MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — The Mayo Clinic Health System released its guidance on staying safe this Halloween and is strongly encouraging families to participate in low-risk activities.
The Mayo Clinic Health System is strongly discouraging trick-or-treating this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the normal form, with trick-or-treating, it’s really hard to know when you’re going to someone’s house if they’ve been exposed to COVID or if they have COVID-19,” said Dr. Chaun Cox, a family medicine physician at the Mayo Clinic Health System. “And even if they don’t know it, it can be easily spread, particularly when people are in large groups or have the opportunity to gather in large groups and go from group-to-group. And with that in mind, that can certainly create a scenario where people can get infected and spread it.”
Although the guidance may come as a disappointment, Cox offers some alternatives.
“It’s time to be creative, really. You know I talk with some families and they’re going to have scavenger hunts in their homes. They might do drive-bys and kind of wave at grandparents, because, certainly, you want to involve family and want to stay connected. You can do virtual costume parties. Certainly take time to have family time and maybe watch a movie that might be a little on the scarier side — depending on the age of your children. But make it into a special evening. We can still celebrate the holiday, but maybe do it a little differently this year than in years past.”
Other low-risk activities suggested by MCHS includes:
- Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them;
- Decorating your house, apartment, or living space;
- Having a virtual Halloween costume contest;
- Having a Halloween movie night with your household members; and
- Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house-to-house.
Despite the recommendations from MCHS, many will still participate in regular Halloween activities, such as trick or treating. The guidance offers some suggestions here, as well, to make these events as safe as possible.
“Certainly have things outside. You can have things pre-packaged and you can prepare them in little Ziploc bags where, when you’re preparing them, you’ve had your hands washed and you’re doing it as safely as you can," Cox added. “Certainly, if you are trick-or-treating, wear a mask. And, unfortunately, we’re not talking about the traditional Halloween mask — we’re talking about the normal facial coverings. Washing your hands, maintaining distances and staying with your family or the people that you live with [is also going to be important]. And then certainly when you get home, treat it like groceries, where some people will leave that for a day or two or longer before they touch it or bring it into their house, and then wash your hands, obviously, as well."
The guidance published by MCHS stresses the importance of holding events outdoors if families will be participating in events with friends from a different household and maintaining a safe distance of six feet apart.
Outdoor events and maintaining a safe distance between members of different households is also recommended for the following activities:
- Going to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest where appropriate mask use is enforced, and people can remain more than 6 feet apart;
- Visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing; and
- Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least six feet apart.
Cox adds that greater distancing, more than six feet apart, is advised in situations where screaming is likely to occur.
The Mayo Clinic Health System, including Cox, are worried about the larger implications if larger communities don’t adhere to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance on Halloween.
“Right now, we’re really worried that. If numbers start going up, one of the consequences might be that our schools would go to totally distant learning. We might have to lose some of the sporting events that we’re starting to be able to do now. We’re getting into seasons where hockey and basketball are starting up here, hopefully, in the near future with luck. But if those numbers start to go up, some of the things that we do enjoy, might not be able to happen.”
The MCHS guidance also lists some other high-risk activities that should be avoided this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
- Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots;
- Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household'
- Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors; and
- Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19.
The guidance also notes that these recommendations may change if positive cases increase significantly.