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The CDC warns families that trick-or-treating is a high-risk activity. Photo by Cynthia Hochswender

Halloween guidance: Skip trick-or-treating this year

Halloween is kind of a big deal here in the Tri-state region, and many homeowners are wondering whether they need to go out and buy 700 pieces of individually wrapped candy for trick-or-treaters this year.

The answer is: probably not. The state of Connecticut has issued a warning that trick-or-treating is a high-risk activity this year, because of COVID-19. The state refers to the guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which categorizes holiday activities into low, moderate and high risk, for Halloween  and Thanksgiving. 

Going door to door in a costume is listed as high risk. Also on the high-risk list are indoor Halloween parties; trunk-or-treat parties (where bags of candies are in the trunks of cars, and children walk from vehicle to vehicle and collect treats); indoor haunted houses, where people in close proximity might scream; and hayrides and tractor rides. 

The CDC offers ideas for moderate-risk activities. One is to have outdoor costume parties — but the website warns that you can’t count on a costume mask to protect you from transmission of the coronavirus; at the same time, you shouldn’t wear a costume mask over a protective mask, because it’s likely to impede breathing.   

Outdoor horror film screenings are a moderately risky activity. Walks through haunted forests are moderate, as long as social distancing is practiced (if there are likely to be a lot of screams, the recommendation is to remain more than 6 feet apart). 

You can visit pumpkin patches and apple orchards, but only if people use hand sanitizer before touching the pumpkins and apples and if masks are worn and social distancing is enforced. 

You can also try what the CDC calls “one-way trick-or-treating,” which is when “individually wrapped goody bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard). If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing the bags.”

Low-risk activities include carving pumpkins at home with members of your family, or carving pumpkins outdoors with close friends and family. You can organize a scavenger hunt by giving your children a list of things to look for during a walk through the neighborhood, admiring decorated houses from a distance. 

Lowest risk of all: A costume contest on Zoom. 

Halloween is, of course, a time when we like a little horror and fear, which the CDC guidelines kind of provide. 

The fear level is less welcome when it comes to Thanksgiving but, as the saying goes, if these recommendations seem onerous, imagine how much worse  it would all be if you or a loved one were in the hospital on a ventilator. 

So, the CDC guidance is that you should not travel long distances to be with family; and that you should only have a small dinner with your housemates/close family members. You should not rush out to a Big Box store on Black Friday; you should do what we’ve all kind of been doing anyway, which is to shop online. And you should remain at home to watch sports events; you can text or Zoom with your friends to recreate the aura of rowdy camaraderie. 

The list of moderate-risk activities is fairly limited, and pretty much only includes having an outdoor dinner (unlikely to happen here in New England) with close friends and community members. 

High-risk activities include all the things we normally associate with Thanksgiving: large dinners with lots of people who have traveled long distances, followed by shopping in large, crowded stores and then settling down on a sofa with several close friends to watch football. 

To get the full list of CDC holiday recommendations, go to www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays. 

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