How to Halloween in a pandemic
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Many years ago, Brian Harrington and his wife dressed up as a cat and a scratching post for Halloween. He was the scratching post.
“It was hard to walk in,” Harrington said.
Now Harrington, Routt County Public Health’s chief medical officer, said that would be a good costume for this year because of its warmth.
“My roll of carpet was very hot as I remember, and that would be helpful in these times because we would obviously recommend people forgo the indoor Halloween parties,” Harrington said.
Of the three spikes in cases seen so far, two have corresponded with a holiday. The second spike came after the July Fourth holiday, and the third seemed to start shortly after Labor Day.
“We see blips now with these major holidays,” Harrington said. “Halloween is not quite the same as Labor Day and July Fourth in terms of travel and people getting together for big parties, but there is still that potential.”
While health experts say traditional trick-or-treating and indoor Halloween parties are not a good idea, that doesn’t mean people have to turn the porch light off on celebrating just yet.
Harrington said he is not discouraging trick-or-treating, but there are safer ways to do it during a pandemic.
He suggested people keep it as an outdoor event and limit the number of kids trick-or-treating together to just two households.
A recently updated public health order in Colorado restricts personal gatherings to just 10 people and requires those gatherings to be limited to members of two households. Harrington emphasized how important it is to limit the number of households.
“The more people we are in contact with, the greater the odds of contracting it and spreading it,” Harrington said. “The odds of getting it and/or spreading it are significantly less if you have two families of four versus a house full of 50 people.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends individually wrapped goodie bags that are placed at the end of a driveway or edge of a yard, so they can be picked up while maintaining social distancing. The CDC considers traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating or a trunk-or-treat event a high-risk activity for transmission of the virus.
Medical institutions, like the Mayo Clinic, say activities such as carving pumpkins, a spooky movie night or a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search in and around an individual home are low-risk alternatives as long as they are limited to members of one household.
Unlike previous years, the city of Steamboat Springs will not close down Lincoln Avenue for the Halloween Stroll.
“Halloween can be scary enough without adding the additional concern of coronavirus transmission and large public crowds,” said Steamboat Springs City Manager Gary Suiter in a news release last month. “Please celebrate responsibly and mask up.”
While many are compelled to wear a mask on Halloween, a Scream- or Jason-themed mask probably won’t protect wearers from the virus that much.
“I would not say that a Halloween mask is necessarily completely worthless, but it’s probably close to that depending on the mask,” Harrington said. “That is going to be one of the fun challenges for people is, ‘It makes sense, it is Halloween, we wear masks.’ Well, this year there is going to be a little bit more to the masks.”
While the CDC discourages people from wearing a costume mask over a facial covering, Harrington said he did not see an issue with that as long as it does not restrict breathing.
If inclined to have a Halloween party, Harrington said taking steps to limit transmission is important. Wear masks, be outside, limit the number of households and maybe avoid serving food, he said.
Even with all the extra things to consider because of COVID, normal Halloween precautions like ensuring children have warm clothes and those with food allergies being aware of what’s in their treats are still important.
“It does require some sacrifice, but let’s forgo some of the things we might have typically enjoyed doing for the sake of getting our community through this COVID pandemic safely,” Harrington said.
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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