Avoid trick-or-treating, Halloween masks and crowded costume parties to stop Covid-19 spread: CDC
Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas may not be the same this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As people begin to plan for fall and winter holiday celebrations, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging Americans not to participate in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door during Halloween, or going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming. Attending crowded costume parties held indoors, using alcohol or drugs that can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors, or having trunk-or-treat, where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots, are other high-risk activities that the agency suggests should be avoided to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Instead, the CDC is encouraging “lower risk activities” such as carving or decorating pumpkins with members of the household and displaying them, having a virtual Halloween costume contest, organizing a Halloween movie night with people one lives with, or a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with household members in or around the home rather than going house to house. Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house, admiring Halloween decorations at a distance is also recommended.
Participating in one-way trick-or-treating, where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance, such as at the end of a driveway or the edge of a yard, and having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart, are moderate-risk activities, according to the guidelines. Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart is also categorized as a moderate risk activity.
The advisory warns that a costume mask such as that for Halloween is not a substitute for a cloth mask and should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and does not leave gaps around the face. It also cautions against wearing a costume mask over a cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, the CDC asks people to consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
The guidance lists lower-risk, moderate-risk and higher-risk activities as well as "safer and fun alternatives" to participate in festivities. It comes as the death toll crossed 200,000 in the US. Overall, for any holiday gathering or celebration, the CDC is advising people in the US to host outdoor activities rather than indoor activities as much as possible, hosting activities with only people from the local area, and limiting the number of attendees. In case of an indoor event, the advisory calls for avoiding crowded, poorly ventilated, or fully enclosed indoor spaces, besides avoiding singing, chanting, or shouting, especially when not wearing a mask and within 6 feet of others. The agency is also asking people to avoid traveling as it increases the chance of getting and spreading coronavirus.
"Fall and winter celebrations, such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Halloween, Día de los Muertos, Navratri, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and New Year’s, typically include large gatherings of families and friends, crowded parties, and travel that may put people at increased risk for Covid-19. Celebrating virtually or with members of your own household pose a low risk for spread. In-person gatherings pose varying levels of risk. Event organizers and attendees should consider the risk of virus spread based on event size and use of mitigation strategies," recommend the guidelines.
"Gatherings can contribute to the spread of other infectious diseases. Getting a flu vaccine is an essential part of protecting your health and your family’s health this season. September and October are good times to get vaccinated. However, flu vaccines are still useful any time during the flu season and can often be accessed into January or later," it explains.
The CDC, however, does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. Instead, it says that the size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability to reduce or limit contact between attendees, the risk of spread between attendees, and state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations. Gatherings with attendees who are not adhering to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask-wearing, hand washing, and practicing other prevention behaviors pose more risk than gatherings with attendees who are engaging in these preventative behaviors, it cautions. "If you are planning in-person holiday gatherings with people outside of your household, consider asking all guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering," the advisory states.
For Thanksgiving, the CDC says that staying home is the best way to protect oneself and others. Having a small dinner with only people who live in the household, preparing traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19, and delivering them in a way that does not involve contact with others, and having a virtual dinner and sharing recipes with friends and family, are some of the lower-risk activities that the agency suggests. Shopping online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving or the next Monday, and watching sports events, parades, and movies from home are other recommendations. “Avoid higher-risk activities to help prevent the spread of Covid-19 such as going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after Thanksgiving, participating or being a spectator at a crowded race, attending crowded parades, using alcohol or drugs, and attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household,” says the guidance.
Similar suggestions have been made to celebrate Día de los Muertos or the day of the dead. The CDC advises safe alternatives such as preparing traditional family recipes, playing music at home that a deceased loved one enjoyed, making and decorating masks or making an altar for the deceased, setting out pillows and blankets in your home for the deceased, and joining a virtual get-together celebration.