ROCHESTER, Minnesota — With Halloween coming up, health experts are weighing in on ways to safely celebrate as the pandemic continues.
The advice comes as kids under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.
"We know that the virus does not spread well outdoors. So I think in terms of thinking of general principals and activities that have lower risk this year for Halloween, we would say if it's outdoors... definitely a lower risk situation than having indoor parties or activities where you have crowds of people," said Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Mayo Clinic Children's Center.
She recommends sticking to outdoor fall festivities like visiting a pumpkin patch or apple orchard and trick-or-treating outside. Instead of visiting a haunted house, opt for a haunted forest or corn maze.
Dr. Rajapakse strongly encourages wearing a mask but said it should not be worn underneath a Halloween costume mask which can make breathing more difficult.
Most typical costume masks have holes in the nose and/or mouth and do not provide protection/decrease transmission of COVID-19. According to Dr. Rajapakse, the general guidance has been to err on the side of using a standard cloth or surgical mask as costume masks are not designed for the purpose of blocking respiratory droplets. However, there may be some out there that can serve a dual purpose.
"I would just make sure that whichever mask your child is wearing, that it covers both their nose and their mouth, it's comfortable for them, they can breathe through it and that it blocks any respiratory droplets," said Dr. Rajapakse, adding that kids should not share masks.
For those planning on handing out candy to trick-or-treaters, Dr. Rajapakse recommends that people are vaccinated and wearing a mask. Trick-or-treaters should stay outside. While it's important people wash their hands frequently, Dr. Rajapakse said it is not necessary to wipe down candy.
While the focus has been on COVID-19, health experts are also concerned about the upcoming flu season.
"We're nervous about what this upcoming flu season is going to look like. Even though kids under 12 can't get COVID vaccine yet, they are eligible for flu vaccine if they're over six months of age. So getting that as soon as possible will be helpful," Dr. Rajapakse said.
She added that with Halloween less than three weeks away, do not wait too long to get the flu shot as it takes about two weeks to build up a good level of immunity.
Mayo Clinic also recommends limiting trick-or-treat groups to a smaller number of kids this year.
The government’s top infectious diseases expert said families can feel safe trick-or-treating outdoors this year for Halloween as COVID-19 cases in the U.S. decline, especially for those who are vaccinated.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that it’s an important time of year for children, so “go out there” and “enjoy it.”