Article written by Terry DeMio, Cincinnati Enquirer
The exalted season of haunting is upon us, and soon, children will pull on costumes and trek through neighborhoods trick-or-treating after dark as candlelit jack-o-lanterns scare away demons (or so the legend goes).
But, boo! COVID-19 is prowling streets and hovels this year, threatening a chilling effect on the frightful fun.
We, at The Enquirer, know that Halloween is revered by children and adults alike, so we sought out some COVID-19 and infectious disease wizards on the subject and asked them, “Would you do this, doc?”
Here’s who responded:
- Dr. Jennifer Forrester, associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and associate chief medical officer at UC Health.
- Dr. Brent Kinder, Mercy Health-Clermont critical care physician.
- Dr. Joseph Bailey, pediatric medical director for TriHealth Physician Partners.
- Dr. Robert Frenck, professor of pediatrics for the division of infectious diseases at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Here’s what we asked – and what they said:
Question: Would you hand out candy to trick-or-treaters?
Forrester: “I go back and forth on this, but if we do, we’ll be trying some socially distanced options. I’d prefer to leave the candy out at the end of the driveway while we sit on our porch. That way we can still watch the ghouls and goblins go by!”
Kinder: “I think it is OK to hand out candy. I’d probably just drop it in the kids’ buckets or bags and avoid any close contact. Another option would be to leave a bowl out with a request to ‘take just one,’ but it may not survive the first hour.”
Bailey: “Yes I would, ensuring that I am wearing a mask while doing so.”
Frenck: “Yes. But, I would hand it out to them, not have them stick their hand in the basket, bucket, etc. I would not worry about putting on gloves. That only protects you or the child for the first couple minutes. After that, you have touched so many things that the gloves are of no value.”
Q: If your child is trick-or-treating, what rules would you set for her on her way out the door?
Forrester: “My kids will need to stick together (as usual) and will not be meeting up with others. I’ll ask them to keep their distance and wait their turn, 6 feet apart from others. I’d also suggest they wait until getting home to eat anything, so that they can wash their hands and clean the candy first.”
Kinder: “Reinforce the idea not to go indoors and avoid any touching of hands. No eating candy until they return home and candy wrappers are wiped down and hands thoroughly washed. No congregating with groups of kids, and try to maintain six feet of distance from others.”
Bailey: “If I had a younger child, I would allow them to trick-or-treat, and the rules would be: to not take breaks in houses along the way, regardless if they are friends or not. Keep trick-or-treating groups to a minimum. Six or less.”
Frenck: “Ask that the person put the candy in your bag. Ask that kids stay as separated as they are at school (assuming they are going to ‘real’ school instead of online). Ask that they wait to eat the candy until they get home.”
Q: Would you have your child wear a mask over or under her Halloween mask?
Forrester: “Yes. The horrifying, ill-fitting, odd-shaped masks haven’t been tested by an appropriate mad scientist. So, the child still needs a cloth face mask and it should be underneath the costume mask. I want to protect the kid, not the costume.”
Kinder: “Yes, unless they happen to be wearing a surgical mask as part of their costume. I expect to see a number of Dr. Fauci costumes this year.”
Bailey: “The mask should be worn underneath the Halloween mask covering the face.”
Frenck: “They need to wear something that covers their nose and mouth. If their Halloween mask does that, I don’t think they need to double mask. Maybe everyone will go as a surgeon this year and the mask will be part of the costume!”
Q: Would you let your child trick-or-treat with friends?
Forrester: “No. Kids will not reliably stay six feet apart.”
Kinder: “Probably one carefully vetted friend would be OK, but I would avoid large groups.”
Bailey: “Yes, as long as it is a small group as stated above (six or fewer).”
Frenck: “Yes. I would ask that they remember social distancing, although I am sure that will be difficult for kids when they are out having fun.”
Q: Would you wash wrapped candy collected by your child?
Kinder: “I would probably wipe down (candy) with disinfectant wipes, even though available evidence does not suggest much transmission from inanimate objects.”
Bailey: “No, I would not be concerned about washing the Halloween candy.”
Frenck: “No. Remember, the virus does not live long on surfaces. If you wanted to be really safe, you could ask your kids to give you the candy and you put it away until the next day. By then, even if there were virus on the wrapper, it should be very weakened or dead. This is not an excuse for you to eat all your kids’ candy!”
Q: Would you let your child go to a Halloween party?
Forrester: “No, no other parties than with mummy and daddy!”
Kinder: “No. I suppose small outdoor gatherings with masked partygoers may be OK for some, but I don’t think it is worth the risk.”
Bailey: “I would not allow attending a large Halloween party. However, if they decided to have a small gathering outside around a campfire, for example, with a mask on, this would be acceptable.”
Frenck: “To me, this is, ‘Would you let your kids be in a group?’ Halloween just happens to be the occasion. People should maintain social distancing, have on a mask, not come if they are sick and limit to the allowed number (10). This is going to make for a less than normal party, but I think the kids still can have fun.”
Q. For the no-parties docs: What alternatives would you provide your child for Halloween?
Forrester: “We usually hold a spooktacular costume party. This is obviously, and unfortunately, on hold this year. But we will have our own family eerie evening – just a little different.
We will still be carving pumpkins and making apple cider. We will also be doing some new things, like a Halloween scavenger hunt and making some cauldron slime (and some other crafty things). Plus, we will have to up the ante on our spirited meal, something a little more fancy than BBQ bat wings and zombie meatloaf.”
Kinder: “I think dressing up in costumes at home, watching Halloween-themed movies with family (and) backyard s’mores are good options for this year.”