Halloween trickier during pandemic

Allen Laman/The Herald
Hannah Schnarr, 8, poses outside her Jasper home with Halloween decorations she put up with her family on Sunday. Hannah loves the upcoming holiday and loves decorating for it.


Deciding whether to go out for treats on Halloween is a little trickier this year.

In late September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a guide that details virus spread risk at holiday celebrations. That guidance shares that many traditional Halloween activities can be high risk for spreading viruses — and that there are safer, alternative ways to participate in the holiday.

Locally, door-to-door trick-or-treating hours will still be offered in Jasper, Ferdinand, Holland and Birdseye. Huntingburg leadership is set to discuss its policy for the festivities when the city’s common council meets later this month.

“They just must assess the risk to their family members,” Jasper Mayor Dean Vonderheide said of residents deciding whether to trick-or-treat this Halloween. “And decide [and] determine if it’s worth that risk.”

According to the CDC, participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door is considered a higher risk activity, as is trunk-or-treating, where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots.

Attending crowded costume parties held indoors, going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming, and going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household are also considered higher risk.

Jasper’s trick-or-treating hours will run from 6 to 8 p.m. on Halloween, which falls on Saturday, Oct. 31. Ferdinand, Holland and Birdseye’s trick-or-treat hours stretch from 5 to 7 p.m. on the same day. Trick-or-treaters are told to avoid homes where lights are turned off.

Vonderheide also pointed to other local options that could present a lower risk of virus transmission. Some of these include the Heart of Jasper’s pumpkin trail event and the annual Halloween on Central Green — both of which will take place on Sunday, Oct. 25.

“Things like that manage the exposure and limit the exposure to people,” Vonderheide said. “So, I would encourage those kind of things rather than even door to door. But door to door is, for family and close friends, I think that’s an important thing. Just have to make good judgments.”

In Holland, the town’s events committee will give candy away at the Holland Commons beginning at 4:30 p.m. and ending at 6:30.

Ken Sicard, president of the Ferdinand Town Council, said his town’s leadership is “going to leave it up to the people in the house to make a decision if they’re going to hand out candy or not.”

He also said that orders or recommendations will be followed if they come down from the state or county health departments. Later in the day, Shawn Werner, director of the Dubois County Health Department, shared with The Herald a list of trick-or-treating guidelines.

One of those guidelines recommends that parents who are accompanying children carry hand sanitizer and use it before allowing children to remove their masks or touch their faces. Another stresses that those who are considered high risk due to age or health conditions are encouraged not to participate in trick-or-treating.

Sicard said that a costume mask is not the same as a protective mask, and he stressed that protective masks need to be worn underneath costumes. The CDC also says to not use a costume mask as a substitute for a cloth mask — unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers your mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around your face.

The CDC reports that participating in one-way trick-or-treating where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance is a moderate risk activity. Going to small, outdoor, open-air activities like costume parties where protective masks are used and people are distanced more than 6 feet apart is also in the moderate risk category. So is visiting pumpkin patches or orchards where people use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wearing masks is encouraged or enforced, and people are able to maintain social distancing.

Lower risk activities include carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them; carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends; decorating your house, apartment, or living space; doing a Halloween scavenger hunt where children are given lists of Halloween-themed things to look for while they walk outdoors from house to house admiring Halloween decorations at a distance and more.

In a text message, Huntingburg Mayor Denny Spinner wrote that his city’s trick-or-treating policy will be discussed at the common council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 13. He expects the policy to be set at that meeting, which will begin at 5:30 p.m. at city hall, 508 E. Fourth St.

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