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Halloween to look different in year of COVID-19

Halloween and trick-or-treating is going to look a little different this year with rising concerns of the ongoing pandemic, says Dr. Rutul Dalal, Infectious Diseases medical director, UPMC in the Susquehanna Region, and Dr. David Luo, UPMC primary care.

“Enjoy this year’s celebration for what it is,” Luo said. “With a little preparation, planning and the proper precautions, you can still make it one to remember.”

“The virus is here to stay, at least for the next year,” Dalal said.

Dalal and Luo both suggest that people “get creative” if they will be taking their children out trick-or-treating but strongly advise against large gatherings or parties with the inability to socially distance.

Just like after the Fourth of July and Labor Day festivities, communities could see a spike in cases if mitigation measures of masking, social distancing and hand washing are not followed.

“We have to keep in mind about our basic factors, hand hygiene, masking, social distancing,” Dalal said. “We have been seeing in the hospital that the number of hospitalized patients has increased.”

Dalal suggests a number of tactics to be cautious of COVID while still enjoying the traditions of the holiday, including minimizing contact, not going in other’s homes, “quarantining” the candy pails and bags after trick-or-treating and incorporating cloth masks into costumes.

“Typical plastic Halloween masks with the eye holes and mouth holes wouldn’t offer any protection either way for children or adults,” Luo said.

Dalal added that putting the candy basket or bag in the garage, on the porch or leaving it in a safe area outside for a couple of days will ensure that infection will not be transmitted via candy wrappers.

He also said that when going to eat the treats, wash hands before and after eating them and to not physically touch the candy, but rather use the wrapper to hold the candy.

For those interested in just handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters, the doctors urge people to be mindful, wear a mask over the mouth and nose and sanitize between the trick-or-treaters. Dalal also suggested even having those who are handing out candy make a grabbing tool to minimize human contact.

Dalal added that gloves can be beneficial if the user is able to change gloves between children or sanitize the gloves between the children.

Both Dalal, Luo and all local townships are strongly suggesting individually bagged treats for kids to take as well.

“Assess the COVID-19 levels in your own community,” he said. “If the numbers have been above 5 percent or a 5 percent increase recently, I would try not to venture out.”

Dalal and Luo both suggested doing inside alternative activities such as an inside candy scavenger hunt, Halloween movie marathons or pumpkin carving if your family is more susceptible to the virus or is immunocompromised.

“It can still be enjoyable,” Dalal added.

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