Families can confidently enjoy outdoor trick-or-treating on Halloween and outdoor Día De los Muertos celebrations this year, provided they take some simple precautions to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, Dr. Sundari Mase, Sonoma County’s public health officer, advised Thursday.
“Together, we all need to do as much as we can to protect ourselves and those around us, including young children who are not yet eligible for vaccination,” Mase said.
Mase issued a series of recommendations to help families safely navigate the Oct. 31 holiday. They include:
Gather outdoors: Indoor activities where people from different households mix — like haunted houses, indoor mazes and Halloween parties where children trade candy after trick-or-treating — are higher risk for everyone, especially for people not yet vaccinated.
Wear a face mask that covers your mouth and nose: Vaccinated individuals can carry COVID-19 without showing symptoms. Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, is required to wear a face mask in indoor public settings. Face masks are recommended in private settings where some people are unvaccinated or are otherwise vulnerable, including people whose immune systems are compromised.
A costume mask is not a substitute for a well-fitted face mask that covers your mouth and nose. Avoid wearing a costume mask over a protective cloth mask, which can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe.
Stay home if you are sick: Do not attend celebrations or participate in activities if you feel sick, or if you have come into close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and you are not yet fully vaccinated.
Avoid large groups: Maintain six feet distance from people outside your household, such as crowds of children at doorsteps.
Keep your hands clean: Take hand sanitizer with you and use it frequently. Remember to wash your hands after coming home, and especially before eating any treats.
Greet trick-or-treaters safely: People welcoming trick-or-treaters at the doorstep should wear masks while distributing candy. Instead of inviting children to reach into a communal candy bowl, consider handing out individually wrapped treats or placing them on a table. Do not distribute candy if you are sick or have been exposed to the coronavirus.
Last year, the county Department of Health Services strongly discouraged trick-or-treating and banned gatherings for Halloween and Día De los Muertos. Since then, more than two in three Sonoma County residents have become vaccinated against the coronavirus, reducing the spread of the COVID-19, serious illness and deaths among fully vaccinated people.
As a result of the vaccination campaign, the spread of COVID-19 has declined to 8.3 new cases per day per 100,000 people in Sonoma County this month, down from 34 cases per day in early August.
However, children under 12 are not yet approved for the vaccine, leaving them unprotected against the airborne virus. This increases the importance of wearing a mask, maintaining social distance and avoiding indoor gatherings over Halloween, Mase said.