Rajapakse offered advice on how to celebrate Halloween safely as the world continues to grapple with increasing cases of COVID-19.
Follow local and state public health
In some areas across the country, like Beverly Hills, Calif., or multiple towns in New Jersey, bans on trick-or-treating have been enacted. That is not the case in Minnesota, but that doesn’t mean residents can ignore the virus.
“Anyone who is unwell or who knows they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should not participate in any in-person activities during Halloween,” Rajapakse said.
Traditional Halloween safety tips still apply.
Halloween masks don’t stop the spread
With Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order signed this summer, wearing a mask is nothing new to most Minnesotans. But wearing just a Halloween mask won’t be enough to keep respiratory droplets to yourself, but that doesn’t mean you should just put a cloth mask under your Halloween mask, as it could make breathing difficult, especially for children, and create safety concerns.
“In terms of masks that come as part of a costume, generally those would not be considered to be protective against transmission of infection, so we would not recommend using that as your primary mask to keep yourself and those around you safe,” Rajapakse said.
Leave more room for screams
We know the virus is mostly transmitted through respiratory droplets caused by coughs, sneezes, talks, and most relevant to Halloween — screams.
“For Halloween, we are recommending if it’s an activity where screaming might occur, even more than 6 feet would be even safer,” Rajapakse said.
Low- and moderate-risk activities
Rajapakse said any activity that occurs virtually or that only includes members of your own household family members would be considered low risk. Activities could include a virtual costume party, a scary movie night with household members, a scavenger hunt in your own home, and pumpkin carving or painting.
“Any activity where you will be coming into contact with people from outside of your household, we would consider to be a moderate risk for transmission or exposure to infection,” Rajapakse said. “There will be no 100% safe way to bring people from different households together in many parts of the country, based on how much infection is out there.”
Trick-or-treating not recommended
High-risk activities — those in which you might come into contact with others — include indoor costume parades or parties, or visiting a haunted forest, pumpkin patch or orchard.
The risk can be made lower by having them outside, using universal masking, and ensuring good hand hygiene and physical distancing.
“But, anytime you are around others from outside your household, there will be some risk involved,” Rajapakse said.
Door-to-door trick-or-treating or “trunk-or-treating” events are not recommended, as well as indoor costume parties or haunted houses. There are a number of elements of trick-or-treating that increase the risk of transmission, Rajapakse said. Close proximity to others, the number of interactions with and mixing of different people from different households, and the exchange of items from one household to another, all present risk.
How to share the information with your children
Everyone has been through a lot this year, especially children. Explaining that it’s not going to be a permanent change to Halloween is important, Rajapakse said, adding that we are all optimistic that by this time next year, we’ll all be in a much better position.
“I think the important thing for kids is to present it as an opportunity to maybe have some new or different experience than they may have been used to in the past,” she said. “Halloween is not canceled, we are just celebrating it in a different way this year.”