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Grab a mask. Trick-or-treating is back!

Two epidemiologists tell how to have a fun and safe Halloween

trick or treat

Pull out those trick-or-treat bags for your kids. The Halloween tradition – which many parents chose to forgo last year as the pandemic raged — can be reinstated this year, if certain safety COVID precautions are in place, say Northwestern Medicine experts. And if you are on the other side of the doorbell, be sure to wear your mask.

Northwestern Now asked for advice from two epidemiologists who will be watching from the sidewalk as their masked children ring doorbells and fill their candy bags.

Mercedes Carnethon is vice chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine. And Dr. Sadiya Khan is a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine in epidemiology at Feinberg.

‘Masking fits right in’

“With an additional year’s worth of experience with the virus and vaccinations for the majority of age-eligible adolescents and adults in most regions of the country, Halloween trick-or-treating can be done safely, if basic precautions are in place,” Carnethon said. “Halloween is a time of disguise and mystery, so masking fits right in with this theme. If children are wearing masks along with their costumes, they can convene in small groups to circulate outside to collect candy. In warmer climates, the household hosts could set up outdoors to hand out candy, but even if Halloween guests need to approach the door, it can be done safely if the household host also wears a mask.

“Trick-or-treating — which is largely an outdoor activity — is actually safer than Halloween parties which may be indoors and where food and drink are served.

“Because so many miniature ghosts and ghouls are not eligible for vaccines, it is important all celebrants where a mask during Halloween celebrations.

“Our family is really looking forward to hitting the neighborhood in costume, and with matching masks, to trick or treat.”

Take the superheroes around the block

Khan said, “The same pillars of prevention apply for trick-or-treating that are relevant to everyday life: masking and vaccination in those who are eligible. While we await the review of data for 5- to 11-year-olds, it is unlikely children will be fully vaccinated by Halloween. But we know masks work. There is no reason trick-or-treating can’t be as fun as before. However, it would be naive to pretend we can return to a 2019 Halloween.

“The big difference this year is we have vaccines we know work. We have learned a lot about the transmissibility of the virus predominantly through the air, which makes masks very effective. Keep lots of hand sanitizer around but go for the door-to-door fun!

“We are looking forward to taking our little superheroes (Spiderman and Captain America) around the block. Let’s hope it doesn’t snow!”

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