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Parents everywhere are struggling with how to get the most out of Halloween during the pandemic.
The guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges families to take precautionary measures when doing trick or treating outdoors by wearing hand sanitizer, setting up and carrying stations with individually wrapped goodies Cloth masks, not just Halloween masks. However, some communities go further and urge parents to abstain from door-to-door trick-or-treating because of the challenges of maintaining social distancing on the doorstep and the risks associated with food sharing .
For many families, the challenge this year is finding activities that are fun and safe. We asked 20 public health doctors for inspiration Officials and epidemiologists with their own children, how they want to celebrate.
We received a wide range of responses, depending on personal risk tolerance, the age of the children and the extent of the Covid-19 outbreak in their community. Here is a recap of what they had to say:
The health authorities in the Canadian neighborhood of Dr. Yoni Freedhoff asked parents to avoid trick or treating. So Freedhoff an Associate Professor of Family Medicine at the University of Ottawa, and his wife have come up with an alternative plan for their three children. The family dresses in costumes, carves pumpkins and goes on a horror-themed scavenger hunt. His children, ages 11, 13, and 16, will deserve their plunder by remembering moments from famous horror movie scenes.
"The kids are excited," he said. "They'd rather do trick or treating, but their mom is a rock star when it comes to that sort of thing."
Scavenger hunts appear to be a particularly popular option with doctors and public health officials this year. It's a way to stay at home in cold climates or to safely engage with the outdoor community.
"Bottom line: Halloween is not canceled, but it needs to be adjusted," said Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle-based pediatrician.
An outdoor scavenger hunt is planned in their neighborhood for all local children in their costumes. Parents agreed on social distancing and masks in advance. "There's no point in blowing up all of our efforts over a little candy," she said. "Enjoy the silliness, but don't break down and put yourself or others in danger."
Covid is never far from the thoughts of Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, a pulmonary and intensive care doctor who specializes in respiratory diseases. After considering options, he decided to invite his nieces and nephews to a costume party with his children. He is working on a map full of puzzles that the kids must lead to hidden candy around the house.
Galiatsatos is confident that Halloween can still be fun this year with a little more advanced planning. "As doctors, we don't want to lose sight of the fact that this is a holiday where masks are actively celebrated," he said.
Trick or treat – with a twist
The emergency physician Dr. Amy Cho is still planning a trick-or-treat getaway with her four kids, but with a twist. When Minneapolis, where she lives, isn't too cold, she brings her children home with the lights on. They don't knock on doors, but their kids can help themselves to sugary treats at outdoor tables.
As an extra precaution, your children wear mittens and masks under their costumes. And they won't eat the candy for a couple of days.
"Some people in our friend's neighborhood even made a Halloween-themed slide out of PVC pipe to send out candy," she said.
Other parents say they plan to keep Halloween as close to normal as possible, but with masks and social distancing. Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health, says his 8-year-old will be doing trick or treating and wearing hand sanitizer in a small group. But he's not going to go to people's homes and the annual costume party is canceled.
Before children put their hands in candy bowls, he recommends using hand sanitizer to prevent the spread of germs.
Dr. Megan Ranney, an emergency doctor at Brown, also takes her son (a skeletal knight) and daughter (an astronaut) for treatment. Both will wear cloth masks. She feels comfortable when her children briefly approach her neighbors, as long as they also wear a mask.
Some parents form "pandemic capsules" for the sake of sanity. The idea is to pick two or three families close by to hang out with, but all of them agree to follow public health measures like wearing masks and social distancing.
Dr. Shikha Jain from Chicago has formed a capsule with her neighbors, which she calls her "quarantine team". As early as May, the families held a socially distant birthday party in the garage, where the children took turns playing hopping or beating a pinata. Each one returned home with an individually wrapped cupcake. It was such a success that Jain gathered the same group together for some outdoor Halloween activities, like pumpkin carving and a movie projected on the garage door.
For some doctors, relying on their capsule is a necessity. Dr. Dan Buckland, a North Carolina-based emergency doctor, was asked to work a shift in the hospital on Halloween. So his kids will go on a trip with their grandparents and stay in an Airbnb where they will be spoiled with sweets.
"There are a lot of experiences that they haven't had this year," he said. "We wanted them to have a happy memory."
Dr. Geeta Nayyar, a Florida-based rheumatologist, was busy coordinating a series of games for the children with her neighbors. The plan is for families to enjoy a drink in their respective driveways while children dance to music or play with glow-in-the-dark hula hoops. The grand finale will include a socially distant parade down the dead end to Michael Jackson's song "Thriller".
Northern California-based dermatologist Dr. Roxana Daneshjou describes herself as a "fanatic" of Halloween. This year, her daughter in costume will take part in a socially distant, outdoor Halloween street parade. She also takes part in a competition organized by a 10 year old and asks families to display their scariest decorations in their front yards.
Daneshjou has a strong community of friends online. That's why she has agreed to host a virtual costume contest for the medical industry and their children on Twitter. The winner can donate to a charity of their choice.
Other parents say their kids are open to a more low-key Halloween this year, which is home to costumes. John Brownstein, infectious disease epidemiologist and chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital, says his 9- and 11-year-olds are concerned about the pandemic. It is difficult to avoid the subject in his daily work.
Even so, his children are enthusiastic about dressing up. His daughter goes this year as someone she admires: Dr. Anthony Fauci. "My kids are pretty connected," he said.
General information for parents
"The key is to avoid the three Cs," said Bill Hanage, associate professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "It's crowds, closed spaces and close contact."
Hanage said he would be personally comfortable doing trick or treating with his family outdoors in low disease prevalence communities. He would also advise that children wash their hands before eating candy, or that parents leave it out for the day.
"It remains the case that outdoor transmission is rare," he said. "I would be comfortable with small local events that work with these (public health) guidelines."