By Chris Croll
“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.”This is the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control related to trick-or-treating safety this year. The CDC goes on to label traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating as a “higher risk” activity for potential transmission of COVID-19.
How are parents responding to this guidance? Here in Loudoun, unsurprisingly, there are mixed reactions. Some parents say, “Let the kids have Halloween! They’ve lost so much in this pandemic … let them enjoy a night out having fun!” Others feel the risks outweigh the rewards and say, “Safety first. Halloween is an annual holiday—the kids can celebrate it next year!”
I scoured social media for what I think are some of the best ideas for how we can all celebrate All Hallows Eve in a safe, but fun, way.
If you do want to participate in trick-or-treating, here are ways to keep it socially distanced:
1.Clothesline – Put candy in plastic bags and hang the bags on a line of string using clothespins. Hang it low enough so small children can pull off a bag themselves.
2.Easter eggs – Fill plastic Easter eggs with candy. Spread the eggs around your lawn and let each child pick up an egg.
3.A table – Decorate a table for Halloween and put baggies of candy out on the table in front of your door or at the end of the driveway. Let the children self-serve.
4.Sticks – Tape small Hershey bars to tongue depressors or even actual tree branches. Line your yard with them.
5.Long pipe — If you live in an apartment building or other smaller space, find some long cardboard or PVC tubes. Tape them together until they are at least six feet long. Dispense candy down the tube directly into the Trick-or-Treater’s sack.
To stay safe as you admire the children’s costumes, remember to stay at least six feet away from them and, for extra protection, wear a cloth mask yourself. Also, remember to pull in any leftover candy after lights-out or you may wake to find a black bear or other nocturnal friend munching on the forgotten treats.
If you are skipping trick-or-treating this year, here are some fun alternatives:
1.Costume parade – Organize a neighborhood costume parade where kids can show off their costumes while marching 6’ apart outside.
2.Pumpkin carving competition – There are elaborate designs available on social media using drills and other power tools. Adult supervision is obviously required for any carving so consider recruiting neighbors to serve as competition judges. Candy goes to the winner!
3.Halloween piñata – Fill a pinata with Halloween candy and have your children knock it open blindfolded.
4.Eat candy and watch scary movies – Buy a variety of candy and put it in pillowcases for your children. Show them age-appropriate scary movies while you munch on the treats.
5.Scavenger hunt – Put together a list of Halloween decorations and other Autumn items (scarecrows, hay bales, etc.) commonly found in yards. Drive through neighborhoods and have your kids look for the items. Finish the hunt by having your children spot bowls of candy you left out for them as a surprise back at home.
Halloween is about dressing up and having fun (and candy!) Whether you opt to have your lights on or off this Halloween, you can still enjoy the evening (and candy!) while keeping yourselves and your neighbors safe. Happy Halloween!
[Chris Croll is a writer, community activist and former member of the Loudoun County School Board (Catoctin District). She lives in Leesburg with her husband and two children.]