Here’s What You Need to Know If You’re Celebrating Halloween in Sugar Land
By: Dr. Joe Anzaldua, MD, Local Health Authority, City of Sugar Land
Halloween festivities are just around the corner and the question is: Trick or treat, or stay home? Given our current situation with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, this Halloween may seem a little different -- and for good reason. I know there may be parents who would prefer their kids not participate in trick-or-treating this year. Understandable. But I also know there are those who want their children to be part of this tradition.
The good news is our local county officials have lowered our community risk for coronavirus transmission, indicating there has been improvement with containment and mitigation of viral transmission. At least in our community, I think it’s OK to indulge in this time-honored American tradition, but with some important considerations and caveats.
We should all remember, however, that our Texas state officials are still recommending limiting social gatherings and encouraging social distancing whenever and wherever possible, as well as donning a properly worn face mask covering the nose and mouth.
Social gatherings in a party setting present a real challenge because people are mingling about as well as eathing and drinking. This makes social distancing and wearing a face mask quite difficult if not impossible. For this reason, I strongly discourage social gatherings that involve more than 10 people.
You may wish to consider taking a pass on a Halloween party this year, but if you don't:
- Again, I would strongly encourage indoor parties be limited to 10 people or fewer, as this would allow for better social distancing - this is especially true if there will be non-household guests in attendance
- For indoor parties, please ensure adequate space and ventilation.
- Individuals 65 years and older and/or those with medical conditions that may predispose them to COVID-19 illness should be discouraged from attending such social gatherings
- And above all, PLEASE stay home if you are feeling ill, whatever the symptoms!
For those hosting parties, show your guests that you care about their safety:
- Please have hand hygiene supplies such as hand sanitizer or soap readily available
- Have extra face masks on hand
- I don’t think wearing gloves is necessary, unless it’s part of your costume or you are specifically instructed to do so. They really don’t do much in terms of prevention and may even spread germs. Hand hygiene and avoiding touching your face is a much better idea
- Keep food and beverages covered such as closed-lid bins or sneeze-guards
As far as indoor parties for the kids, I would discourage it – this year anyway. As any parent will tell you, it is really hard to manage a bunch of excited children full of energy and enforce social distancing!
Alternative to indoor parties to consider include:
- Consider neighborhood parades, trunk-or-treating, reverse trick-or-treating. Information and suggestions are readily available on the web.
- Hosting an online party (Zoom) is a great idea and trendy option.
I remember those days! How much fun we had as children, but also as parents taking our own kids trick-or-treating. I’m sure that many share those same sentiments. I think trick-or-treating can be fun, but this year we must all take extra precautions for the safety and well-being of our family, our neighbors and our community!
- Above all, please practice social distancing and correctly wear a face mask, covering nose and mouth! Most young trick-or-treaters able to walk independently can and should wear a mask – even outdoors! Face masks become even more important if 6-feet social distancing can’t be avoided. Parents, this includes you, too!
- Be creative! Make the face mask part of the costume.
- A lot of Halloween plastic masks have holes in them. Safety face masks can easily be placed underneath to meet CDC guidelines. Please make sure your child is not complaining about difficulty breathing. Better yet, try doing without the plastic masks altogether and go with a Halloween-themed face mask.
- Try and keep your trick-or-treat group as small as possible. Keep the group socially distant from other groups. A group of three to four kids can easily be managed with respect to physical distancing.
- Please have your group wait in line until the group before you has safely passed to the next house. Avoid cross traffic as much as possible.
- Parents, please bring along hand sanitizer and tissue wipes.
- Encourage kids not to touch outdoor/front yard Halloween props, doors, door knobs or other frequently touched surfaces.
- This year, I recommend leaving Halloween props such as toy swords, light sabers, crowns, tiaras at home.
For those generous homes that will be passing out treats:
- Please correctly wear a face mask (covering nose and mouth)! No doubt this will be appreciated by all the adults managing trick-or-treaters. Again, I do not think wearing gloves are necessary, unless specifically instructed to do so. It is my assertion that this is just another potential source of surface contamination – but please practice hand hygiene frequently and avoid touching your face (eyes, nose, mouth)
- This year, I would not recommend leaving a bowl of treats out by the front door or patio, as this encourages many little eager hands to touch the container and the candies therein. Kids reaching into a communal bowl should be avoided if at all possible
- If the decision is made to hand out candy, please designate one responsible adult (at a time) to do this, respecting the need for wearing a face mask, frequent hand hygiene and avoiding touching the face (eyes, nose, mouth).
- As an alternative, consider grouping treats in grab-n-go party bags so that each trick-or-treater can take one.
- And remember to disinfect any doorknobs, doorbells, or any frequently touched surfaces outside your home, once the Halloween festivities are over.
One other thing…
I think it is reasonably safe to eat candy that has been scored throughout the Halloween evening, but please have the kiddos hold off until they get home, wash their hands, and only after adults have inspected the treats.
All treats should be individually wrapped by the manufacturer. Although it is true that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) can last up to three days on such surfaces, please know that current data suggests that viral transmission remains low.
If parents are not comfortable or satisfied with this, then I would suggest buying the kids candy to hand out at the end of their evening as a reward for all their effort. The candy procured throughout the evening from other homes can be stashed away for three days and then safely handed out after that.
Dr. Joe Anzaldua, MD is the local health authority for the City of Sugar Land.