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Care -- not frights -- emphasized for celebrations of 2020 Halloween

by Sandra Hope | October 28, 2020 at 3:19 a.m.
Although door-to-door trick-or-treating is considered a very scary activity by the CDC in terms of possible exposure to covid-19, other Halloween events, such as the Police Department's scavenger hunt, are available for those wanting a safer experience. Here, lit up jack-o-lanterns decorate a Pine Bluff lawn on Martin Street.(Pine Bluff Commercial/Byron Tate)

Halloween is among the many activities people look forward to in the fall. However, in 2020 the traditional Halloween holds new risks, said Easter H. Tucker, interim family and consumer sciences program leader for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers guidelines for celebrating Halloween safely during the coronavirus pandemic, Tucker said in a news release.

The CDC says many of the traditional ways of celebrating Halloween are now considerably "more frightful" than usual because they can risk spreading the coronavirus. Door-to-door trick-or-treating and large costume parties are not recommended.

Mayor Shirley Washington agreed with the CDC assessments that are aimed at keeping everyone safe while participating in Halloween events.

"Halloween activities will be celebrated throughout Arkansas this weekend," Washington said. "Pine Bluff residents should adhere to state and federal guidelines as they join these festivities. Many traditional activities like door-to-door trick-or-treating are high risk this year, due to covid-19."

"Yet there are still creative alternatives that people can enjoy," the mayor said. "These include drive-thru scavenger hunts, virtual Halloween costume contests, Halloween movie nights with family, and outdoor costume contests. An extensive list is available on the city's website. This Halloween season will be entertaining as well as safe, if we all do our part."

One of those safe alternatives is being sponsored by the Police Department. The Fall Festival Scavenger Hunt will be 3-5 p.m. on Saturday. The hunt will include several drive-thru locations where families can stay safe in their cars and participate in the event. The department's Facebook page has more information.

The CDC has grouped Halloween activities into three categories: lower risk, moderate risk and higher risk.

HIGHER-RISK CATEGORY

• No door-to-door trick-or-treating or trunk-or-treating where kids get treats from the trunks of cars on big parking lots.

• No indoor haunted houses with big crowds and people screaming, which could lead to infectious particles flying.

• No hayrides with people not from the same household.

• Avoid fall festivals in rural areas. They, too, run the risk of spreading the virus.

• Avoid using alcohol and drugs. They can impair judgment and increase risky behaviors.

MODERATE-RISK CATEGORY

• Receiving individually wrapped gift bags at the end of a driveway or yard while practicing social distancing is acceptable.

• Haunted forests are moderately risky as long as the route is one-way, people wear masks appropriately and stay 6 feet apart. However, if screaming is likely, greater distance is advised.

• Apple picking and pumpkin patches are of moderate risk. The risk can be reduced if hand sanitizer is used before touching the apples or pumpkins, masks are worn and social distance is practiced.

• Having an outdoor scary movie night with friends is moderately risky. Be sure to practice social distancing. If lots of screaming is expected, organizers should provide extra space for social distancing.

• For less risk, conduct virtual activities with bigger groups of people or smaller in-person activities only with immediate household members.

LOWER-RISK ACTIVITIES

• Conduct pumpkin carving with family members or outdoors with friends practicing social distancing.

• Have a Halloween scavenger hunt outside looking for witches, spider webs or other spooky items. Or conduct a scavenger hunt inside for treats with family members.

• Decorate living spaces.

WHAT ABOUT MASKS?

Keep in mind that a Halloween mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask, Tucker said. The CDC says not to double up one mask over the other because that can make it hard to breathe.

"The CDC recommends Halloween-themed cloth masks," she said. "A costume mask made of two or more layers of breathable fabric covering the nose and mouth, without gaps around the face."

"Halloween can still be a fun activity if CDC guidelines are followed," Tucker said. "Please do not attend in-person Halloween activities or give out candy to trick-or-treaters if you think you have covid-19 or have been exposed to someone who does."

Pine Bluff Commercial staff contributed to this story.

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