Halloween should hopefully be a little less nerve-wracking this year for parents of trick-or-treaters and people handing out candy who are worried about transmitting COVID-19.
A lot more is known about how the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is spread than in the fall of 2020 when Minnesota’s biggest spike of infections was just ramping up.
“Most importantly, we know there are things we can do to reduce exposure and transmission,” said Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a pediatric infectious disease specialist with Mayo Clinic Children’s Center. “Last year the guidance around Halloween activities was much more strict than it will be this year.”
Vaccines remain the best way to avoid contracting COVID-19, but unfortunately not everyone is eligible. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to begin reviewing vaccine data from Pfizer for 5- to 11-year-olds in late October, but the earliest children may be eligible for the shot is November.
While most trick-or-treaters are not yet old enough to get vaccinated, health experts say there’s plenty of ways to have a Halloween that’s relatively safe from COVID-19.
The guidelines state health officials have recommended to slow the spread of the coronavirus everyday continue to apply. They include wearing masks in public settings, social distancing, hand washing and staying home when sick.
Generally, another of the easiest ways to reduce risk is to stay outside.
Health officials again are discouraging indoor gathers with multiple families again this year — that includes things like haunted houses and parties held inside.
But they’ve maintained that outdoor activities carry much lower risk than those held indoors.
“We know the virus does not spread well outdoors,” Rajapakse said. “This year, for Halloween, we would say if it is outdoors it is definitely a lower risk situation than having indoor activities or parties where you have crowds of people.”
Masks continue to be recommended for anyone gathering in groups, indoors and out, vaccinated or not. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says community transmission of COVID-19 is high enough in every Minnesota county that masks should be worn in public spaces.
Parents also should be careful when masking-up little ones to make sure their masks for protection don’t interfere with breathing when also wearing costumes.
One thing parents and little-revelers can worry less about is having to quarantine their haul of candy. SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, just doesn’t spread well on surfaces.
“We have learned through the pandemic that surface transmission is a very minor way this virus is transmitted,” Rajapakse said. “It is smart to practice regular hand washing. But in terms of wiping down all the candy, that’s not necessary.”
Rajapakse says to spread COVID-19 via a surface an infected person would have to cough on an item and someone would have to pick up enough virus to become ill from it and touch their mouth, nose or eyes.
“The statistical likelihood of that is happening is really very low,” Rajapakse said.