If you’re planning a Halloween costume party or trip to a haunted house or to participate in Trick-or-Treat in your community, hold up. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants you to rethink those activities due to their potential to spread the novel coronavirus.
Before you say “boo” and ignore their recommendations, the agency is asking you to consider why they are being deemed higher-risk.
During traditional Trick-or-Treat, for example, candy is handed directly to costumed children going door-to-door, which could result in the spread of the coronavirus from house to house in communities around the nation.
The virus could also be spread at outdoor “Trunk-or-Treat” gatherings as well as during large indoor gatherings such as costume parties or in haunted houses, where screaming by frightened attendees poses a unique type of risk, because it could potentially propel infectious droplets further into the air than regular talking does.
One local haunted house, the Hotel of Horror in Saylorsburg, Monroe County, will open for its 2020 season with safety precautions in place to help prevent that from happening, although those precautions do not include a ban on screaming.
All visitors as well as staff are required to wear face masks, the hotel’s website says.
The line to enter the building has been reconfigured for social distancing and disinfection will take place daily. Hand sanitizer stations will be available and all actors/staff will have have their body temperature taken when they arrive at work, the website also states.
The Hotel of Horror has always been a “no touch haunted house” it notes, and guests move through it without intermingling with other parties, reducing the risk of exposure.
Nevertheless, “there is an inherent risk of COVID-19 exposure that exists in any public place where people are present,” the site advises. “If you do not feel comfortable assuming that risk, please plan your visit to the Hotel of Horror for next season.”
In light of the CDC recommendations released this week, he told Saucon Source he believes modifications can be made to the event to make it safer for everyone involved.
For example, treats can be left outside homes to eliminate contact between residents and Trick-or-Treaters, and Halloween face masks can be worn by all participants to reduce the risk of contagion when or if direct contact is made at the door.
Some traditional Halloween costumes–ninjas, for example–also include face coverings.
Part of the holiday’s fun involves seeing kids–and sometimes parents–in their costumes, but participation is ultimately voluntary, so anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable handing out treats can simply leave their porch light turned off this year, Heintzelman said.
He added that he would like the event to be held, if it can be held safely, for the sake of kids who’ve missed out on many other fun activities over the past six months. During a podcast interview with Saucon Source, he also discussed the cancellation of the 2020 Saucon Valley Spirit Parade next month, which is because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Note: Our full interview with Mayor David Heintzelman will be available as part of Episode 21 of Saucon Source’s weekly No Rain Date podcast on Thursday, Sept. 24.
Ultimately, it is up to borough council to decide whether Trick-or-Treat in Hellertown is held, and whether any changes to it should be mandated or simply encouraged.
The next Hellertown Borough Council meeting will be held Monday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. via the online WebEx platform. Access is also available via the borough’s Facebook page.
Lower Saucon Township typically schedules its Trick-or-Treat to coincide with the borough’s.
Do you think Trick-or-Treat should be held in Hellertown and Lower Saucon Township this year? If it is held, would your family participate, either as Trick-or-Treaters or as a household that hands out candy? What if any precautions do you think should be taken to help reduce the potential for COVID-19 to spread during Trick-or-Treat? Share your thoughts with us in a comment and vote in our community poll below.