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Halloween During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Advice from an Epidemiologist


Of all the Halloween activities you can do, trick-or-treating is one of the lower risk ones, but it’s not completely risk free when it comes to COVID-19. 

There are somethings you can do help keep you and trick or treaters safe.

“I think for once epidemiologists have good news about trick-or-treating.  The CDC has said that traditional, standard trick-or-treating is high risk but it’s really is to adapt trick-or-treat to be low risk, because it’s already outside. The contact you have with other people is really short. Really all we need to do is be wearing masks and keep our hands clean. And do what we can to keep our distance from the people that are trick-or-treating," said Malia Jones. Jones is an epidemiologist and an associate scientist for UW Madison in the Applied Population Lab.

Jones said things like using a grabber or tubes to hand out candy can help create distance between you and the trick-or-treaters.

Don’t let kids pick their own treats from the bowl, you want as few as hands touching it as possible.

She also said parents shouldn’t worry too much about wiping down candy wrappers.

Credit CDC

“We still have not seen very good evidence that the virus is often transmitted on surfaces and we’ve never confirmed a case that was transmitted through eating food," said Jones. "So I think just having your hands clean is enough here. You don’t really need to wipe off every candy with bleach, just make sure your kids wash their hands.”

While things like trick-or-treating are a low-risk activity, having a large party inside if a very high-risk activity.

“The idea of people having a crowded, drunken, indoor costume party really is scary. That’s exactly the kind of situation that we have seen the super spreader event happening. I would strongly advise against going to any kind of or hosting any kind of indoor party or going to a bar indoors for Halloween night," said Jones.

She reccomends any get togethers be small, short and outdoors. 

Jones also urges people to be cautious when planning for other upcoming holidays.

Visiting family for Thanksgiving or Christmas could also be high risk.

Jones says people should assumed they’ll bring COVID-19 into the house of whoever they’re visiting. She compared it to having a deadly allergy to bee stings.

“Do we ask ourselves, 'Is there really going to be a bee when I go hiking or really what are the chances that I’ll die?' We don’t do any of that. We just take our EpiPen and plan for that unlikely, but totally possible, devastating scenario," said Jones.

If people do decide to get together, Jones recommends everyone wears masks and to keep the gathering small and short.

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