Experts Urge New Halloween Traditions over Trick-or-Treating as COVID-19 Spread Continues
With COVID-19 still circulating in North Texas, now is the time to start planning alternative Halloween activities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is discouraging trick-or-treating nationwide, calling it a high-risk activity for spreading COVID-19. They’re also dissuading trunk-or-treat events (where treats are distributed from trunks of cars in parking lots), indoor parties and haunted houses.
So why are these Halloween favorites considered high-risk?
“We know outdoor activities are much safer than indoor activities,” said Mary Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of Infectious Diseases at Cook Children's. “The problem is coming in close contact with people you’re not around regularly, like family members.”
She says masks have been very beneficial in slowing the spread of COVID-19, but warns of a recent rise in cases in Fort Worth and surrounding areas.
“Tarrant County has had an increase in COVID-19 cases over the last couple of weeks, and our positivity rate is hanging around 10% or 11%, which is pretty high,” she said. “The State of Texas is several percentage points below that right now. So now is not a good time to increase face-to-face contact locally.”
As of Oct. 5, 672 people had died of COVID-19 in Tarrant County, and nearly 45,000 others have recovered from the virus. With the current uptick, Dr. Whitworth says maintaining six feet of distance from other people is critically important, regardless of the activity.
“When you talk and exhale, you have droplets come out of your mouth and your nose that you don't see. There are a lot of them and they typically fall within three feet, but not always. You may talk louder or you may cough and they might travel farther. This is why the recommendation is to stay six feet apart” Dr. Whitworth explained. “It is less risky if you're outside because most of those droplets are diffused away and diluted outdoors. Of course, it’s even safer if you can wear a mask.”
In case you’re wondering, she isn’t talking about a Halloween mask. Dr. Whitworth says typical Halloween masks have openings for the mouth and nose, which defeats the purpose of stopping the spread of droplets.
But Halloween doesn’t have to lose all of its magic. Rayne Delgado, program coordinator for the Child Life Zone at Cook Children’s, has suggestions on how to make Halloween fun and safe for children this year.
“There are a lot of things families can do instead of trick-or-treating, like scavenger hunts in the house, family movie night and games.” Rayne said. “Pinterest also has a ton of craft ideas that meet all budgets.”
Here are some specific ideas Rayne shared with us:
- Make Halloween slime and add googly eyes or critters in it
- Create sensory boxes filled with Halloween candy to find
- Build sensory bins with things like fake spider webbing, dyed-spaghetti noodles, soapy water, black beans, crushed graham crackers, un-popped popcorn, dyed rice, and Halloween trinkets (If age-appropriate)
- Pumpkin face homemade pizza
- Dessert pizza using Halloween candy
- Carmel apples
- Ice cream cone witches hats
- Mummy hot dogs
- Play Halloween-themed bingo
- Create a family mystery game with a play on Clue.
- Using different rooms in your house, family members are the characters. Swap weapons for costumes.
- Try to figure out which family member stole what piece of candy from what room, while wearing which costume. (This can also be done virtually with children and their friends. Switch rooms to each other’s houses.)
- Create an escape room in the house.
- Start with one envelope that needs to be solved. That leads to another with another puzzle and so on until you find the bucket of trinkets/candy.
- Have a costume contest
- Find things in the house to play dress up with. Who can be the most creative or silliest?
(We have provided templates in the 'Downloads' section of this article.)