With Vermont Cases High, Experts Encourage Outdoor Celebrations  

If trick-or-treating in Covid’s current fourth wave has you spooked, think safety first. As long as reasonable precautions are followed, experts say kids need not be held back from enjoying the magic of the season of the witch. The lesson from last year’s post-Halloween spike in cases, which was tracked to indoor gatherings, is to celebrate outdoors.

“I believe Vermont children can have a safe and fun Halloween despite the higher prevalence of Covid in the community currently,” says Rebecca Bell, M.D., a pediatric specialist at UVM Children’s Hospital who chairs the Vermont chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Low Risk for Outdoor Halloween Festivities

“Most Halloween activities are outside. The outdoor environment poses low risk for Covid transmission. Families should feel comfortable participating in outdoor activities,” Bell said in an email.

Early in the pandemic, Bell said there was concern that the virus could be transmitted by touching an infected surface. Since then, the data has shown that this so-called fomite transmission is not a primary route by which Covid spreads. “Families should not feel worried about transmission of Covid via Halloween candy.”

Avoiding Last Year’s Post-Halloween Spike in Cases

Bell added a note of caution about gathering indoors. “If families are attending indoor events, I recommend everyone wear masks. And not just costume masks. Everyone should wear face coverings,” she said. “Last year in Vermont there was an increase in COVID cases tracked to indoor Halloween gatherings.”

Aside from Covid, Bell said her biggest safety concern regarding Halloween is always visibility. “I always recommend that adults accompany children while trick or treating to ensure pedestrian safety,” she said. “The combination of dark costumes and nighttime can lead to accidents. Make sure to bring flashlights trick or treating and be sure to be vigilant while crossing the street.”

Tips for a Covid-Safe Halloween

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ safety tips for Halloween can be summarized as “Think Outside” and “Mask Up Inside.” Some general guidelines.

Celebrate outside. Dress accordingly in layers; use reflective tape and light colors for visibility. 

Mask up inside. Use proper face coverings in addition to any costume masks.

Keep your distance. Inside and outside, practice safe distancing between others. Avoid clusters of children gathered at doorways, for example.

Wash hands. Remind kids to wash up thoroughly before partaking of their haul.

Making masks part of the costume

Encourage your kids to use their face masks as part of their costume (think surgeon or superhero!). However, be wary of painting the masks, since some paints contain toxins. And keep in mind that a costume mask is not a substitute for a mask that has multiple layers of breathable fabric, or a disposable surgical-style mask, that covers the mouth and nose snugly. Also, do not wear a costume mask over a COVID face mask, because it can make breathing more difficult.

~ HealthyChildren.org, Halloween & COVID-19: Have Fun While Staying Safe

Finding Halloween Activities in Vermont

Staying outdoors with children is the best bet for a safe and fun Halloween 

  • Look for outdoor events and activities in your community. Think corn mazes and pumpkin patches, hayrides and haunted forests. Check with your town or county parks and recreational department or town clerk’s office for events. Newspaper calendar listings and community forums like Front Porch Forum are other sources. 
  • If you can’t find an event, consider organizing one. Invite neighborhood kids and school friends to gather in a common place outside to share hot cider and treats. Or work with neighbors to designate a time for trick-or-treating, and a method for identifying those who are welcoming ghouls and goblins.
  • If you’re sharing treats, use single-serve bags to avoid having kids reach into a bowl.

“Halloween is such a fun time for kids – one they may look forward to more than we realize,” says Alex Karambelas, project director for COVID Support VT. “With some common sense around activities and a focus on outdoor celebrations, kids can have their holiday fun AND stay safe.”

Blog written by Brenda Patoine on behalf of VCN/Vermont Care Partners for COVID Support Vermont, a grant funded by FEMA and the Vermont Department of Mental Health

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COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Department of Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports. 

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