Halloween is not just for kids – many adults use the opportunity to dress up in costume and attend parties or visit haunted houses. But, since there is no clear end in sight for the COVID-19 pandemic, an infectious diseases expert at Baylor College of Medicine says even adults need to take precautions and offers tips on how adults can enjoy Halloween safely.
“Pandemic fatigue is a real phenomenon,” said Dr. Prathit Kulkarni, assistant professor of medicine – infectious diseases at Baylor. “People are tired of the pandemic, including those working in the healthcare field. However, the virus remains the same. While we have learned a lot about the coronavirus in the last several months, the basic public health measures, including mask use, maintaining physical distancing, trying to be outside more, frequent handwashing and avoiding large crowds, remain our best tools to protect ourselves and our families.”
Kulkarni recommends following CDC guidance on haunted houses. Visiting indoor haunted houses where people may be crowded together and screaming is considered a high-risk activity. Screaming is thought to create more droplets and aerosols than regular speaking, and the confined setting is also an issue compared to outdoor activities that provide better ventilation.
Kulkarni said open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted houses are less of a risk if masking is required for guests and there is appropriate physical distancing. Pack a mask and some hand sanitizer, and maintain physical distancing at all times.
Indoor parties might not allow for physical distancing and potentially have worse ventilation, so an indoor Halloween party is higher risk for the host and the attendees. While outdoors is a better option, all guests should still wear face masks and practice physical distancing of more than 6 feet at all times. Avoid crowded outdoor parties.
Avoid serving finger foods – food should ideally be in individual containers or packets so that sharing of food is minimized amongst people. While eating, it’s important for guests to remain outdoors and physically distant. Serve drinks in individual cans or bottles to the greatest extent possible.
Avoid bars this Halloween because of the potential for crowds and an increased risk of transmission, as well as people speaking loudly, singing or yelling.
Wear a face or cloth mask that has been approved for use during the COVID pandemic under any Halloween costume mask. Kulkarni said the person wearing the Halloween mask should ensure that they can breathe easily and comfortably with both masks. If you have to choose, ditch the costume mask.
See tips for trick-or-treating from our infectious diseases expert.