One Halloween tradition unchanged by COVID: Wearing masks

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MONROE, CT — Traditional trick-or-treating where candy is handed to children going door-to-d00r, cars lining up in parking lots for trunk or treats, crowded indoor costume parties, and haunted houses with screaming guests are all identified as high risk behaviors for spreading the coronavirus.

The Centers for Disease Control and the Connecticut Department of Public Health also caution against rural fall festivals that are not in your community and say use of alcohol and drugs can increase risky behaviors.

“For parents and residents who choose to participate in trick-or-treating activities on Halloween night, please take specific note of the guidelines regarding trick-or-treating,” First Selectman Ken Kellogg said during his update at the Town Council meeting Tuesday night.

He said DPH’s guidelines are posted on the town website.

“Based upon the state guidelines, our Youth Commission will not be holding their annual Trick or Trunk event this year,” Kellogg said.

However, he said Edith Wheeler Memorial Library’s annual Halloween parade for preschool children will be conducted as a drive-through event on Friday, Oct. 30, and employ all recommended safety precautions. Details and a signup will be posted at www.ewml.org.

Alternative activities

Kellogg said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic requires that everyone take steps to keep themselves, their families and communities safe and healthy by wearing masks, washing their hands frequently and maintaining social distancing.

“As a result, we will need to celebrate many fall traditions differently this year, including Halloween,” he said. “Traditional Halloween activities carry a high risk for spreading COVID-19, but we can reduce that risk significantly by organizing and participating in fun, lower or moderate risk alternatives.”

Activities the CDC defines as lower risk alternatives include:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins for display with members of your household
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

The CDC also suggests moderate risk activities:

  • Participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard)
    • If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 second before and after preparing the bags.
  • Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart
    • A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face.
    • Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask.
  • 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
    • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
  • 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
  • Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart
    • If screaming will likely occur, greater distancing is advised. The greater the distance, the lower the risk of spreading a respiratory virus.
    • Lower your risk by following CDC’s recommendations on hosting gatherings or cook-outs.

Travel advisory

DPH asks members of the public to refrain from leaving their homes for any Halloween activity and not to pass out Halloween candy if they are ill or have traveled to one of the states listed on the Connecticut travel advisory between Oct. 16 and 30 (14 days before Halloween).

In this case, residents should follow the testing and self-quarantining guidelines in Executive Order No. 9C.

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