The Marion County Health Department has offered some guidelines for those who may be skittish about celebrating the fall and winter holidays in the middle of a pandemic.
In a press release, department spokeswoman Christy Jergens reminds county residents that Halloween, and subsequent holidays, are not the time to relax COVID-19 precautions, especially as we open our homes to friends and family members.
Starting with Halloween, which is on Saturday, and trick-or-treating, the Health Department offers a few safety tips.
“Some traditional Halloween activities are riskier than others due to COVID-19,” said Jergens. “However, if you will be trick-or-treating this weekend, there are several steps you can take to make it a safer experience for all,” in accordance with guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For one thing, reduce direct contact.
The CDC recommends avoiding direct contact, if possible, with trick-or-treaters and giving treats outside, Jergens said. Instead, setting a station up with individually prepared bags is preferred. And everyone should wash hands before handling treats and wear a mask when giving out, preparing or receiving treats.
Another suggestion is to wear a cloth face mask as part of your costume.
Costume masks are not a substitute, Jergens advised. Anyone who has difficulty breathing and children younger than 2 should not wear a mask.
A third recommendation is to steer clear of people not from your own household. Practice social distancing, which means remaining at least six feet apart, whether indoors or outdoors, Jergens noted.
Finally, clean your hands. Use hand sanitizer after touching surfaces or other people. And make sure to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before eating any Halloween treats.
The Health Department also notes that people can still enjoy Halloween even if health concerns led them to scratch trick-or-treating off their holiday list.
Jergens suggested decorating or carving pumpkins, visiting a pumpkin patch or corn maze, or holding a Halloween movie night indoors with household members or outside with friends and neighbors.
Yet during Halloween or beyond, whether host or guest, people should approach holiday gatherings by carefully weighing several factors that influence the risk of any particular event, and consider them both individually and in whole in conjunction with CDC guidelines.
These factors include:
The location of the event. Events held indoors or in areas with poor ventilation will be riskier than events held outdoors.
The length of the gathering. Longer events are riskier than shorter ones.
The number of people at the event. Although now there are no formal limitations on event size, the health risk at the gathering increases with the number of people at an event.
The behavior of attendees during the event. The more preventive measures in place during an event, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and handwashing, the lower the risk is for attending.
Jergens further noted that there are several groups that should not attend in-person holidays or events, per the CDC recommendations.
If you have COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, neither you (nor someone in your household) should take part in or host in-person festivities. These restrictions apply if you:
Have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and have not yet met the guidelines for when it’s permissible to be around others.
Are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, or are awaiting COVID-19 test results.
Were exposed to someone who has COVID-19 within 14 days of the event.
Additional information on considerations for fall and winter holidays can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html#halloween.