COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
The City of Columbia is encouraging people to stay safe for Halloween during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The city released a document Wednesday with guidelines for people to celebrate safely, and the different risk levels of activities related to the holiday.
Ashton Day is a health educator at Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services. She helped work on the document.
"Part of my job is to look at social media and what people are posting about and asking questions and it seemed like, especially in the last couple weeks the closer we've gotten to Halloween more and more people were talking about it," she said.
Day said the team looked at information from the CDC while making the document.
The document outlines that different gatherings pose a higher risk of spreading the virus. Gatherings that are outside are safer than inside, and gatherings with more people in attendance also pose a higher risk of spreading the virus.
Activities like pumpkin carving, a family Halloween candy hunt, scary movie marathons and more pose low risks. Other activities like trick or treating door to door, hayrides, trunk or treating, and bar crawls pose a high risk of people getting sick.
"Our strategy was more so of let's break down the risk levels of all these different activities and then offer tips and guidelines on how to make it as safe as possible," Day said.
Day said health and human services recommends doing activities that fall under the low-risk category because there is less likely to be transmission of the virus. She said, however, they understand people may still trick or treat even though it poses a higher risk.
"The good thing about that though is that trick or treating offers a lot of opportunities to just tweak what you would normally do and make it safe," she said.
Lais Campos said she and her family usually take her 12-year-old brother and nine-year-old sister trick or treating, and as long as people are safe this year that probably will not change.
"We definitely want to see how Halloween this year is going to turn out due to Coronavirus and everything. If they do manage in some neighborhoods I think probably yeah because my family we really love Halloween," she said.
Even though traditional trick or treating does pose a high risk for people, the city has given guidelines for how trick or treaters can lower that risk. Here is a list of just some:
- Limit the number of houses you visit
- Wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose
- Limit the number of houses you visit
- Sanitize your hands frequently, especially before eating or after coughing or sneezing
Day said the goal for people handing out candy is to prevent groups of people gathering at the door and to encourage social distancing.
"Set it up so that they're in their yard or driveway or whatever it may be so they aren't congregating at the front door or porch area," she said.
People can hand out candy outside and can set up a table so people are not reaching into a candy bowl repeatedly. She also suggested individual bags to avoid high touch areas.
Campos said individual bags or pieces is a good way to stay safe. She also said she thinks it would be smart for people to set our hand sanitizer by candy for trick or treaters to use.
Days said it could be beneficial for parents to begin talking with their children before Halloween on how to stay safe and socially distant.
"Prepping your kids beforehand, 'Hey, we're going to try and stay on the right side of the sidewalk to stay away from others. We're going to kind of hang back if there's someone else at the door so that we can take our turn. Looking with your eyes rather than your hands,'" she said.
She said parents may also want to take hand sanitizer for their kids to use after touching high-touch areas like doorbells and candy bowls.
If someone wants to host a Halloween event like trunk or treating they can submit an operational plan 14 days before the event to make sure it follows safety guidelines.
The most important thing for people to remember is if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed they should not participate in Halloween events or hand out candy.
Campos said because of the virus she expects fewer people to be out on Halloween night as different people have different comfort levels.
"I definitely think fewer people will go out because I for example, I have some friends whose parents are like really strict on it and some friends that are, like their parents are not that strict about, you know, going outside and such," she said.