We have made significant gains against the pandemic since implementing appropriate physical distancing (social distancing), mandatory mask mandate, and encouraging hand hygiene. Unfortunately, we have lost many lives along the way; and with the holiday season rapidly approaching, we should remain vigilant to curtail the spread and possible resurgence of COVID-19. There are many things we can do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe this holiday season, and the IDSA (Infectious Diseases Society of America) supports leading health authorities in this initiative.
The following are some recommendations from IDSA and the CDC regarding celebrating Halloween and the upcoming holidays.
Currently, Trick-or-Treat for East Baton Rouge Parish is set from 6:00-8:00 pm on Saturday, October 31. There are several things we can do to decrease the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19, or influenza, while participating in Halloween.
If you plan to distribute candy:
- Avoid direct contact with treat-or-treaters
- If possible, pass out treats outdoors
- Consider setting up a station of individually wrapped bagged treats for kids to take
- Wash your hands before handling treats
- Wear a mask
If you plan to go trick-or-treating:
- Make your cloth mask part of your costume
- A costume mask is NOT a substitute for a cloth mask
- Do NOT wear a costume mask over a cloth mask; it can make breathing more difficult.
- Masks should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2
- Stay at least 6 feet away from others who don’t live with you
- Even outdoors, you are more likely to get or spread COVID-19 when you are in close contact with others for a long time
- Wash your hands
- Bring hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) with you and use it after touching objects or other people
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home, and before you eat any treats.
Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed out is a higher risk activity
Take part in other Halloween activities, but remember that even when outdoors, you should wear a cloth mask, stay at least 6 feet from others who do not live with you, and wash your hands often:
- Decorate or carve pumpkins
- Walk in your neighborhood, looking at others’ Halloween decorations
- Visit an orchard, forest, corn maze, or pumpkin patch
- Consider going on an outdoor Halloween-themed scavenger hunt
- Hide Halloween treats in and around your house and hold a Halloween treat hunt with members of your household.
- Host an outdoor movie night with friends or neighbors
- Costume parties are considered high risk activities and should be avoided
Celebrating with members of your household poses low risk, as does celebrating virtually. In-person gatherings pose variable levels of risk, and there are several factors that may contribute to getting infected or spreading COVID-19 to others. You should look at them individually and together, to determine your level of risk.
“Virtual gatherings, that bring friends and family together from distant points, and gatherings limited to household members remain the safest ways to celebrate this holiday season,” says IDSA President Thomas File Jr, MD. “Large gatherings and travel continue to pose threats to efforts to curtail and contain the spread of COVID-19 in any community.”
Things to consider regarding traveling, hosting or gathering for the holidays:
Community levels of COVID-19
- Levels of COVID-19 cases and community spread in the gathering locations, as well as where attendees are coming from, are important to note. High levels in either will increase the possibility of getting sick, or spreading it to others.
- When deciding to host or attend a gathering, you should consider the number and rate of COVID-19 cases in your community and in the community where you plan to celebrate.
- You can find the number of cases on the area’s health department website.
Location of the gathering
- Indoor gatherings pose a higher risk than outdoor gatherings.
- Poor ventilation in an indoor space can further increase the risk of transmission.
- If holding an indoor gathering, open windows and doors to improve ventilation.
Duration of the gathering
- Longer gatherings are higher risk than shorter gatherings.
Number of people at the gathering
- Gatherings with more people poses a higher risk than those with fewer guests.
Locations attendees are traveling from
- Gatherings that include attendees traveling from different places pose a higher risk than those of people that live in the same area.
- If the rate of community transmission is high where the person is traveling from, the risk to other attendees increases.
Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering
- Attendees that have NOT been social distancing, wearing a mask, or washing their hands pose more risk than attendees that do engage in preventative measures.
Behaviors of attendees during the gathering
- Gatherings that have preventative measures in place (such as appropriate social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing) pose a lower risk than those gatherings that do not.
Other useful tips:
- Spend time outdoors if possible. Crowded indoor gatherings, especially those that are lengthy, pose the greatest risk for transmission. The risk of gathering with people outside of your household decreases in an outdoor setting.
- Don’t forget that gatherings, especially in cooler weather, can contribute to the spread of other infectious diseases, such as seasonal influenza.
- GET YOUR FLU VACCINE (Drive-thru flu vaccines are available at the Baton Rouge Clinic on Mondays-Thursdays from 3:00-5:00 pm)
- Make sure children and adults are up to date on all scheduled vaccinations.
There are some groups that should not attend in-person holiday celebrations, including those that may have been exposed to COVID-19 or those that are at increased risk for severe illness.
Do NOT host or participate in any in-person festivities if you or anyone in your household:
- Has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not met the criteria for when it’s safe to be around others.
- Has symptoms of COVID-19.
- Is waiting for the results of a COVID-19 viral test.
- May have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
- Is at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
If you are at increased risk of severe disease from COVID-19, or live or work with someone at increased risk of severe illness, you should:
- Avoid in-person gatherings with people who do not live in your household.
- Avoid larger gatherings and consider attending activities that pose a lower risk. If you decide to attend an in-person gathering with people who do not live in your household.