Here’s a scary thought: cases of the COVID-19 infections are rising (again) and the United States is heading towards what experts are warning is the third peak in new coronavirus cases. In other words, social distancing precautions — wearing a mask, staying six feet apart, and avoiding indoor gatherings — aren’t going to magically disappear in time for your Halloween party.
“Nothing has changed about safety precautions during this pandemic,” says Mariea Snell, assistant director of the Online Doctor of Nursing Practice program at Maryville University. “I think that people will have a hard time following the guidelines as we get near these holidays — the pressure of wanting to keep traditions along with pandemic fatigue contribute to this.” But that doesn’t mean we don’t still need to keep our masks on.
Luckily, the spooky season was made for masks (and creativity). Here’s everything you need to know about how to celebrate Halloween safely this year — because the only thing scary about October 31, should be how much candy you bring home from the grocery store.
What the experts recommend
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses.” The bottom line: packing all your friends into your place to bob for candy apples or piling into a crowded bar to listen to “Monster Mash” just aren’t in the cards this year. “The risk of spreading the virus is too great in these types of situations,” says Snell.
Carve out a pumpkin, and fill it with mini sanitizer bottles to help keep your guests safe.
But even other activities like going to a haunted house or trick or treating, aren’t advisable this year, according to many experts. (Think about it: Millions of people going from house to house, coming into contact with dozens of people in one evening? It’s a viral nightmare.) That’s why the CDC is advising against trick or treating and any other Halloween gatherings this year.
If you’re going to celebrate in person, make sure it’s safe
If you’re determined to show off your Tiger King costume IRL this year, “having a party outside with masks would be a much safer option,” says Snell. “I recommend having an outdoor gathering of a small group or just people in your quarantine bubble.”
Masks — at all times — are the number one thing you should prioritize, says Snell. “The only thing that will really help in this situation is to wear a mask,” she says, so take it as an opportunity to work it into your costume.
Aside from always wearing masks, the CDC recommends also staying six feet apart, including if you’re celebrating outside. Whether indoors or outdoors, you’re much more likely to get COVID-19 if you have prolonged close contact with someone you don’t live with (or aren’t already in a quarantine bubble with). The organization recommends having people bring their own food so you’re not sharing and using hand sanitizer frequently. Carve out a pumpkin, and fill it with mini sanitizer bottles to help keep your guests safe.
If you’re hosting or weighing whether to attend a Halloween party, you should also be wary of shared bathrooms. A study published in June found that flushing a toilet can create a three-foot cloud of aerosols that can potentially spread infectious coronavirus particles through the air and onto bathroom surfaces. In other words, even if you stay outside with a mask on for the entire party, if you walk into the bathroom, you could be entering a literal cloud of infection, which frankly, is more terrifying than any horror movie.
But what about testing?
Over the summer, there were a lot of reports of “rapid testing” as a means to get around restrictions for gatherings. The idea seems like a solid one: have your guests get tested via a rapid results test before they enter the event, and then you can all party in peace. But not only are these tests scarce and expensive (they typically cost around $500), medical experts say this is not a sure-fire way to stay safe. No COVID-19 test is 100 percent accurate — there’s always the chance of a false negative.
Safe ways to celebrate the spooky season
There are plenty of ways to feel festive even if you can’t have a big Halloween bash. Here’s how to get in the spirit, without risking a real scare.
- Throw a virtual Halloween party. We’re living our entire lives on Zoom these days so why should Halloween be any different? A perk: you only need a costume that translates from the shoulders up. May we suggest, an elegant RBG collar, an at-home news anchor blazer, or a Blair Waldorf headband.
- Trick or treat from home. “Hide candy in your yard and let the kids hunt for it rather than going door to door,” says Snell.
- Watch a scary movie. Head to a drive-in screening of a classic Halloween flick or, if you have space, “watch a movie outside with friends in sections six feet apart,” says Snell. You can also download Teleparty, a browser extension that lets you and your friends watch a Netflix movie in a virtual screening room where you can chat on the side.
- Carve pumpkins. Make your place festive or get some neighbors in on it to light up the whole street.
- Head to an orchard. Not only are apple orchards, pumpkin patches, corn mazes and hayrides ripe for Instagramming, they’re also safe ways to celebrate. Just make sure to stay away from crowds and wear a mask.
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