What does Halloween look like this year?
Halloween is almost upon us. But amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a day traditionally filled with costumes and candy certainly needs to be celebrated differently this year. Unfortunately, many of the best loved activities of Halloween are also great ways to spread the coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released recommendations for celebrating the holidays safely. The recommendations categorize traditional Halloween festivities into lower, moderate and higher risk. They also offer alternatives to many of those traditions.
Most of the usual annual activities (traditional trick-or-treating, indoor costume parties or a trip through a haunted house) are categorized by the CDC as higher risk.
Moderate risk activities include lining up individually wrapped goody bags outside for trick-or-treaters, having an outdoor costume parade where social distancing is practiced, attending an outdoor costume party (with appropriate social distancing and masking) and visiting pumpkin patches or orchards.
Activities characterized as lower risk include pumpkin carving or watching movies with family members at home, having a virtual costume contest, decorating your home or planning a Halloween scavenger hunt around the neighborhood. It's important to remember the lowest risk activities are those done with individuals living in the same household.
Another safety precaution to keep in mind is making sure you have a safe mask with your Halloween costume. Many costumes include a mask, but they generally don't do a good job at protecting from COVID-19. The best masks (other than medical masks) have at least two layers of a cotton-based tightly woven fabric. The CDC also advises against wearing a costume mask over a cloth mask to avoid breathing difficulties.
It is sad Halloween 2020 is going to have to be celebrated without some of our favorite activities. However, we all need to do our best to protect our families, friends and neighbors this year. The CDC guidelines provide lots of advice and suggestions on how to have a safe and healthy Halloween. Masks, social distancing and hand-washing are the norm for this year for everything -- even Halloween!
One last word of advice for now -- get your flu vaccine before Halloween. Flu shots are important for all children (over the age of 6 months) and adults. It's crucial to protect yourself and your children, and we also want to make sure our health systems have the supplies and capacity to take care of COVID-19 patients during the pandemic. The flu is a lot spookier than a shot!
• Dr. Julie Holland is vice president of pediatric primary care for the Chicagoland Children's Health Alliance, a partnership between Advocate Children's Hospital, Pediatrics at NorthShore University HealthSystem and University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital.