Trick-or-treating is back this year. Sort of.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given a green light for children nationwide to trick or treat this Halloween – one year after it advised against the tradition last year due to coronavirus concerns, instead suggesting one-way trick-or-treating as an alternative.
Coronavirus cases are decreasing in the US – 13% the last week of September – but community transmission remains high amid the delta variant, according to the CDC. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, told CBS News, “I wouldn’t necessarily go to a crowded Halloween party, but I think we should be able to let our kids go trick-or-treating in small groups.”
Experts say it’s still best to take precautionary measures for Halloween given that most trick-or-treating children are under 11 years old and some are likely to still be unvaccinated.
“This is a topic that’s going through a lot of people’s minds, and there are still really important concerns,” said Krystal Pollitt, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Yale School of Public Health. “Halloween activities can be done quite safely if we respect physical distancing and are wearing masks. Overall, it presents low risk if done safely and responsibly.”
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That means while the general tradition is deemed safe, it’s important for costume-wearers to travel in small groups to go house to house and to avoid boxed-in candy counting/trading scenarios or trunk-or-treat gatherings in a central location.
“We don’t want a large group of children congregating at doorsteps,” Pollitt said. “Smaller groups for very short durations at someone’s door is advised.”
Stephen Kissler, an epidemiologist and disease modeler at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, said researchers expect the fall and winter, much like last year’s cooler weather climate, to lead to an uptick in COVID-19 cases. “Halloween is when we expect that arises to start,” he said.
It helps that Halloween is generally an outdoor-focused holiday in spite of the colder weather. The traditional attire is also fitting. “What better opportunity to wear a mask than Halloween?” Kissler said. “Try to incorporate (a mask) into your costume any way you can.
“Surface transmission really seems to not be really important. In terms of handing out candy, I’d be more mindful of the face-to-face transmission, not the candy itself. Wear your mask, but enjoy your candy.”
Kissler said aside from COVID-19, one smart precautionary thing to do is get a flu shot “so you have immunity when Halloween comes along.”
Kissler added: “The principles of the pandemic really do continue to hold. Outdoor gatherings are better than indoors, ventilation is important, masking remains helpful.”