KiMi Robinson Arizona Republic
(CNT) City News Talk #arizona
Whatever you’ve done in the past to celebrate Halloween — going trick-or-treating, throwing a party, handing out candy to neighborhood kids — the novel coronavirus pandemic has changed all of that.
Health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pima County Health Department say trick-or-treating is a high-risk activity for transmission of COVID-19. Meanwhile, Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, has said there are ways Arizonans can adapt their trick-or-treating plans to stay safer.
Here are the answers to some questions around celebrating Halloween, courtesy of the CDC and state and local healthdepartments, as well as tips on how to have a fun night in with the family.
Should kids go trick-or-treating?
Guidance varies in Arizona.
“Trick-or-treating can be done safely, but it’s no time to let down your guard since COVID-19 is still active in our communities. We just need to follow the steps we’ve all been taking to help curb the spread in recent months,” according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Trick-or-treaters should wear cloth face masks, maintain social distancing, avoid contact with high-touch surfaces such as doorbells and use hand sanitizer frequently, DHS Director Dr. Cara Christ wrote in a blog post.
Maricopa County has not issued recommendations on how Valley residents can safely celebrate Halloween. The spread of the new coronavirus is “moderate” in the Valley, according to the DHS.
However, in Pima County, which includes Tucson, health officials recommend avoiding gatherings with non-household members including carnivals, festivals, live entertainment, haunted houses, trick or treating and “trunk-or-treat” events.
The CDC has similar recommendations.
“Participating in traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door” and “having (a) trunk-or-treat where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots” are considered “higher risk activities.”
DHS recommends families check recommendations for activities based on their county’s COVID-19 risk level at https://www.halloween2020.org.
Is it safe to hand out candy?
There are several safer ways to make candy available to trick-or-treaters, according to various health agencies. These alternative ideas include:
A neighborhood car parade.
Homeowners who do not show signs of illness and plan to hand out candy themselves can wear masks and use tape to mark social distancing while children are queued for candy, according to Dr. Christ.
Another option is to implement “one-way trick-or-treating,” which the CDC labels a “moderate-risk” activity, or relatively lower-risk than traditional trick-or-treating, according to the federal agency.
This entails making goodie bags available at the end of a driveway, or at a social distance from the residence’s occupants, for visitors to grab and go.
Christ seconded this suggestion in her blog post for the DHS.
“You may want to consider leaving individual bags or cups filled with goodies for kids to take,” Christ wrote. “Please be sure to wash or sanitize your hands often.”
Banner Health suggests a neighborhood car parade where you give away treat bags or toss candy at families waiting outside their homes while remaining socially distanced.
Another option is reverse trick-or-treating, in which you drop off treats in front of neighbors’ doors.
Is it safe to host a party indoors or outdoors?
DHS Director Dr. Christ did not discourage gatherings in her blog post but steered families toward alternate options.
“Some activities to try instead of traditional Halloween parties include holding virtual costume contests and creating a drive-through haunted house,” Christ wrote. “As always, you’re safer at home. So I hope you’ll consider decorating your place and putting your kids to work on crafts and other Halloween activities.
Recommendations for in-person gatherings from DHS include:
Opt for small outdoor gatherings with people who live nearby.
Ask guests in advance to maintain social distancing and wear a mask with their costume.
Wash hands regularly with soap and water.
Don’t share food, drink or utensils; avoid self-serve food and beverage options.
The CDC also has ranked gathering types based on their risk level. Attending a crowded indoor costume party, for example, is a higher risk than an outdoor costume parade where people remain more than 6 feet apart and wear face coverings that prevent or reduce transmission of COVID-19.
Does wearing a costume mask count?
Do you want to dress up as the killer in the “Scream” movies or as a Stormtrooper? Great — but a costume mask or a helmet is not adequate for preventing transmission of COVID-19.
“A costume mask (such as for Halloween) is not a substitute for a cloth mask. A costume mask should not be used unless it is made of two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around the face,” according to the CDC.
“Do not wear a costume mask over a protective cloth mask because it can be dangerous if the costume mask makes it hard to breathe. Instead, consider using a Halloween-themed cloth mask,” the guidance reads.
How can you celebrate Halloween at home?
The DHS suggests celebrating Halloween at home as a safe alternative to hosting a costume party or trick-or-treating. This could mean partaking in an online gathering, making crafts and decorations, watching spooky movies and making themed treats.
Those who want to get out while avoiding interacting with others can partake in socially distanced events like drive-thru haunted houses.
Here are some local recommendations for at-home activities:
“Classic Tales of Fright!” Virtual Halloween series: Arizona’s theatre community is coming together to tell terrifying ghost stories, perform haunting plays and read scary poetry. Upcoming dates and themes include Saturday, Oct. 24 (“Ghostly whispers of the night”) and Oct. 31 (“All hallows eve”). https://www.virtualhalloweenseries.com.
Curate a Halloween playlist: Forget “The Monster Mash” — Arizona Republic music critic Ed Masley has 30 classic songs to put you in the mood for a rock-and-roll Halloween weekend, including tunes by Alice Cooper, The Who, Black Sabbath and AC/DC.
Here is a couple to start you off:
AC/DC, “Highway to Hell.”
Ozzy Osbourne, “Bark at the Moon.”
Talking Heads, “Psycho Killer.”
The Rolling Stones, “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Visit Queen Creek’s hay bales: Dozens of businesses in Queen Creek, from Barrio Queen to Whataburger, have decorated hay bales for families to cruise by and take pictures. You can also visit them virtually in an interactive map: https://qcgis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/MapTour/index.html?appid=fe80365ce7fe4365b045875898fb44b2.
Get costume inspiration from a local vintage store: Antique Sugar in Phoenix is again presenting 31 days of costumes using secondhand and vintage clothing that’s currently in stock at the store. Follow the shop’s Instagram account, @antiquesugar, for unique character ideas such as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow lady, Linda Belcher from “Bob’s Burgers” and Will Smith from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Carve pumpkins: Thankfully, this is one Halloween tradition that won’t change this year. Diamondbacks fans can represent their favorite players with pumpkin carving stencils courtesy of the team at https://www.mlb.com/dbacks/fans/pumpkin-stencils. You can also go to https://static.azcentral.com/jack-o-lantern for The Republic’s printable stencils.
Watch a scary movie: These might be best to watch after the kids go to sleep — media critic Bill Goodykoontz ranked the 31 scariest horror movies of all time and found out how they can be streamed online.
Here are a few of his recommendations:
“Psycho,” streaming on Peacock.
“An American Werewolf in London,” streaming on HBO Max.
“Nosferatu,” streaming on Amazon Prime.
“The Exorcist,” streaming on Netflix.
“The Cabin in the Woods,” streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu.
Watch a horror film that was filmed in Arizona: The opening shot of “Psycho” shows a panoramic view of Phoenix as well as landmarks like The Westward Ho and Camelback Mountain. Glen Canyon makes an appearance in “The Mummy,” and Lake Havasu City can be seen in “Piranha 3D.”
A virtual conversation with Kathy Najimy from ‘Hocus Pocus’: On Saturday, Oct. 24, at 5 p.m., Mesa Arts Center is hosting a conversation with one of the Sanderson sisters from “Hocus Pocus” on Zoom.
Details: 5 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24. Starting at $20. https://www.mesaartscenter.com/index.php/shows/performing-live/a-live-virtual-conversation-with-hocus-pocus-kathy-najimy.
Watch Phoenix FearCon’s lineup of independent films: This year’s FearCon is virtual and features 40 short films and 10 feature films from around the world. There will also be panels, a virtual marketplace and keynote speeches.
Details: Oct. 16-Dec. 31. $25. https://phoenixfearcon.com.