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Parents debate Halloween celebrations

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - In years past, the start of fall is typically the start of Halloween planning. Children begin picking out costumes, parents start loading up on goodies to hand out, and the spooky season begins.

This year, Governor Little says Halloween during the pandemic may be more of a risky season.

"I love going on Halloween with my grandchildren, but this is going to be a high-risk event, and if you're in any of the risk categories, even if you're not in the risk categories, that transmission is eventually going to get to the risky category,” Governor Little said.

New CDC guidelines suggest carving pumpkins, hosting virtual costume contests, and scavenger hunts with families as acceptable low risk activities.

But some local moms may not be ready to give up the time-honored tradition of trick-or-treating. Jahni Green says her little one will be going door-to-door this year.

“I think Halloween is like the safest holiday there is already,” Green said. “Pretty much, families stick to themselves and the little interaction you have is usually within six feet, and everyone’s wearing masks anyways. I mean, we wear them everyday, like to the store and the kids go to school, so I don’t see why Halloween would be any different.”

Other moms understand the risk of spreading the virus and are hesitant to send their kids out this year.

Karina Burnham says each parent should choose what they think is right and best for their own children. She says it will be hard to tell her kids they can’t go and will be cautious with whatever they choose to do.

“It’s probably a mistake to take our kids trick-or-treating, but on the other hand, you have to look at what they want to do and not try to change things too much but you got to keep them safe,” Burnham said.

Whitney Beal says her kids will be trick-or-treating this year. She thinks anyone who has COVID-19 concerns or is showing symptoms should turn their porch lights off. 

“If you’re going door-to-door, I think it’s totally safe,” Beal said. “People can wear masks inside their homes and the kids can wear masks. I think there’s risk in anything you do in life, so I think it’s totally fine to go.”

Infectious disease specialist, Dr. Christine Hahn recommends following CDC Guidelines to keep our kids and our community safe this year.

"I hate to be the Grinch, but I agree with the governor, especially if you are in a high risk group. It's probably not the year you should be standing there interacting with so many kids,” Dr. Hahn said. “If you're a parent and you really want to take your kids out, probably instruct them not to eat the candy while they are out there trick-or-treating. Go home, wash their hands. It depends on your risk tolerance. I think different communities will handle this in different ways."

Natalie Staggie says her family has been discussing the many sides of Halloween during the pandemic. She feels Halloween has died down in years past and isn’t expecting to see many people. The outdoor nature of Halloween and trick-or-treating in small family groups is a comfort for her family.

“Either way, I think we’re gonna go out and just have fun. I mean, it’s Halloween, keeps our souls alive, you know?” Staggie said. “We’re gonna take all the precautions and take hand sanitizer but it’s a tradition that I don’t want to die for my daughter...I hope I see everyone’s lights on and give (my) little Pikachu lots of candy.”

No matter how you choose to celebrate Halloween this year, there are risks involved that you need to be aware of, as well as ways to lessen the risk with each activity.

The CDC’s official website states:

Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses. There are several safer, alternative ways to participate in Halloween. If you may have COVID-19 or you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities and should not give out candy to trick-or-treaters.

Lower risk activities

These lower risk activities can be safe alternatives:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • 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

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.

Higher risk activities

Avoid these higher risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19:

  • Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
  • Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors
  • Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19

For more information on celebrating holidays during the pandemic, visit the CDC website here.

Health / Holidays / Idaho / Idaho Falls / Local News / News / Top Stories
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Chelsea Briar

Chelsea is a reporter and producer for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.

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