Keep kids safe on Halloween

The leaves are falling, temperatures are cooler, and Halloween is in just a few days. As we begin to adjust to an almost back-to-normal, here are a few tips from the Center for Disease Control to celebrate Halloween in a safe matter.

To be sure, as with most things at this stage in the pandemic, I don’t mean that everything is exactly back to 2019. People should still take precautions this Halloween, especially if their kids are too young to be vaccinated.

There are a lot of people who want to return to pre-pandemic days and greet the kids as they say “trick or treat.” If it’s not raining or snowing, I encourage people to set up outdoors. It’s better to put wrapped candies in a kid’s basket than for kids to reach into a large bowl. If kids do end up touching each other’s hands or other commonly used surfaces like doorknobs, make sure to have hand sanitizer available.

If you live in an area with individual houses or townhomes, I think it’s probably low risk to knock on people’s doors and trick or treat. Just make sure not to step inside someone’s house. If you live around a lot of apartment blocks and have to enter elevators and hallways to trick or treat, the COVID-19 risk is significantly higher. I encourage parents not to enter other people’s apartment buildings, and instead look for activities in a neighboring park or other primarily outdoor settings.

Coronavirus transmission is still at very high levels in many parts of the country, and children now constitute more than a quarter of new infections. Indoor activities remain high risk. Luckily for our kids, outdoor trick-or-treating is the safest activity, and candies are individually wrapped.

I think parents should have a conversation about their kids as to what level of risk they are willing to take as a family. There may be some families where everyone is generally healthy and vaccinated. The risk of any of the family members getting severely ill in that case is low. It may be reasonable to decide that an indoor get-together with friends is fine, especially if all the friends and their parents are also vaccinated.

The same goes for activities like the movies, a dance or a haunted house. All of these activities will have some degree of risk. The risk increases with higher community transmission rates, larger numbers of attendees, and crowded, poorly ventilated spaces. Wear a mask when indoors around people of unknown vaccination status to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.

Just as there will be some families that are willing to take on some of these risks, there are other families that want to take additional precautions. Some families have younger children who are not yet vaccinated. They could be living with elderly relatives who are immunocompromised. For people in such circumstances, it may be reasonable to avoid higher-risk indoor activities to protect others in the household.

If you are invited to a party, there is no harm in asking ‘who is going to be there?’  If everyone attending is known to be vaccinated, that would be a lot safer than if there are people who are unvaccinated, or are of unknown vaccination status.

Also, where will the party take place? If it’s mainly outdoors, and attendees can choose to remain outdoors the entire time, that will also be much lower risk than if it’s taking place entirely indoors.

If it’s indoors, will it be crowded with people packed together? Or will windows be open, and people can space out? That also changes the risk calculus. Of course, you should also take into account your own medical circumstances and those of your family members.

Some parents will be eager to get their younger kids vaccinated, but it wouldn’t affect their activities over Halloween. Even if kids can get their first shots just before Halloween, according to health experts they wouldn’t be considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after their second inoculation.