Halloween guidelines in the COVID era

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Dr. Jeff Harp of Highland Family Medicine discussed safety measures for trick-or-treating this Halloween Tuesday during News 8 at Sunrise.

Dr. Harp said the green light for trick-or-treating was given by the Monroe County Health Department two weeks ago when the test positivity rate in Monroe County was about 1.7 percent. That low percentage means that COVID-19 is not prevalent in our community, chiefly because we are following guidelines to avoid transmission. The test positivity rate rose to close to 4 percent last weekend. If that was to happen again, there may be a call to curtail Halloween activities, including trick-or-treating. Our rate currently is down to a much safer 1.5 percent.

Halloween activity which involves scattered participants wearing masks outdoors and is inherently less risky than many other traditional Halloween activities, such as apple bobbing. Dr. Harp said, “The more distant we are from others, the less chance of transmission. When trick-or-treating outdoors, children should avoid being closer than 6 feet from other children with the exception of children with whom they have ongoing contact, such as brothers and sisters. Families should consider remaining in their own neighborhood, again to limit contact with people not in their immediate social network.”

Dr. Harp said it is easier to distance outside. Consider having outdoor activities only. If you must do something inside, make sure there is plenty of space and good air circulation along with the other usual precautions. “Traditional Halloween masks will not prevent the spread of COVID-19. The recommendation is that children either wear a COVID-19 mask which is adapted to be a costume or wear a COVID-19 protective mask under their Halloween mask. If children will be wearing two masks, parents should check to make sure that children are able to breathe freely when wearing them both.”

Shouting, screaming, and singing are high-risk activities. If children will be participating in these, they should try to maintain a distance of 12 feet from others in addition to wearing masks.

When it comes to candy and other treats, Dr. Harp said, “There is a small risk of transmitting the disease when handing objects to another person. Those distributing treats should attempt to avoid directly handing them to children. Consider setting them on a surface while you supervise, or better yet hanging them so that children can pick one without touching a surface. Staying outdoors to distribute treats is less risky for everyone. Children should sanitize their hands regularly while trick-or-treating and when returning home.”

Dr. Harp said children and adults should not participate in any activity when they have symptoms which could be due to COVID-19.

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