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UPDATE: The CDC is currently in the process of updating its Holiday Guidance. We will update the information below if recommendations change for Halloween 2021.
It’s October, and you know what that means: HALLOWEEN! And since last year was a bit of a dud, it’s no wonder that people have some questions about this year’s trick-or-treating prospects.
This year is different in many ways from Halloween of 2020. Last October, we were still a few months away from any sort of COVID vaccine. This year, our vaccination rates are sitting at just over 72 percent for Skagitonians 12 years and older, and more people are choosing to get vaccinated each day.
Unfortunately, this October, our case and hospitalization rates are also higher than they’ve ever been throughout the pandemic. Though our vaccination rates are promising, we still have approximately 37 percent of our entire population unvaccinated, including kiddos under 11 who are not yet eligible. This means that we still have many Skagitonians who do not have protection against the virus and are at increased risk.
For this reason, it makes sense that people would have some reservations about going out on the 31st. So, is Halloween safe this year? Well … the answer is, like most things these days, not super straight forward.
To Trick-or-Treat, or not?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given the “okay” for children nationwide to trick-or-treat this Halloween—one year after it advised against the tradition last year due to coronavirus concerns. That said, there are a few caveats to consider.
Experts say it’s still best to take precautionary measures for Halloween given that most trick-or-treating children are younger than 11 years old and thus, still unvaccinated. If children do go trick-or-treating, it is recommended that they do so in small groups. Also, when possible, it is best to avoid scenarios where many people are concentrated in a central location.
The CDC has published a helpful guide for people planning to trick-or-treat this year. Some tips for safe trick-or-treating include:
For people passing out candy:
- Avoid direct contact with trick-or-treaters.
- Give out treats outdoors, if possible.
- Set up a station with individually bagged treats for kids to take.
- Wash hands before handling treats.
- And of course, wear a mask!
For kids collecting candy:
- Wear a mask!
- PRO TIP: Make the mask a part of the costume! But remember, costume masks are not a substitute for a well-fitting cloth mask.
- Remember: Kids younger than two years of old should never wear a mask to decrease the risk of suffocation.
- Wash or sanitize hands frequently. Before settling down to devour treats, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Maintain distance by staying at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.
What about fall festivals and Halloween parties?
In areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases, like Skagit County, it is recommended that people two years and older wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings and while attending outdoor activities where close contact with others is expected. This would include your fall festivals, pumpkin patches, trunk-or-treating events, and the like.
If planning to go to a large event outdoors, please know that the statewide mask mandate requires that masks are worn at large outdoor events of 500 or more people. This includes all people five years and older, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.
In general, folks are asked to avoid large Halloween parties this year, especially parties taking place indoors with people from multiple households. When getting together, gathering outdoors is much safer than gathering indoors.
For those who choose to gather indoors, please:
- Wear a well-fitted face mask
- Keep your distance (6 feet or more)
- Ventilate the space by opening doors and windows
If gathering in an indoor public space this year, know that the statewide mandate requires that masks be worn by all people five and older, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.
What’s the best thing to do to prepare for fall and winter festivities?
The principles of this pandemic really do continue to hold. Outdoor gatherings are better than indoor gatherings, ventilation is important, and masking remains crucial.
But above all else, the best thing you can do right now is to get vaccinated. This is the easiest thing that you can do to keep yourself, and your loved ones, safe this fall and winter. And while you’re at it, get your flu shot, too!
Getting vaccinated now will help make this Halloween better than last year’s and will ensure many spooky-fun Halloweens to come. Want to be fully vaccinated in time for the 31st? You still have time! Get your single-dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine by October 17th, and you’re covered!
Ready to get your shot? Go to https://vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov/ or stop by the Skagit County Fairgrounds on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday between 3-7pm.
For more holiday gathering guidance, go to the CDC’s webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/index.html.