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7 Ways To Make Trick-Or-Treating Safe For Your Neighborhood

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Trying to convince my kids that Halloween in 2020 can still be fun without conventional door-to-door candy collecting is like pulling teeth. If there is any way to save their beloved tradition, I'm all ears. Believe it or not, there are actually ways to make trick-or-treating safe for your neighborhood. Experts say it just takes a bit of prep and planning to ensure that your Halloween night stays as germ-free as can be.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidelines for staying safe this Halloween during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic put traditional trick-or-treating squarely in the high-risk category, certain adjustments can be made to help make engaging in the activity safer. While only hitting up select family homes in a trick-or-treat pod, staying socially distancing, and utilizing grab-and-go goodie bags isn't exactly the idyllic version of trick-or-treating I remember from my own childhood (or, you know, even just last year), some version of trick-or-treating is definitely better than none at all.

Within your own neighborhood, there are several steps to take to help encourage safe trick-or-treating so that every family can create memories with their kids that will last a lifetime. Take a look at how your neighborhood can work together to keep Halloween traditions alive during this trying time.

1. "Pod" With Other Families

Similar to how families have created educational learning pods, one option to help make for a safer trick-or-treating experience within your neighborhood is to "pod" with other families.

"Trick-or-treating with a controlled group in a social pod with agreed upon houses could reduce that risk, especially if everyone agrees to adhere to wearing masks, physical distancing, and overall being cautious ahead of the event," Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, One Medical provider and Regional Medical Director, tells Romper. "However, this is more difficult to execute in reality as the houses cannot control the flow of external trick-or-treaters. As an alternative, some families are choosing to celebrate on Oct. 30 this year with select families."

2. Wear A Mask

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Wearing a mask is definitely one non-negotiable piece of Halloween attire in 2020. Wearing a cloth face covering will help prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to the CDC, so if you choose to be out and about around the neighborhood trick-or-treating, this is one way to stay safe.

Bhuyan explains that masks should be worn anytime people interact with others not in their household. "However, costume masks are not a substitute for cloth masks," she says. "That is because costume masks often have holes in the nose or mouth, which can allow droplets to readily pass."

3. Have A Signal For Participating Homes

To help keep your entire neighborhood safe, have a signal so that you can easily identify which houses are participating in trick-or-treating and which are not. This way, homes where high-risk individuals live can opt out of having trick-or-treaters ring the doorbell.

"When looking at risk, children with preexisting conditions, have family members with preexisting conditions, or live with elderly family members are the most at-risk," Dr. Sunitha D. Posina, MD, board-certified internist in New York tells Romper. "In this case, it may be worth it to sit out trick-or-treating this year than to risk getting infected."

Much like leaving a porch light on when you're "open for business," or using a teal pumpkin to designate a home with treats that are allergy-friendly, one popular option is to use a purple pumpkin to designate a coronavirus-free home. You can use local neighborhood social media pages to help spread the word about possible signals you and your neighbors could use to help keep one another safe while trick-or-treating.

4. Post Reminder Signs

"Fun and Halloween-themed signs will not just encourage people, but it will also help remind others," Posina tells Romper. "It will especially help the little ones who aren't very familiar with the risks and oftentimes forget about mask-wearing."

You can help your neighbors remember to follow safety protocols while trick-or-treating by posting reminder signs around your yard for all to see as they pass by. There are several options available to order on Etsy, or you can always create your own fun signs to encourage social distancing and mask-wearing.

Bhuyan does have one word of caution about signs, however. "While signs encouraging safe behavior are always a good idea, we cannot control if all guests adhere to these signs. As a result, any traditional trick-or-treating is still a high-risk activity."

5. Utilize Grab & Go Bags

"For parents who choose to interact with others, there are ways to minimize the risk of the interactions," Bhuyan says. "A neighborhood can coordinate and agree to only leave out goody bags that children can walk by and grab from a table on the sidewalk, without interacting with others."

The CDC designates "one-way trick-or-treating" using goodie bags lined up at the edge of a driveway or lawn that kids can grab without getting too close as a moderate-risk Halloween activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. This method allows children and parents to maintain social distancing, but still cash in on the "treat" portion of trick-or-treating.

"This minimizes the risk of transmission by limiting human-to-human interactions," Bhuyan explains. "Remember, COVID-19 most commonly spreads from person to person."

6. Check A Map

An interactive map from Hershey's designates neighborhoods in high-risk COVID-19 areas to help families decide where it's safer to trick-or-treat this Halloween. Plan your route ahead of time to make sure that you know exactly where to go when out and about. This will also help families maintain social distance by not wandering aimlessly and potentially getting cornered in a crowd.

When deciding whether or not to hit the streets, Bhuyan says that parents should "understand and evaluate the risks," including personal risk factors.

"It’s important to remember we are still in the middle of a pandemic and in many communities, COVID-19 has ongoing and rapid spread," she explains. "Ultimately, the highest risk activities are traditional trick-or-treating, as well as indoor Halloween parties and haunted houses."

7. Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize

Just as with every other activity where you could potentially spread or pick up germs by way of touching, sanitizing your hands while out trick-or-treating is one way to help keep your neighbors safe.

"Sanitizing your hands between each home visit is a good idea," Bhuyan says. "However, because COVID-19 is primarily spread from person-to-person either via respiratory droplets or in the air, sanitizing your hands won’t prevent the risk during those interactions."

Posina explains that parents should also be mindful of children who are typically nail biters or have trouble keeping their hands out of their mouth. "It will be difficult to continually watch to ensure your child is not touching their mouth with their hands without washing them after going door to door on a night like Halloween," she says. "If this is a concern, provide the child with gloves or purchase a nail-biting polish to stop the habit."

Experts:

Dr. Sunitha D. Posina, MD, board-certified internist and locum hospitalist in New York

Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, One Medical provider and Regional Medical Director