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Health officials spook-up tips-n-tricks for a safe Halloween amid COVID-19 concerns

CDPHE and DDPHE released recommendations for those who want to participate in Halloween activities.

DENVER — Trick-or-treating only with others in the same household, wearing face coverings, outdoor parties and limited capacity at haunted houses are among the tips recommended for a safe Halloween among the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) provided their guidelines during a news conference Wednesday morning.

The overall message for parents was to pay attention to where your community is on the state's COVID-19 Dial and plan ahead.

The next two weeks will be a key indicator of what kind of Halloween celebrations people could see, according to CDHPE's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eric France.

"Good news is, we've learned a lot over the past seven months about how to get together and do social things, yet do it in a safe method," France said during the news conference.

Several celebration ideas were given based on a community's position on the COVID-19 dial.

Stay-at-Home

  • Plan a virtual costume or pumpkin carving-contest. 
  • Set up a virtual scary movie night and simultaneously watch with friends from your own homes. 
  • Host a virtual costume contest or party, voting on the scariest and most innovative costume. 
  • Create a virtual haunted house experience. Set it up in your own home, and virtually guide people through the horror.

Safer-at-Home: Level 3

  • Organize a neighborhood costume parade with predetermined routes marked to maintain safe distances between participants.
  • Organize a drive-by yard decorating contest where neighbors pick their favorite yards.

Safer-at-Home: Level 2

  • Throw a neighborhood face mask decorating party, with guests limited to 10.
  • Go to an open-air, one-way, walk-through haunted forest, pumpkin patch or corn maze.
  • Have an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family and friends, with people wearing masks and spaced at least 6 feet apart. If screaming is likely, (it is Halloween after all!), adhere to greater distancing.

Safer-at-Home: Level 1

  • Plan a small get together, ideally outdoors, with family and close friends; limit to 25 guests.
  • Help your neighborhood with proper social distancing and one-way flow by drawing directional arrows and 6-foot spacers.

Protect-our-Neighbors

  • Activities, ideally outside, that limit the number of guests according to local guidance.

"Don't do Halloween 'half-masked,'" France said, stressing that many costume masks will not provide adequate protection. "Be sure to choose masks with multiple layers of cloth and ones that cover your nose and mouth."

Dr. Chris Nyquist from Children's Hospital urged families to stay in their neighborhoods and communicate with their neighborhood about Halloween plans.

"Get creative," Nyquist said about handing out candy to trick or treaters. "Use bags for candy that kids can pick up so they are not having to put their hands in a bucket."

The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) released their guidelines on Tuesday.

According to the state's COVID-19 Dashboard, Denver status is listed as "Safer-At-Home, Level 2: Concern".

“Halloween 2020 will be unlike any other in recent history," said Robert McDonald, executive director of DDPHE and Denver’s Public Health Administrator. "We’re dealing with a global pandemic. And for most of us, it means uncertain times. But if we are careful, if we maintain proper social distancing, if we wear our face coverings and use sanitizer, we can maintain a little bit of our traditions and enjoy a fun evening with loved ones.”

The following are guidelines from DDPHE on how to best protect yourself and others while participating in Halloween activities in 2020.

Trick-or-treating

Trick-or-treating should be done with people you live with. Keep six feet apart from those not in your household. Know that visiting people from another household or staying close together for hours brings with it a risk of virus transmission. The more households you visit, the greater chance germs may spread and linger. Also, those who are immune compromised or not feeling well should not participate in any activities and avoid visitors.

Remember to bring hand sanitizer and have children practice not touching their faces. Take a break in between multiple homes and have your kids clean their hands with sanitizer. When you get home for the night, wash your hands immediately.

Handing treats out at the door is a low-risk activity. Be sure to wear masks and use hand sanitizer. Avoid having lots of little hands reaching inside a bowl or leaving a bowl outside your door. You also can provide a table with treats spaced out. This keeps contact to a minimum. The main point is to limit your interaction with others as much as possible. Also, it won’t hurt to disinfect your doorbell, buzzers, or other high-touch surfaces outside your home at evening’s end. 

Costume Masks

A protective face mask is most important. Make sure it covers both your nose and mouth. Costume masks are not a substitute for cloth face-coverings unless they are made from two or more breathable fabric layers that cover the nose and mouth, with no gaps around the face. Wearing a costume mask over a cloth face covering may make it hard to breathe. Instead, consider a Halloween-themed cloth face-covering as part of the costume. Kids two years and younger are not required to wear a face covering, but everyone three years and older must wear one unless they cannot medically tolerate it.

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Halloween Parties

Keep the party outdoors and keep the numbers small, no more than 10 people. Remember to wear your masks and maintain proper social distancing of at least six feet from others. Set up chairs and tables so everyone can be social, but still safely apart. Also, food and drinks should be prepackaged or in single servings—no shared foods or drinks, no buffets—with hand sanitizers readily available. Also, avoid karaoke, since singing more easily spreads the virus.

Haunted Houses

The businesses that deliver fright must limit capacity. They must strictly enforce proper social distancing between groups. All surfaces and touch points must be regularly sanitized. All visitors must wear face coverings. All staff must wear face coverings and have their temperature screened. With capacity limitations in place, make a reservation to assure you get in the door before the event sells out for the night.

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