Assessing COVID-19 risk for Halloween as Durham discourages trick-or-treaters

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – “Halloween has got to be different this year,” Durham mayor Steve Schewel said Tuesday.

The city announced they are strongly discouraging traditional trick-or-treating and even trunk-or-treating this year in Durham. It aligns with CDC guideline which considers those high risk events for COVID-19.

Mayor Schewel said there were no specific enforcement planned for Halloween celebrations. Instead, he said officers would continue visiting with residents if there were reports about mass gathering restrictions not being followed.

“We know we can’t make this all work through enforcement. We have to make it work through our community voluntarily complying,” he said.

The city said they would not be using traffic cones or police officers to manage traffic for trick-or-treaters in neighborhoods. The mayor asked people leave their porch lights off to discourage trick-or-treaters.

The city announced several free alternative events that do fall in line with CDC guidelines. Those events are below. Click here to register for them.

“We cant afford to have a super spreader event at Halloween,” said the mayor.

A different kind of Halloween

People are still looking for ways to celebrate the holiday. Shoppers told CBS 17 they hope family or neighbor-only celebrations can reduce their risk.

Keara Melatt told CBS 17 she was at Spirit Halloween shopping for decorations for a Halloween party. She said her family wanted to put together something for the smaller children in her family while keeping the elderly family members said.

“We’ve just been keeping everything as small as possible and being safe, wearing our masks out. Even with family functions, we still all wear our mask,” Melatt said.

Will Graham was looking for a swing to put in the front yard for skeletons. His neighborhood planned to only welcome trick-or-treaters from the immediate neighborhood.

“It’s starting to feel a little bit more real but we’ve been pretty careful in our neighborhood and I don’t think we’re too worried about Halloween,” said Graham.

The CDC says those are considered moderate to high risk plans depending on how many people show up and how many non-family member end up inside the home.

“Once news started spreading that we were open, it’s been tremendously busy,” said Michael Lima, manager at a Raleigh Spirit Halloween.

He said the store was adapting to concerns from the pandemic. This year, they have offered Halloween themed face coverings. Some of those masks have more than one layer of fabris as suggested by the CDC however packaging notes they’re not a replacement for PPE. The CDC says Halloween costumes masks aren’t a replacement for a face covering either.

The store also offers “loot scoots” this year. The candy bags have arms that extend to allow for more distance when collecting treats. If they don’t create 6 feet of space however- the CDC said the risk of COVID-19 is still high.

Assess your risk with the Halloween CDC Guidelines

Low Risk Activities

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance(more than 6 feet apart), with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
  • Doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance(children should stay within their household groups)
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with
  • Having a scavenger hunt-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house

Moderate Risk Activities

  • Encourage no or low touch trick-or-treating
  • Line up individually wrapped goodie bags for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance (such as at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard)
  • Place individual pieces of candy spaced out on a table for families/children to take themselves
  • Gently toss candy to trick or treaters from 6 feet away
  • Use a “candy chute” or tube to pass along candy from the porch to trick or treaters standing 6 feet away
  • Reverse trick or treat where children dress in their costumes and stay at their house or front yard house and neighbors walk or drive by to drop off candy
  • Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade where people are distanced more than 6 feet apart
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart
  • Having an outdoor Halloween movie night with local family friends with people spaced at least 6 feet apart(greater distance is recommended if screaming)

High Risk Activities

  • Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door or children take candy from a shared bucket
  • Having trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behavior

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