Wellstar North Fulton is encouraging residents to comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations for a safe, spooky Halloween.
The CDC released guidelines on how to safely celebrate Halloween and Dia de los Muertos in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the CDC, many traditional Halloween activities like Trick-or-Treating and Halloween parties put participants at risk of spreading and contracting the virus.
Chief pediatric officer of Wellstar Health System Dr. Avril Beckford agrees with the CDC’s recommendations. Beckford has over 37 years experience and has served as the president of the Georgia Chapter of Pediatrics.
“It is so important to apply these guidelines, but also we would like you to apply them and remember this should be in the context of your individual family situations,” Beckford said. “People come from various different backgrounds, different neighborhoods and I want to be very respectful of that.”
The CDC advises against traditional trick-or-treating and instead suggests hosting virtual activities like costume contests and pumpkin carvings. A scavenger-style trick-or-treat search with your household members in or around your home rather than going house to house is also a suggestion. For those still wanting to trick-or-treat, the CDC says one-way trick-or-treating “where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance” poses a moderate risk.
“If you are preparing goodie bags, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 second before and after preparing the bags,” the CDC website reads.
Despite their warnings against trick-or-treating, traditional parties or trunk-or-treating, many parents and organizations are still wanting to trick-or-treat or trunk-or-treat.
“Do not let social media impact your safety or the safety of your children,” Beckford said. “Do not ignore the CDC guidelines. Ignoring the CDC recommendations and increasing COVID can take away much more than just the fun of Halloween. It can take away our health and the health of our community.”
Based on the CDC guidelines, Wellstar has released its top tips for a safe Halloween using the acronym GHOSTS: grab-n-go, have fun, outside, sanitize, technology and stay home. For those giving out candy, Beckford recommends lining up and spreading out candy so kids can ‘grab-n-go.’ Masks are also highly recommended with costumes, so families can make it an activity to decorate face masks. However, Beckford said costume masks do not count as face masks, and to avoid layering costume and face masks.
“Yes, I want you to have fun and we can have wonderful fun this Halloween, but we need to do it with appropriate and some creative social distancing,” Beckford said. “We do need to wear our mask, all of us who are over two, and we do need to sanitize and that way we can have our freedom and have our fun and stay healthy.”
Families with immuno-compromised members can connect virtually with friends and family for virtual activities, like pumpkin carvings, Halloween movie marathons or costume contests. Of course, Wellstar and the CDC recommend anyone feeling unwell or showing symptoms of COVID-19 to stay home this Halloween.
For families celebrating Dia de los Muertos, Wellstar recommends celebrating at home or virtually. The CDC recommends decorating altars at home, decorating or purchasing Catrina masks, setting out pillows and blankets in your home for the deceased or joining a virtual get-together celebration. For parades and visits to gravesites, Wellstar encourages families to wear a mask and stay at least two meters apart from people who do not live in the same household.
“Once again, remembering context, but remembering that all of these tips can be extrapolated and we can all have a wonderful time celebrating and feeling uplifted,” Beckford said.
As far as how Beckford plans to celebrate Halloween, the pediatrician says she and her fellow pediatricians dress up with the children and share photos with each other.
“It’s just an uplifting day because it says that play is always important and we can always play, we can always pretend and it’s just a magic moment,” she said. “We’ve decorated our masks because masks can be pretty scary...I think the little ones love that. It’s just and adorable and wonderful treat for us every year.”
For more information on the CDC’s holiday recommendations, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html.