Boo! Halloween with COVID-19 again? We asked doctors, ‘Would you do this?’ – The Cincinnati Enquirer

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Halloween 2020: Parents build unique gadgets to hand out candy

Parents are going to extremes to make sure no kid goes without candy this Halloween.

USA TODAY, Storyful

Trick-or-treaters will descend on neighborhoods soon, again celebrating Halloween during a pandemic.

Parents of superheroes, anime characters, zombies and ghosts may be wondering how to keep their little ones – and the generous treat-givers – safe from COVID-19.

We at The Enquirer wondered what COVID-19 experts were planning for the holiday. We composed several questions and asked, “Would you do this, doc?” Turns out, some favor fewer restrictions than they did last year.

Here’s who responded:

  • Dr. Jennifer Forrester, associate professor of infectious diseases at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and associate chief medical officer at UC Health.
  • Dr. Robert Frenck, professor of pediatrics for the division of infectious diseases and director of the Gamble Center for Vaccine Research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
  • Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum, infectious disease specialist at UC Health and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Here’s what we asked and how they responded:

Would you hand out candy to trick-or-treaters?

Forrester: “Yes, we will have a bowl of treats at the end of the driveway. We can see the spooky costumes from a comfortable distance near our warm cauldron. Many of the trick-or-treaters are unvaccinated, so we want to keep them safe so that they can stay in school for the rest of the quarter.”

Frenck: “Yes. But, I would hand it out to them, not have them stick their hand in the basket. I would not worry about putting on gloves. That only protects you or the child for the first couple minutes. After that, you have touched so many things that the gloves are of no value.”

Fichtenbaum: “If the numbers are below 25 new infections per 100,000 in Cincinnati, I will hand out candy wearing a mask – a fun one! – and use hand sanitizer each time. I will hand candy into bags to avoid lots of hands reaching into the same basket.”

If you have children trick-or-treating, what rules will you set for them?

Forrester: “I always ask them to stick together for many safety reasons. Again, keeping distance is important and waiting their turns. We ask that they wait to get home to eat any of their goodies so they can wash their hands, too.”

Frenck: “Ask that the person put the candy in your bag. Ask that kids stay as separated as they are at school (assuming they are going to in-person school instead of online). Ask that they wait to eat the candy until they get home.”

Fichtenbaum: “Wear a mask, use hand sanitizer before eating any candy, don’t go inside of houses, no sharing candy with friends.”

Would you have your children wear a mask under their Halloween mask?

Forrester: “Outside activities with distance seem to be fairly safe, so they don’t need to wear a mask since they aren’t in a crowd.”

Frenck: “Here I would change a bit from last year. If the kids are outdoors and vaccinated, they don’t need masks. If they are unvaccinated, or going indoors, I would ask that they mask. If we continue to see significant drops in new cases, it may be to where we can say vaccinated kids indoors don’t need to wear a mask. We likely will have a vaccine available for kids 5-12 this month. If the child receives one dose in mid-October, I would be OK by Halloween to say that, even though they need to get their second shot, they have sufficient protection against COVID to allow them to go without a mask.”

Fichtenbaum: “Yes I would.”

Would you let your child trick-or-treat with friends?

Forrester: “My vaccinated kids can be outside near other vaccinated kids as long as they keep their distance. At this point, they’ve had a lot of experience with this and it’s pretty easy for them.”

Frenck: “Yes. I would ask that they remember social distancing, although I am sure that will be difficult for kids when they are out having fun. If the kids are vaccinated, the risk of acquisition or transmission of the virus is much lower, so I would have less concern about them going out for Halloween.”

Fichtenbaum: “Yes I would, as long as everyone wears masks in the car ride.”

Would you wash wrapped candy collected by your child?

Forrester: “I’ve done this before COVID, so yes.”

Frenck: “No. Remember, the virus does not live long on surfaces. If you wanted to be really safe, you could ask your kids to give you the candy and you put it away until the next day. By then, even if there were virus on the wrapper, it should be very weakened or dead. This is not an excuse for you to eat all your kids’ candy!”

Fichtenbaum: “No, I think the risk of virus transmission through candy wrappers is minimal.”

Would you let your child go to a Halloween party?

Forrester: “No, unfortunately, we still don’t have a vaccination rate that is effective for decreasing transmission. Because my daughter isn’t yet eligible for vaccination, even her brothers understand being careful to protect her since Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is seeing some sick kids right now.”

Frenck: “If the kids are vaccinated, I am ok with them having a party. But, keep it in moderation, 20 to 30 people. If not vaccinated, people should maintain social distancing, have on a mask, not come if they are sick and limit to the allowed number to 10. This is going to make for a less than normal party, but I think the kids still can have fun.”

Fichtenbaum: “No, I would avoid parties unless the rate of transmission is less than 10 per 100,000 in your city or county.”