Trick or treat? How to safely celebrate Halloween during a pandemic: UBC expert

LIKE all things in 2020, Halloween is going to look a little different this year.

Dr. Srinivas Murthy, an infectious disease expert and clinical associate professor in UBC faculty of medicine’s department of pediatrics, weighs in on how to safely celebrate Halloween during a pandemic, offering tips for parents and advice for those handing out candy from home.

How many people can my child safely trick-or-treat with this year?

The important thing is to keep to a small social group—six people or less. It’s also important to look at who your child has been exposed to recently. If your child regularly plays with another child in the neighbourhood outside in the park, then conceivably they could trick-or-treat together on Halloween, following physical distancing guidelines, similar to a school friend.

Some Canadian communities have cancelled trick-or-treating this year, so be sure to listen to your local public health officials and follow their guidance.

Should children avoid yelling ‘trick or treat’ this year?

It’s unreasonable to expect or ask children to stop saying ‘trick-or-treat’ altogether, but in general, they should avoid yelling the phrase to prevent the transmission of respiratory droplets.

Does a fabric costume mask count as a non-medical mask?

Not all costume masks are created equal. If there’s a big hole in the costume mask then respiratory particles can get through, and it probably won’t work well as a mask.

Non-medical masks, which cover the nose and mouth, protect others by preventing your spray and aerosols from going elsewhere. This year, children are encouraged to wear a non-medical mask or face covering as part of their costume. Remember that you can always get creative and decorate a clean non-medical mask, and integrating it into the costume idea is always fun.

Importantly, costume masks should not be worn over non-medical masks as that may make it difficult for children to breathe as they go from house to house.

Should I wait for another family to leave a property before entering with my children?

While there’s no formal protocol, the important thing is to maintain distance. You don’t want to be close to people who are not in your bubble. If you won’t be able to maintain a safe, physical distance while walking up a pathway or driveway, then wait for that group to leave before entering.

Do I need to clean my child’s treats?

You do not need to clean packaged treats, but be sure to wash your hands before eating them. While we can’t protect our world completely, we can protect ourselves by keeping our hands clean and maintaining good hygiene.

What is the safest way to hand out treats this year? Should I wear gloves?

Keep your distance when handing out treats this year. There are a lot of great recommendations and creative ideas, including creating a candy chute or placing the treats on a baking sheet and using tongs to pass them out—and if you do that, you don’t need to wear gloves.

You should also wear a non-medical mask and, if you’re able, sit or stand outside to hand out treats this year, rather than having kids come to your door.

Remember, a lot of homes are not going to feel like participating this year, so if the lights are out, then probably not a good place to knock.