Will Halloween be a trick or a treat during the pandemic?

ST. GEORGE — In a year unlike any other, masks haven’t been something people just reserve for wearing on Oct. 31. 

Photo illustration of kids trick-or-treating in Halloween costumes and face masks. | Photo by FamVeld, , iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the month of Halloween, parents and children alike are faced with the question of how to still partake in the holiday during a pandemic. 

For medical experts and state medical officials, the only consensus is that it will be up to the participants and the parents of those who partake in the holiday to determine the safest way to do it. 

David Heaton, spokesperson for the Southwest Utah Public Health Department, said the local health agency doesn’t have an official recommendation concerning Halloween at this point, but it helps to keep any holiday activities outdoors. 

“We have found outdoor activities seem to be at a lower risk even, strangely enough, in gatherings,” Heaton said. “Every family is going to have to make their own educated decision.”

At a higher level, Utah Department of Health spokesperson Tom Hudachko said state health officials are still working on their recommendations for the holiday but should have a plan in the coming weeks.

Talking pumpkins are part of the elaborate Halloween display on Bear Claw Drive in St. George, Utah. Oct. 13, 2020. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have put together an extensive list of recommendations for the holiday on its website. 

Among the recommendations are to avoid indoor gatherings, staying home if one feels even the mildest of symptoms and the standard preventative measures against coronavirus: Wash hands often, socially distance and wear a mask when you can’t.  

The CDC has also listed the Halloween-related activities it has determined will pose the highest risk for contracting the virus:

  • 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 judgment 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.

The CDC also said Halloween masks don’t provide the protection against the virus that cloth masks do. 

Photo illustration. | Photo by SbytovaMN, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

It recommends not to use a costume mask as a substitute for a cloth mask 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.

The CDC also says wearing a costume mask over a cloth mask is also a possible spell toward harm. While they say cloth masks don’t typically cause breathing issues, combining them with a hard mask could hinder breathing. Instead, the CDC said to consider a Halloween-themed cloth mask.

As for those who question the effectiveness of cloth masks, saying they have seen things like hairs and candy corn crumbs finding their way inside the mask, medical experts said to keep in mind that the virus, while microscopic, rides on much larger aerosol droplets. Aerosol droplets containing the virus will be absorbed in a cloth mask rather than being released to others.  

Dr. Jarid Gray at Cedar City Hospital has seen the true horrors of the coronavirus first-hand and its Russian roulette effects that range from just a mild cold, to long-term illness, to death. 

While the CDC lists traditional trick-or-treating as a high-risk activity, Gray said while any social activity carries a degree of risk at this point, trick-or-treaters are not likely to have extended contact with people as those who answer the door. He said it will be more of a trick for those giving out the treats than those taking them.

Dr. Jarid Gray of Cedar City Hospital provides some tips for a safe Halloween during the pandemic. | Graphic by Chris Reed, background photo by
Konoplytska, iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News | Click to enlarge

“People giving out candy are taking on more risk than those taking the candy,” Gray said. “At least in my neighborhood, it is a higher probability that 300 trick-or-treaters will come to my door than my kids will visit 300 houses.”

Gray’s advice as far as parents deciding whether it is safe for their kids to trick-or-treat this year also comes down to how widespread the virus is on Oct. 31.

“Hopefully those who are in the active phase or feeling sick will not be out and about, but I have become fairly pessimistic in those regards,” Gray said.

Creative displays are a safe option

One safe alternative for Halloween this year is something that has become a growing part of the October holiday – elaborate displays put up by homeowners in the area. 

Josh and Rashell Werner have put up a nightly display on Bear Claw Drive near the corner of Desert Hills Drive in St. George that includes animated pumpkins, floating candles and a 7-foot-wide spider wrapping the suburban home in her web.

The Werners, who run ABC Termite & Pest Control, hatched the idea of creating the infestation at their own home as a way to bring a little fiendish delight to passing motorists and onlookers.

A giant spider is part of the elaborate Halloween display on Bear Claw Drive in St. George, Utah. Oct. 13, 2020. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

“We wanted to create some excitement and give people a reason to smile, especially during such challenging times,” Rashell Werner said. “It makes us happy to make others happy.”

The Werners spent weeks creating the spider, which is carrying an egg sack on her back, out of plastic pipe and other household materials. They also individually cut each hole of the large cloth webs that stretch to the top of their two-story home at 622 Bear Claw Drive. 

But the Werners are far from the only Southern Utah residents transforming their home into haunted haunts.

Other local displays include:

  • 1993 Gubler Drive, Santa Clara: Considered a must-see in Santa Clara, homeowner Todd Wood has once again shown off dead men who tell tales with his “Pirates of the Caribbean” inspired display that includes shooting cannons. It is featured on his YouTube page
  • Dixie Springs Drive, Hurricane: A kind of haunted highway, the Dixie Springs neighborhood of Hurricane is considered a must-see at Halloween-time.
  • The Monster Garage, Washington City: Not as much a site as an idea, local resident Payton Fisher and his family have created a YouTube video showing how they turned a part of their home into a monster garage. It can be gobbled up in person at 937 E. Coyote Loop in Washington City.
  • Mesquite Police Trunk or Treat, Mesquite, Nevada: The Mesquite Police Department is holding its 14th Trunk or Treat event but with a twist this year. To adhere to CDC and local health guidelines, this year’s event – at 1 p.m. on Oct. 31 in the Casablanca Resort-Casino parking area – will be strictly a drive-through affair with those seeking treats staying in their cars and having the treats brought to them. Businesses are invited to reserve a trunk space. There is no entry fee, but they must provide approximately 4,000 pieces of commercially wrapped candy to hand out, and the advertising is family-friendly. Residents can also donate candy at the Mesquite Police Department at 695 Mayan Circle between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Have a Halloween display you want to share with the community? Let us know at [email protected]

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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