowl is also a totally legit option (with a sign that says take one or two pieces, of course!).
Husain also warns parents against big Halloween parties. “I would certainly be very cautious of this and limit groups and certainly recommend outdoor over indoor gatherings as much as possible,” she says. “Try to remember to encourage your child not to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth and keep their masks on. “
By following some commonsense rules, kids can stop the spread while still having some spooky fun.