The St. Charles County Department of Public Health offers tips on how to enjoy the holiday in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic

By Brett Auten

Like pretty much everything else this year, Halloween will have a different feel to it.

With COVID-19 infection numbers still at the forefront in the minds of many, the St. Charles County Department of Public Health wants everyone to enjoy the festivities safely.

The St. Charles County Department of Public Health joins the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in issuing recommendations focused on reducing the risks for spreading illness. St. Charles County Department of Public Health Director Demetrius Cianci-Chapman says that following recommended precautions during Halloween festivities will help to make the risk of spreading COVID-19 less scary.  

“Parents need to have conversations with their kids about the importance of following the recommendations to socially distance, wash hands, avoid commonly touched surfaces and wear masks,” Cianci-Chapman said.
 
Mixing and matching and interacting with many people over the course of a night out and about can create a high risk for disease spread and parents should establish trick-or-treating ground rules.

Doug Bolnick is the St. Charles County Department of Public Health Public Information Officer. He suggests alternative activities like decorating neighborhood homes for the holiday and hosting a drive-by parade to view the decorations or planning a photo scavenger hunt around the neighborhood, virtual costume contest or stay-in scary movie night with your family.

It is safer to gather with your immediate family or a small group of individuals that you know have successfully practiced social distancing and limiting the number of places your group visits.  If you are going to have a large gathering, make sure there is plenty of social distancing, mask wearing, and outside, as opposed to poorly ventilated indoor soirees.

“As people of all ages are susceptible to COVID-19, this is not the time to attend large events or to visit unfamiliar homes and neighborhoods where you can be exposed to or spread the virus,” Bolnick said. “Make plans to gather with your immediate family or with a small group of friends that you know have successfully practiced social distancing over the past several weeks.”

When choosing your costume, make sure you are wearing disposable or cloth masks at all times. Incorporate decorated face coverings into costumes, as traditional costume masks are not an appropriate substitute for protective face coverings.

“Traditional Halloween costume masks do not reduce this transmission and are not an appropriate substitute for face coverings,” Bolnick added.

The easiest, and likely most-common, method of dispensing treats this year will be giving pre-packaged treats that kids can pick up themselves on a socially distanced table in a driveway or yard, as opposed to handing out individual treats at the door.

“Although COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses continue to spread around our community, we’re going to observe Halloween a little differently this year. Limiting close contact with others will help to reduce transmission, so having pre-bagged treats available that kids can pick up while socially distancing, enjoying the creativity of costumes from a few arms’ length away or taking extra efforts to decorate your lawn instead of inviting neighbors inside your home can lessen the risk of exposure for everyone without disrupting the spirit of the holiday.”

The usual staples – washing hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer use regularly when collecting or distributing treats – are still a must. Any individual who is sick, is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, is awaiting test results, or may have been exposed to the virus should stay home and avoid contact with others.